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Media Image Of Young People

Published:13 October 2004
Fieldwork:2-8 August 2004
Source:Young People Now magazine
Keywords:Children, Young people
(Click on keywords to find related Research)

For Young People Now magazine, MORI analysed local and national press for all mention of children, young people and related terms during the week 2-8 August 2004. A mix of 17 tabloid, broadsheet and local papers carried a total of 603 'youth' related articles.

Newspapers studied were: The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Express, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Star, The Evening Standard, The Manchester Evening News, The Glasgow Herald, The Yorkshire Evening Post, The Western Mail, The Birmingham Post, The Eastern Daily Press and The Belfast Telegraph.

The majority of articles offer a negative perspective on young people and their activities. Three in four articles (71%) concerning young people have a negative tone, while 14% are positive and 15% neutral.

A third of articles discuss young people in the context of violent crime or antisocial behaviour (32%).


Newspaper articles about youth, by newspaper type, subject and tone.

  Tabloids Broadsheets Locals
Base (281) (159) (53)
Violence/ Crime / ASB 35 26 33
Child abuse/ Neglect 12 17 8
Lifestyle 16 9 7
(Mental) Health 10 11 12
Accident 14 8 15
Education/ Parenting 6 22 17
Achievement 8 6 9
Negative 82 50 71
Neutral 8 36 9
Positive 11 15 20

The general picture being painted in the press is one of violent young men, with nearly 70% of stories involving boys and violence describe them as the perpetrator, while girls are described as the victim in 90% of cases.

Comparing this with the reality, MORI research for the Youth Justice Board carried out in 2003 reveals that only seven per cent of young people in mainstream schools have been in trouble with the police in the past year, and of the offences carried out the vast majority are not violent crimes.

Similarly, according to the British Crime Survey, which surveys 40,000 people aged 16+ each year on their experience of crime over the past 12 months, boys (15% of 16-24 year olds) are twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than girls (7% of 16-24 year olds), challenging their portrayal in the media.

Young people are also noticeable by their absence in stories about them. Only eight per cent of articles included any direct comment or quote from young people.

MORI discussed the issues arising with two focus groups of young people (14 -15 years old). The first group was in full-time education, the second not in education, employment or training (though many were in school officially, most had been excluded or claimed to be habitual truants).These groups perceive negative stereotyping in the press and feel that it affects their everyday lives in terms of how adults view them when they are out in public places with their friends.

They also believe that journalists are quick to take a moral high ground in terms of assessing young people's behaviour. However this is seen as a hypocritical stance, given that journalists are also believed to be prone to exaggeration in order to sell papers and make money.

"They'll get anything to put in there if they're short of something to write. They don't care if it hurts someone's reputation." (Focus Groups).

This is in line with research into which MORI carried out in 2003 for the Nestle Family Monitor. Two-thirds (64%) of the 914 11-18 year olds surveyed then, said they would not trust a journalist to tell them the truth.

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Charlotte Goddard
Features Editor
Young People Now
t: 020-8267 4758
w: www.ypnmagazine.com