Walter, T., 2010. Jade and the journalists: media coverage of a young British celebrity dying of cancer. Social Science & Medicine, 71 (5), pp. 853-860.
In contemporary western societies, dying usually occurs in old age, out of sight in hospitals and institutions; how then do lay people learn what dying is like? Since the 1970s, one source of information in Anglophone societies has come from individuals who have chosen to publicise their dying of cancer. This article examines the most high profile case of this to date in the UK; in 2009, celebrity Jade Goody publicised in tabloid newspapers and celebrity magazines the final weeks of her dying of cervical cancer. What did she and her media say and write about dying? This article examines the print coverage of her final weeks, and four different voices are identified: those of Goody, of journalists, of her publicist, and of photographers, each representing her dying somewhat differently. Two major themes are discussed: Jade's struggles to retain autonomy (challenged by her disease and by other people), and the framing of her final weeks not primarily as a typical media cancer story of heroism, but as one of redemption in which she attained social respectability through dying. In contemporary western societies, dying usually occurs in old age, out of sight in hospitals and institutions; it is something with which many people are, to quote Philippe Ariès (1983), ‘unfamiliar’. Since it is hard to promote citizen engagement with something with which citizens are unfamiliar, the UK government's End of Life Care Strategy for England includes a Dying Matters coalition, launched in March 2010 to promote public awareness around death, dying and bereavement (http://www.dyingmatters.org). The coalition's strapline is: ‘Dying Matters – let's talk about it’. In recent times in Britain, the person who talked most publicly and extensively about dying was Jade Goody, a young woman whose seven year celebrity career had been based on a personal and often crude ‘telling it like it is’ (Gies, 2009: 27); in 2009 she chose to publicise her dying from cervical cancer in a range of popular media, with high profile day by day accounts of her final weeks. This article analyses what Jade 1 and her media told the British public about what it is like to die of cancer. After sketching some previous research findings into Anglophone media reporting of cancer dying, I document the unprecedented coverage of Jade's dying. I then note the different voices in the media coverage: those of Jade herself, of her hired publicist, of journalists, and of photographers, before going on to examine how these four different voices represented her experience of dying of cancer.
|Item Type ||Articles|
|Departments||Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences > Social & Policy Sciences|
|Research Centres||Centre for Death and Society|
|Publisher Statement||Walter_SocSciMed_2010.pdf: This is the author's version. A definitive version was subsequently published in Social Science & Medicine, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.06.003 .; Walter_SocSciMed_2010.doc: This is the author's version. A definitive version was subsequently published in Social Science & Medicine, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.06.003 .|
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