Analysis and Discussion
News Pegs and Frames
News articles are triggered by specific recent events or current social issues and debates, and commonly centre on an identifiable ‘news peg’. Editorial publication decisions are in turn influenced by stories’ perceived news values.34 These news values might include reference to the power elite; celebrity/ies; entertainment (including human interest); surprise/unexpect- edness/superlativeness; good news/bad news; magnitude; follow-up stories; relevance (cultural proximity); and the newspaper’s own agenda, such as its political and ideological stance. The news pegs in this corpus were linked with these news values: unexpectedness; follow-up story; relevance (current social debate). As mentioned above, most of the articles focused on the age of the mother and the unexpectedness related to her advanced age. They also formed human interest stories or offered opinions or comments as part of a current social debate.35
In my previous study of representations of late parenting (not just mothering) in the British press, i found five main frames in the newspaper coverage: the social change frame; the personal frame; the risks frame; the continued (not first time) parenting frame; and the ivF/technology- enabled parenting frame.36 In the social change frame, newspapers presented older parents as a growing trend in society. While advantages of older parenting were sometimes mentioned, and the changing landscape of career structures, especially for women, was offered as a valid reason for delaying parenting, overall the data tended to frame older parenting as both demographically and morally undesirable, particularly in the tabloid press. The personal frame offered a personal perspective on age, ageing, and parenting which was often more positively slanted, although these texts were mostly feature articles, sometimes published in sections devoted to families and/or women, and therefore potentially addressed an in-group audience. The risks frame constructed a biological perspective on ageing in which older parents were represented as (potentially) taking deliberate risks, which needed to be weighed against the desire to parent. The continued parenting frame, in turn, constructed older parents in gendered ways. Older fathers were represented in a generally positive way, as more ‘acceptable’ or unmarked (according to the ‘natural order’), albeit at times with humorous and ageist undertones. The IVF/technology-enabled parenting frame, on the other hand, foregrounded biological and physiological age in comparison to chronological age. In this frame, age-related limitations of diminished fertility could be overcome and older parents emerged as defying nature and as a triumph for science. The frames in the current corpus can be expected to be more limited because here my focus is restricted to articles on postmenopausal mothers and mothering.