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Title: Read all about it? :newspaper coverage of the archaeological excavation, retention, and reburial of human remains within the United Kingdom
Authors: Park, Victoria Mary
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle Uiversity
Abstract: Human remains are one of the most popular aspects of archaeology for the public in the United Kingdom, yet they are also one of the most sensitive and debated. Changes in attitudes and guidance in the UK in recent years means that it has become increasingly important for archaeologists to engage and communicate with the public. The mass media such as newspapers provide an important, yet complex and often mistrusted interface through which this communication can happen. To date little research exists in this area, and this research project starts to address this gap by exploring newspaper coverage of the archaeological excavation, retention, and reburial of human remains in the UK between 1989 and 2009. An analysis of 413 newspaper articles, 59 surveys of osteoarchaeologists, six interviews with senior archaeologists in the North East of England and surveys from 100 members of the public allows the newspaper coverage of the archaeological excavation, retention, and reburial of human remains to be explored from a number of perspectives. When data sets are compared, it can be seen that there are different expectations and understandings of newspaper coverage. Survey data from osteoarchaeologists show that newspaper coverage is expected to be a clear, detailed account which explains the process and reasons behind excavation, and reburial of human remains, and contributes to the public knowledge. However, content analysis of newspaper articles demonstrates that the reality is different. The newspaper article is a social construct, influenced by a number of external and internal factors including the news values of elites, negativity, and unexpectedness; the ability to time and coordinate the flow of information from archaeology to the newspapers; available word count; and presentations of archaeology in the wider mass media. Concern about newspaper coverage from osteoarchaeologists was common and was found to lie in the perceptions of the negative effects that a newspaper article may have, such as the potential for poor public image and loss of support for the subject. This research project suggests that in reality the negative impact from newspaper coverage was minimal, and its key role was in creating an overview and interest in the ii subject. Issues of the public’s trust in newspapers, low level of recall of newspaper article details, and the interconnected nature of the different mass media mean that the impact from newspapers on the public is more complex than is often assumed.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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