Crime and the Media

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To what extent is the media’s portrayal of crime balanced and accurate?

The essay will consider how accurately the media portrays crime, this will entail what types of crime stories they report on, whether or not those stories are biased, the impact they have on the public’s perception of crime and the actual reality of crime in Australia. When we talk about the media we are not just referring to one specific example of media, but many different types. The most common forms of media people talk about today are the newspapers; a form of print media, television and the internet; a visual form of electronic media, and the radio; a verbal form of electronic media. There are other, minor forms of media including magazines, local newsletters and blogs but there isn’t much attention given to them. In every media outlet there are journalists and reporters who gather the information to be presented and then present it in the various different ways. Then behind them you have the powerful moguls (David Baker, 2010; CRJ1001 unit book p.59) who control the media, although to get information on world issues, Australia generally relies on other sources like the American and UK media outlets.

Depending on the media outlet, different crime related stories will be reported on. For example, a television or newspaper article will generally only choose a story that they have visual images for, whereas the radio stations do not use visuals and so can report on more stories. Generally though, all forms of media report on the same types of crime stories, the ones which have a certain amount of controversy, excitement or are just horrifying so as to get the public interested or intrigued enough to listen, buy or watch it. This generates the majority of the media’s revenue and, in my opinion, most parts of the media are just in it for the money. The majority of stories reported in the media, about crime, have something to do with violence or aggressiveness. Eg. Murder, assault and rape. However, corporate, white collar and political crime is largely neglected or put into a tiny insignificant part of a report because it does not sell as well. From that you could draw the conclusion that television and newspapers are somewhat biased in their approach to reporting crime and the types of crime they report.

That being said, there are some restraints put upon some parts of the media which restrict what they can and cannot report on. Over the years criminologists have been able to determine that reporters and journalists work to three kinds of restraints; Technical, Practical and Ideological. (Chan 1987; Grabosky & Wilson 1989; Ward 1995; Israel 1998; Brown 2003; Jawkes 2004; Crime and Justice: A Guide to Criminology, 3.10) when a journalist or reporter is putting together a story they have to meet the needs of the media outlet they are working for. For example, a television news program will want a visual image to go with what they are saying, but this cannot always be done so they may choose not to report that particular story in detail and might add it as a small one minute story, if it is important enough, otherwise they will probably just leave it out all together. A story also has to be relatively easy to understand, generally in terms of “goodies and baddies”. (David Baker, 2010; CRJ1001 unit book p.60) Television shows are less likely to report on a complex story that may be difficult to understand for the majority of the public because people would lose interest in it and turn to another channel. Due to the recent Global Financial Crisis most media outlets have had to reduce the number of reporters and investigative journalists they can hire to do ‘all the dirty work’ of digging around for useful information. This means that they have to rely more on media releases put out by the police and other influential bodies such as parliament and the courts and that they are somewhat limited in what they can report on. It would take too...
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