Media and Crime

  • Created by: Sam
  • Created on: 08-03-15 20:40

Ericson et al (1991)

45%-71% of press and radio news was about crime (in Toronto).

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Williams & Dickinson (1993)

UK newspapers devote 30% of news space to crime.

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Media often distrorts crime criminals and policing

  •  Over-representing violent and sexual crime (Marsh).
  • Portraying victims as more middle class and older than those found in criminal justice system (Felson: age fallacy).
  • Exaggerating police success.
  • Exaggerating risk of victimisation (especially to women, white people and higher status individuals).
  • Reporting as series of separate events, without explaining causes.
  • Overplaying extraordinary crimes, underplaying ordinary crimes (Felson: dramatic fallacy).
  • Making us believe one needs to be daring and clever to commit crimes (Felson: ingenuity fallacy).
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Marsh (1991):

Violent crime 36x more likely to be reported than property crime.

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Cohen & Young (1973):

News is social construction and this manufactured news goes through 'news values':

  • Immediacy
  • Dramatisation - action and excitement
  • Personalisation - human interest about individuals
  • Higher status - persons and celebrities
  • Simplification - eliminating grey areas
  • Novelty/unexpectedness - a new angle
  • Risk - victim centred stories about fear and vulnerability
  • Violence - especially visible and spectacualr acts
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Mandel (1984): fictional representations of crime

25% of prime time TV and 20% of films are crime related.

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Ways media may cause crime & deviance:

  • Imitation - deviant roles models leads to 'copycat' behaviour
  • Arousal - viewing violent and sexual imagery
  • Desensitisaion - repeated viewing of violence
  • Giving knowledge of criminal techniques
  • Stimulating desires for unaffordable goods (advertising)
  • Portraying police as incompetent
  • Glamourising offending
  • Acting as a target for goods e.g. theft of TVs
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Moral panic definition

Exaggerated over-reactions by society to a perceived problem (label) - usually inspired/driven by the media - where the reaction increases the problem out of all proportions to its real seriousness.

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Moral panics often occur during social change and anomie/normlessness created by change. Mods & rockers panic due to 'boundary crisis', uncertainty where boundary lay between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in time of change.

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Hall et al (1979):


Moral panics over 'mugging' in British media in 1970s distracted attention from crisis of capitalism. It divided the working class on racial grounds and legitimised more authoritarian style of rule.

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McRobbie & Thornton (1995):

Moral panics are routine, have less impact, less consensus as to what is deviant so less panic compared to 40 years ago.

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Modern examples of moral panics

  • Mods and Rockers (scuffle was exaggerated, distorted and created a moral panic)
  • AIDS
  • 'Mad cow' disease
  • Binge drinking
  • Dangerous drugs
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Thomas & Loader (2000):

Internet has led to fears of cyber crime = computer meditated activities that are illegal/considered illicit.

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Jewkes (2003):

Internet creates chances to commit 'conventional crimes' e.g. fraud, and 'new crimes' using new tools e.g. software piracy. But, ICT gives better surveillance/CCTV/fingerprinting to the police. 

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Wall (2001): 4 categories of cyber crime

1. Cyber-trespass - crossing boundaries into other people's cyber property e.g. hacking, spreading viruses.

2. Cyber-deception and theft - identity theft, violation of intellectual property rights e.g. software piracy, illegal downloading (Swash, 2009: 95% of online music is downloaded illegally).

3. Cyber-p0rnography - including p0rn involving minors and opportunities for children to access it

4. Cyber-violence - includes cyber stalking (offensive, unwanted and threatening emails). Hate crimes against minorities, bullying via texts.

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