Mass media and crime
Many people have little or no experience of crime and get their information on crime from the media.
Media outlets such as newspapers and TV devote a large amount of their content to the coverage of crime.
Pearson-> Suggests that the media has, for many years, encouraged a 'fear or fascination' with crime.
News does not just happen, it is manufactured. People make decisions on what to report, how to report it and what not to report.
There is a set of news values which are criteria by which editors, reporters and journalists decide if a story is newsworthy.
Amongst these news values are things like how dramatic they are, how unusual, can they be personalized with an individual and do they involve risk and some form of excitement.
Crime often meets many of these news values which could explain why it gets so much media coverage.
Also certain types of crime are more likely to get reported.
Exaggeration of crime
Greer -> All media tend to exaggerate the extent of violent crime.
Most crime is fairly routine. However, TV programmes like crimewatch often pick up on the more serious and violent offences with reconstructions giving quite frightening, dramatized insights into the crimes committed.
Fear of crime
This focus on the exceptional and the dramatic is a routine feature of crime dramas on TV or film, as well as of news reports, and gives a false or misleading impression of the real extent of such crimes.
Fear of Crime
Williams and Dickinson-> Found 65% of crime stories in ten national newspapers were about violence. In the same year the British Crime Survey reported only 6% of crimes involved violence.
Media representation of crime tend to create perceptions of crime among the majority of the public, exaggerate the threat of crime, and unnecessarily increase the publics fear of crime.
The work on moral panics has shown us that the public can often over-react to what is often sensational media coverage of events.
Media as a cause of crime
Studies have shown that those who watch television for longer report higher levels of fear of crime than less frequent users.
Surveys conducted over a period when recorded crime had fallen showed between 25% and 38% of respondents felt it had 'risen a lot'.
Fear of crime is a very important issue because it seems to influence many aspects of people lives. Eg. People don't walk on streets at night out of fear of crime however, more people walking on the streets would reduce the crime.
Media as a cause of Crime
Bandura-> lab experiments sought to establish a link between viewing violent images and violent behaviour.
Others have argued that exposure to violence in the media can cause people to become 'desensitised' so that they lose the self control which stops them from acting in such a way.
More recently music and videos featuring rap artists have been accused of glamorising crime and presenting it as not only acceptable but desirable as a lifestyle. This has been linked to the rise of a 'gun culture'.
Lea and Young-> claim that the media bombards people with a consumer orientated lifestyle where success and social acceptability are measured by the material possessions one can accumulate. This can produce a feeling of relative deprivation where many groups cannot achieve the lifestyle portrayed and hence feel socially excluded.
This can be the trigger which encourages some to turn to crime to gain material success and hence status in society.
However, because this link is indirect it cannot be full tested.
Copy cat crime -> Media attention on a particular crime leads to people copying it and thus increasing the amount of it being committed.
Folk devils and Moral Panics
Cohen-> showed how agents of social control, particularly the police, 'amplified' deviance. They also demonstrated the medias role in this process. Such studies were used to demonstrate how the media helped to avoid wider conflict in society by focusing our attention on the supposedly deviant behaviour of outsider groups.
Hall -> The way in which crime of mugging is reported has a number of important effects for the ruling class. This lead to scapegoating of outside social groups instead of the inequalities of the capitalist system.
He argues that media professionals have a shared culture, including elements of racism and the view that capitalism is a good thing. This has the effect of legitimating the position of the ruling class in a capitalist society.
Criticisms-> Ownership and control -> it is hard to prove that owners of the mass media are acting in the interests of the ruling class.
Media professionals do not all have a shared world view.
Audience are arguably media literate and able to understand the context and process of these moral panics.
Marxist perspective of media and crime
The reporting of crime reflects the ideology of the ruling class, meaning:
1. The crimes of the ruling class or those at the higher end of society are under-reported. The medias emphasis on sexual and violent crime means less importance is attached to some very large and serious white-collar crimes and corporate crimes, which rarely get reported.
2. Crimes of the working class are over-reported
3. The reporting of crime is used as way of maintaining control over powerless groups.
Criticisms-> Marxists ignore the way in which it is poor people who are the victims of much crime committed by the poor.
Criminal activity of those in the ruling class is reported.
A range of media exists and it reports what ever crimes make it to court.
If there is a bias in the media it is more the fault of the legal system than the media.
Feminist perspective on media and Crime
Crime reporting reinforces the stereotyping and oppression of women -Women are portrayed as victims.
There is under reporting of violence against women, especially domestic violence.
They are highly critical of reporting of sex crimes against women as a way to provide entertainment.
Pluralists perspective on media and crime
In reporting crime the media helps to keep social solidarity.
Crimes reported tend to reflect the things people are most concerned about and most want to see reported, thus they create demand which is met by the media.
Different forms of media report different crimes in different ways- they are not all dominated by a single ideology or small group of owners pushing the same agenda.