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News, Truth and Crime
The Westray Disaster and its Aftermath

McMullan, John L.
Publisher:  Fernwood Publishing, Canada
Year Published:  2005  
Pages:  112pp   Price:  $14.95   ISBN:  1-55266-173-3

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McMullan is a professor of sociology and criminology at Saint Mary's University on Halifax. He has written many books and articles on business crime and the media and crime. Here he examines the media coverage devoted to the ten year (1992-2002) aftermath of the May 9, 1992 explosion where 26 miners died at the Westray mine. This is media content analysis; some of the book's material has been drawn from lectures, conferences, and seminars at universities. It follows on Fernwood Publishing's collection (edited by C. McCormick) The Westray Chronicles; a case study in corporate crime (1999). The focus of the current project was to study the connections between power, knowledge, and truth in three related institutional areas: the media, the criminal justice system, and the public inquiry. McMullan recounts the tragedy and the subsequent media coverage in about 100 pages, including 23 convincing tables. His book is to be the first in a series to be a systematic study of the disaster and aftermath; it lays the groundwork and the theses. His bibliography includes a good listing of other books which cover, among other topics, news coverage of disasters and corporate crimes from other places, such as Catholic priests and sexual abuse, the Goteburg dancehall fire, Ford Pintos, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Yellowstone forest fires. Unfortunately, the book has no index.

Audience or interest level: media observers, journalism students.

Some interesting facts: "McMullan concludes that the press imagined crime out in their collective representation of Westray and after. The press did not demarcate the corporation as capable of killing, and the news coverage, while registering alternative truths, did not reconstitute the truth of Westray as corporate criminality." In other words, the press missed the story.

What I don't like about this resource (its shortcomings): NO INDEX!

What I do like about this resource (its positives): interesting analysis of news as a truth-telling exercise.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 88 (shame about that index, or lack of same)

[Review by Dean Tudor]


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