‘Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare’: The Abduction of April Jones
If the press and public reactions to the disappearance of five-year-old April Jones shared one common characteristic it was their magnification of key elements of the story that plugged into the recurring narratives about child vulnerability explored in Chapters 3 and 4. In particular, what emerged from popular discourse around this ‘single sensational case’ (Cohen, 2002, p. xxiii) was a generalized sense of juvenile panic positioning children as continually susceptible to the predations of malevolent adults, especially familiar strangers. The following sections unpick how this quintessential abduction narrative played out in the public sphere in the seven-day period beginning with the initial police statement confirming that April was missing — and the broader lessons we might draw from the episode. We begin by analysing how the incident was identified, conceived and pursued, based on interviews with 10 national press journalists who worked on the story, before unpicking how it was framed on the page, both by professional newswriters and through the dialogue that active audience members entered into on newspaper discussion threads. We then consider what can be learnt from the general public reaction to news of the abduction, as articulated both on discussion threads and in face-to-face conversations between members of the parent focus groups, which were reconvened within weeks of April’s murder to discuss their responses to the case.
KeywordsDiscussion Thread Daily Mail Daily Telegraph Child Abduction Parent Focus Group
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