Delimiting Deviance: Visual and Verbal Representations of Scandal on British TV News


When moral boundaries are defined, TV news storytelling plays an important role. This paper explores the visual and verbal markers that construct the categories of right and wrong, normal and deviant, us and them. By stressing the bonds between ‘the media’ and ‘the public’, TV storytellers assume the legitimacy to frame and represent social reality. Traditionally, the media have pointed out deviance among the lower strata of the population, but powerful individuals and institutions are increasingly identified as wrongdoers. Using the Mid Staffs hospital scandal as a case study, this article examines how TV news employ scandal to describe deviance in the higher echelons of society and the exposure of the wrongdoings to ‘us’, the public. This process takes place on several levels, from visual and verbal storytelling to shifting cultural and social structures. How these moral tales and social shifts influence each other is a central part of the discussion here. The boundary between normal and deviant behaviour is changing, influencing both the way people think about themselves and the societies they live in.

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DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.056

How to Cite

Eilenberg, J., (2016) “Delimiting Deviance: Visual and Verbal Representations of Scandal on British TV News”, Tropos 3(1).







Jon Eilenberg (City University London)




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