A2 Sociology: Media Representations of Crime

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Media Representation of Crime
Crime and deviance make up a large proportion of news coverage
Williams and Dickinson found British newspapers devote up to 30% of their news
space to crime
Media gives a distorted image of crime, criminals and policing
Official Statistics
Over represent violent and sexual crimes. 46% media reports were about violent or
sexual crimes, yet these made up only 3% of all crimes recorded by police
Portray criminals and victims as older & more middle class.
Media coverage exaggerate police success in clearing up cases
The media exaggerate the risk of victimisation especially to women & the elderly
News Values and Crime Coverage
The distorted picture of crime painted by the news media reflects the fact that news
is a social construction.
Cohen & Young note that, news is not discovered but manufactured
For a crime to be reported it has to match a certain criteria:
Dramatisation (action and excitement)
Personalisation (human interest stories)
Higher status (celebs)
Simplification (eliminating the shades of grey)
Risk (centred stories about vulnerability and fear)
Fictional representations
Fictional representations from TV/Cinema
Mandel estimates that from 1945 to 1984, over 10 billion crime thrillers were sold
Surette: Calls "the law of opposites" they are opposite of the official statistics &
strikingly similar to news coverage
Property crime is under-represented, while violence, drugs and sex crimes are
Fictional sex crimes are committed by psychopathic strangers
Fictional villains tend to be higher status, middle-aged whie males
Fictional cops usually get their man

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The media as a cause of crime
Concern is that the media has a negative effect on attitudes, values and behaviour
especially groups such as the young, lower class and uneducated
In 1920s and 30s cinema was blamed for corrupting youth
More recently, blamed is rap lyrics and computer games such as Grand Theft Auto
Numerous ways in which the media might possible cause C&D:
Imitation ­ deviant role models resulting in `copy cat' behaviour
Desensitisation ­ through repeated viewing
Transmitting knowledge of criminal techniques…read more

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If successful, their campaigning will in the negative labelling of the beh. & perhaps a
change in law
In a moral panic
The media identify a group as a "folk devil" or threat to societal values
The media present the group in a negative, stereotypical fashion and exaggerate the
scale of the problem
Moral entrepreneurs, editors, politicians etc and other "respectable" people
condemn the group and beh.…read more

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Evaluation From a functionalist perspective, moral panics can be seen as a way of
: responding to the sense of anomie or normlessness created by social
It assumes that the societal reaction is a disproportionate reaction ­
who is to decide what is a proportionate reaction ­ left realist view ­
Why are the media able to amplify some problems into a panic, but
not others?
In late modern society, there is little consensus about what is deviant
Global cyber-crime
Almost half of…read more


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