Topic 7 - Crime and the media

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  • Created by: 09eatonb
  • Created on: 02-01-16 15:30

Media Representations of crime -

  • Crime and deviance make up a large proportion of media coverage.
  • WILLIAMS AND DICKINSON (1993) - British newspapers devote up to 30% of theor news space to crime.
  • However, the news media give a disorted image of crime, criminals and policing. For example, as compared with official statistics:
    • The media over-represent violent and sexual crime
    • The media portray criminals and victims as older and more middle-class (than those usually found in the criminal justice system. FELSON (1998) calls this 'age fallacy'
    • The media exaggerate police success
    • The media exaggerate the risk of victimisation 
    • Crime is reported as a series of sperate events without examining underlying causes
    • The media overplay extraordinary crimes.
  • News values and crime coverage = 
    • the social construction of news - the distorted picture of crime painted by the news media reflects the fact that news is a socal construction. as COHEN AND YOUNG (1973) note, news is not discovered but manufactured:
      • News does simpy exist out there waiting to be gathered in and written up.
      • Instead, it is the outcome of the social process whereby some ptential stories are selected whie others are rejected.
    • News values =
      • The criteria that journalists and editors use in order to decide whether a story is newsworthy enough to make it to the newspaper / news bulletin/
      • If a crime story can be told in terms of someof these news values, it has a etter chance of making it to the news. Key news values influencing this selection of crime stories include:
        • Immediacy
        • Dramatisation - action and excitment
        • Personalisation - human interest stories about individuals
        • Higher-status persons - and celebrities
        • Simplification - eliminating shades of grey
        • Novelty or unexpectednes - a new angle
        • Risk - victim- centred stories about vulnerability and fear
        • Violence - especially visible and spectacular acts.
  • Fictional representations of crime -
    • Fictional representation from TV, cinema and novels are also important sources of ur knowledge of crime, because so much of their output is crime-related.
      • MANDEL (1984) - estimates that from 1945 to 1984, over 10 billion crime thrillers were sold worldwide.
      • about 25% of prime TV and 20% of films are crime shows or movies.
    • Fictional representations follopw SURETTE's (1998) 'law of opposites' : they are the opposite of official statistics- and stikingly similar to news coverage.
      • Property crime is under-represented, while violence, sex and drugs are over-represented.
      • Fictional sex crimes are committed by psychpathic strangers, not acquaintances.
      • Ficional cops usually get their man.
    • However, there are 3 recent trends:
      • 'Reality' shows tend to feature young, non-white 'underclass' offenders.
      • There is an increasing tendency to show police as currupt, brutal and less successful.
      • Victims have become more central, with police portrayed as avengers and audiences invited to identify with their suffering.

The media as a cause of crime =

  • There has long been concern that the media have a negative effect on attitudes, values and behaviours - especially on those thought most easily influenced (the young, the lower-class, and the uneducated…


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