Media representations of the deaths of contemporary popular musicians (1993-2012)

  • Paula Hearsum

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The published work on which this submission is based examines the ways in which deaths of popular musicians are represented in the media, offering a critical and problematic spotlight on social values conveyed through media discourse. In the title the term ‘representation’ is used deliberately, acknowledging a conceptual debt to Stuart Hall (1997: 15) who articulated the complexity of the relationship between language, culture and meaning. Going on to set out three theories - ‘reflective’, ‘intentional’ and ‘constructionist’ - Hall’s latter perspective is one used here to argue that media discourse is distinct in relation to this data set. That is, that popular musicians are treated in several distinct ways in the coverage of their deaths. These narratives reflect social views and reinforce dominant discourses of lifestyles stereotypically associated with popular music. Underneath these recurring narrative devices operates a covert layer of morality and judgement, which is sometimes inaccurate, often misleading and potentially communicates unhelpful messages to distressed and vulnerable members of the public. At its most extreme, irresponsible reporting of suicide and acts of self-harm may be of risk to the public (Samaritans. 2013: 7).
Date of AwardJul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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