The cold-blooded killing of a two-year old boy brings into sharp focus the dark side of the digital and print media world.
Rachel Telfa, 31, and Nyomi Fee, 29, murdered their two-year-old son, Liam Fee, by beating him to death at a house Fife, Scotland in March 2014. The couple were in a civil partnership. Telfa was the child’s birth mother. Both women denied killing Liam.
Lead stories in today’s Daily Mail June 1 labelled the killers as a “lesbian couple”.The implication being the same as when people use race to describe an alleged criminal — it is sensationalising it. Such an exaggeration is a cause of concern particularly for gay people because it feeds in to the media stereotype — gay people are bad and they harm children.
The crime that this pair committed was abhorrent but their sexuality bore no relevance to the murder.
We then get to know more of the killers’ lives:
In Voice of The Mirror, the women are labelled “monsters”. They are not. They are human beings. That’s what makes them terrifying.
The Sun (Page 9): “Tortured to death”
Liam was killed my his mum and “her lesbian partner”. He had more than 30 injuries, including “two broken legs and fractured arms”.
Daily Express (Page 21): ” Lesbian loves face life for savage murder of Liam, 2″. The killers’ sexual orientation is to the fore yet again.
Daily Mail (Page 6-7): “Lesbian couple battered son, 2, so brutally his heart ruptured”
The Mail clearly places the State in the dock: Horrific failings by social services were exposed yesterday as a mother and her civil partner were found guilty of murdering her two-year-old son.
Even the gay press jumped on the bandwagon with Pink News leading headline of “Lesbian couple found guilty of murdering their two-year-old son”.
These sort of headlines misrepresent the perpetrators of crime, portraying not only the suspects’ sexual orientation, but also their behaviour, falsely.
This is by no means standard media protocol, but it happens frequently, deliberately or not. News reports often headline claims from police or other officials that use unacceptable language when describing the suspects of a crime. Other times, the headlines seem to suggest that lesbian, gay or transgender victims are to blame for their own deaths, engaging in what critics sometimes allege is a form of character assassination. When contrasted with the media portrayal of white heterosexual suspects and accused murderers, the differences are more striking. News outlets then often choose to run headlines that ignore the killer’s sexual orientation or skin colour.
There is absolutely a double standard shown here, and it needs to be called out. It is time that the UK had a Media Watchdog for all diversity issues. The same way that GLAAD in the USA can hold media outlets accountable for their reporting on LGBT issues and the use of language used.
All media, including OutNews Global, can and should choose words, images and news angles that give a fuller, more nuanced narrative of minority groups as a whole. Lesbians are individuals, not types.