Crime and the Media


Media Representations of Crime

  • media provides a distorted image of crime, criminals and prosecution
  • there is an over representation of sexual crime and exaggetion of the risks of being victimised 

the media causes crime by;

  • imitation, providing deviant role models resulting in copycat behaviour
  • arousal, through violent or sexual imagery 
  • desensitisation, through repeated viewing of violence
  • transmitting knowledge of criminal techniques
  • stimulating desires for unaffordable goods
  • portraying the police as incompetent 
  • glamouriseing affending


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News Values

  • the distorted picture of crime reflects the social construction of news
  • Cohen and Young (1973) say news is not discovered but manufactured
  • this all depend on news values, i.e. the criteria used by journalists and editors to deicde if a story is newsworthy enough to be reported upon

News Values include;

  • immediacy, is the news recent and effecting people now
  • personalisation, are the readers directly linked to the news
  • dramatisation, is the news interesting
  • higher status, is the news about something we care about
  • novelty, is the news unusual or shocking
  • risk, are we at risk if we do not know this news
  • fear, will this news cause people to be more fearful
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Fear of Crime

Gerbner et al - heavy television users have higher levels of crime 

Schlesinger and Tumber - there is a correlation between media consumption and fear of crime

This MAY be because those who are more susceptible to fearing crime watch more TV because they dont leave the house often 

Sparks therefore suggests that media effect studies are unuseful as they do not show the meanings that viewers attach to violence in the media 

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Moral Panics

Cohen (1972)

  • defined moral panic as the over reaction by society to a percieved threat 
  • defined a folk devil as the group the media labels as a threat

1. the media identify the folk devil 

2. the media present the group in a negative light with steretypical fashion exaggerating the scale of the problem 

3. moral entrepreneurs condem the behaviours of the group

4. self fulfilling prophecy occurs 

folk devils in the media include teen mothers, black youths, hoodies, chavs and polish immigrants 

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Deviancy Amplification

Mods and Rockers - Cohen 

  • working class teenagers from confrontations in 1964
  • exaggeration and distortion of numbers involved in and damage caused by the incident ]
  • prediction that further conflict would happen
  • symbolising all symbols associated with mods and rockers becomes negatively labeled allowing unrelated events to be linked
  • deviancy amplification spiral is created
  • lead to calls for further action
  • tolerance for mods and rockers lessened and this encouraged more polarisation
  • for this the media are crucial

McRobbie and Thornton (1995) 

  • moral panics are now routine and have lesser impact
  • little consensus exists about what is deviant anymore
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Cyber Crime

Cyber Trespassing - crossing boundaries between yours and others cyber space, including hacking and sabotage e.g. xbox and ps4 christmas hack 

Cyber Deception and Theft - includes identity theft, phising and violation of intellectual property e.g. illegally downloading music 

*********** - *********** including minors or minors watching ***********, snuff movies e.g. Ian Watkins of Lost Prophets, wonderland peadophile ring

Cyber Violence - doing or inciting physical harm, stalking, sending unwanted threatending or abusive messages e.g. peadophile hunters, racist groups

Policing Cyber Crime

the sheer scale of cyber crime makes it hard to police. Everyone is guilty of some level of cyber crime and globalisation means it is unclear how we can deal with the problem. Overall, it is low priority and gets minimal resources

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