Sociology Media and Crime

Topics: Sociology, Crime, Mass media Pages: 6 (1566 words) Published: April 15, 2014
Media in Crime
Media give a distorted image of crime
Over-representation of violent and sexual crimes – Ditton and Duffy – 46% of media reports were about violent/sexual crimes but only made up 3% of all crimes recorded by the police Media coverage exaggerates police success

The police are a major source of crime stories and want to present themselves in a good light Media exaggerates the risk of victimisation
Especially to women, white people and higher status individuals Crime is reported as a series of separate events
Without structure and the examination of underlying causes
Media overplay extraordinary crimes
Underplay ordinary crimes
Felson – ‘dramatic fallacy’
Media images lead us to believe that to commit and solve crimes, one needs to be daring and clever Schlesinger and Tumber – in the 1960s the focus had been on murders and petty crime; in the 1990s murder and petty crime were of less interest to the media; change due to the abolition of the death penalty for murder and because rising crime rates meant that a crime had to be ‘special’ to attract coverage Increasing preoccupation with sex crimes

Soothill and Walby – newspaper reporting of rape crases increased from under a quarter in 1951 to over a third in 1985; coverage consistently focuses on identifying a ‘sex fiend/beast’ by use of labels

News values and crime coverage

Distorted picture of crime painted by the news media reflects the fact that news is a social construction – the outcome of a social process in which potential stories are selected and others are rejected Cohen and Young – news is manufactured

A central aspect of the news is the notion of ‘news values’ – criteria by which journalists and editors decide whether a story is newsworthy to be in newspapers or the news bulletin. Immediacy
Dramatisation – action and excitement
Personalisation – human interest stories about individuals Higher-status – ie celebrities
Simplification
Novelty or unexpectedness
Risk
Violence

News give so much coverage to crime as it focuses on the unusual and extraordinary – makes deviance newsworthy since it is abnormal behaviour Fictional representations of crime
Mandel – estimates that from 1945 to 1984, over 10 billion crime thrillers were sold worldwide Fictional representation from TV, cinema and novels are important sources of our knowledge of crime as so much of their output is crime-related

The media as a cause of crime

Concern that the media have a negative effect on attitudes, values and behaviour for vulnerable and influential groups e.g. young, lower classes and uneducated Ways in which the media might cause crime and deviance

Imitation
Arousal
Desensitisation – repeated viewing of violence
Transmitting knowledge of criminal techniques
Target for crime – theft of plasma TVs
Stimulating desires for unaffordable goods – through advertising Portraying the police as incompetent
Glamorising offending
Studies tend to find that exposure to media violence has at most a small and limited negative effect on audience Livingstone – despite such conclusions, people continue to be preoccupied with the effects of the media on children because of our desire as a society to regard childhood as a time of uncontaminated innocence in the private sphere (the family)

Fear of crime

Concern that the media may be distorting the public’s impression of crime and causing an unrealistic fear of crime Evidence to some extent supports the view that there is a link between media use and fear of crime Gerbner et al (USA) – heavy users of television (over 4 hours a day) had higher levels of fear of crime Schlesinger and Tumber – found a correlation between media consumption and fear of crime – tabloid readers and heavy users of TV expressing greater fear of becoming a victim – especially physical attack and mugging Existence of such correlations doesn’t prove that media viewing causes fear. It may be that those who are already afraid of going...
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