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Representation of Animals by the Media in the Last Ten Years (Essay Sample)


Part 1: Write a critical report about the research in the reading from week 7: Due,Clemence, Kirrilly Thompson, and Danielle Every. "‘An image of hope in a week of despair’: Representations of Sam the Koala in the Australian mainstream news media." Media International Australia 151.1 (2014): 47-55.

Part 2: Part of what motivates Due et al.’s research is their contention that “there has been only a small amount of work completed in relation to media studies and the representation of animals” (49). Report on how you would contribute to filling this gap, and extend Due et al.'s work by researching the following question: “how have animals been used in media representations of natural and man-made disasters in the last ten years?” Focus the research on any national context of your choosing, or propose a global focus.

Note that all the readings listed for part 1 come from, and therefore can be accessed through, the module reading list.

This assessment has two related parts. In part 1, you will critically report on one reading from the module, reconstructing how the authors did or approached the research in question; why they took this approach; how this approach led to their findings; and the inevitable limitations and gaps in the research, and some of the reasons for these gaps and limitations. Recognizing that, no matter how good, no single piece of research can ask or answer all the relevant questions on a topic, in part 2 of the assessment you will be reporting on how you would extend the research from part 1 realistically, in response to a new research question that we propose (further below).

Both parts of the assessment should be given equal weight (e.g. about 1750 words each), and throughout the report you will need to engage with relevant academic literature from the module beyond the particular reading that you are reporting upon.

Further details of both parts of the assessment are outlined below, after which are six sets of readings (for part 1) and accompanying new research questions (for part 2), of which you are to select one.

Part 1: Critically reporting on existing research

Choose one of the readings listed further below and both describe and explain:

  1.  what its research question is, the broad context from which the question emerges (intellectual and/or social), and the broad justifications or motivations that the researchers provide for it (about 300 words)

  2.  how the researchers did or approached the research in question: e.g. the steps that they took, the methods that they used, the challenges that they negotiated (about 400 words)

  3.  why the researchers did what they did: the researchers’ (explicit and implicit) conceptual, practical and ethical reasons and justifications for taking the particular approach and steps that they did (about 400 words)

  4.  how the researchers’ methods and approaches shaped or led to their findings and conclusions. Note here that the emphasis is not on what the findings were or what the researchers argue, but how they got to these findings and arguments (about 350 words)

  5.  gaps and limitations in what the researchers did, and the possible or reported reasons for them; or how the gaps and limitations followed from the steps that the research took (about 300 words)



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Representation of Animals by the Media in the Last Ten Years

Research has revealed that non-human animals are emotional and smart beings that are conscious of what happens to them. The language that human beings use to refer to non-human animals inform and mold the thoughts and perceptions of the humans towards the animals. These thoughts and perceptions in turn determine human’s actions towards the animals. Unfortunately, human beings have not been ethically responsible while dealing with animals and they have largely failed to be voice for other animals. However, unlike the past, animals have gradually made their way into the media. Today, it is common to see the cognitive and emotional lives of animals being portrayed in commercials in newspapers, magazines, and television. However, despite the recognition of their presence by the various forms of media and there being guidelines and principles depicting that non-human animals should be treated fairly and respectfully, animals are frequently misrepresented (Bekoff 2014). They are at times portrayed as objects and evil creatures. Non-human animals are also frequently referred using the pronoun ‘it’ and other names such as meat or game. Referring to non-human animals by their utilitarian end such as laboratory rats, dairy cattle, or circus elephants is also misrepresentative. In some extreme cases, the suffering of animals has been portrayed as some means of entertainment. This misrepresentation and inaccurate portrayal of animals can be injurious. Misrepresentation also leads to lower animals being treated more unfairly as compared to the higher animals. For instance, in a study to prove that ants have the ability to count the steps they make, they had their legs cut off (Bekoff, 2010). Such an experiment could probably not have been carried out on higher animal such as chimpanzees. To improve the representation of animals in the media, attention should be paid to their emotional, cognitive, and moral capabilities. They should also be represented as the beings that they are and not in a way that suits human interpretation (Bekoff, 2010). Though animals are increasingly finding their way into the media, their use to symbolize certain aspects during manmade and natural disasters is still minimal. Traditionally, animals were not considered to possess the traits and relatability required to raise awareness and funds during disasters. However, Sam the Koala completely changed this perception during the 2009 Victorian bush fires (Due et al. 2014, p. 51).

In a world that is facing ecological crisis, large scale exploitation of animals as well as the risk of mass extinction of various species, positive representation by the media is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Disasters such as floods, droughts, fires, and volcanic eruptions adversely affect both human and non-human animals. However, despite the consequences being equal across these beings, humans are usually used as the face of these disasters. It therefore came as a good surprise when a non-human animal become the face of a disaster in Australia. The Victorian bushfires in Australia in the year 2009 are among the worst natural disasters to ever hit the continent. It claimed 173 lives and injured a further 414 people. The damage and recovery costs are estimated to be in the excess of $4 billion. Various images from the disaster circulated internationally. However, the most famous of them all was that of Sam the Koala (Due et al. 2014, p. 45).

As firefighters strived to fight the bushfire, one of them came across a living koala in a burnt scrubland, and from his water bottle, he ...

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