Discuss the influence of press and media in shaping the public's fear about crime. Use examples from recent press and media coverage of crime to illustrate your answer.
An area that has caused much debate in criminology is the significance of the media and the effect is has on fear of crime. Fear of crime is very difficult to measure as there are different types of fear and also different levels of fear but it is believed that the press and media can influence an individual to think that they are more likely to become a victim of crime. In today's society with the development of technology and the fact that information is so readily available, more people are now aware of the amount of crime that occurs. The question is, are we getting a true representation of different types of crime? Nowadays a newspaper or TV news report is more likely to show cases of murder or sexual assault because they know it will sell copies and that it will grasp the attention of the audience. This is because the story has been deemed "newsworthy" or in other words, what a reporter thinks the public will want to hear about. Chibnall (1977) briefly outlined in Maguire, Morgan and Reiner's "The Oxford Handbook of Criminology" recognised eight imperatives of newsworthiness: Immediacy, Dramatisation, Personalisation, Simplification, Titillation, Conventionalism, Structured Access and Novelty and therefore we are more likely to hear about a story if it has just happened, if it is violent or sexual and if it is about a celebrity. Later three more imperatives of newsworthiness were recognised: Risk, Proximity and Children (Jewkes 2004). In the past, newspapers and TV news were simply to give the public information that they needed to know and with the advance of technology this has now become dramatised. In 2011 the number of violent crimes committed in England and Wales has decreased by 9% since 2010 (British Crime Survey 2011) but this has not been reflected in the media as, generally, the TV and newspapers tend to publicise serious crime on a day-to-day basis and therefore there will be a difference in the perception of crime rates and the official statistics as this would lead the public to believe that such crimes are an everyday occurrence which is, evidently, inaccurate. Non violent crimes are the most common crimes internationally but rarely get published in newspapers. Barbara Sims, Berwood Yost and Christina Abbott carried out a study into the Efficacy of Victim Services Programs. They surveyed 660 people about their experiences with crime and found out that only 98 respondents (17%) had been a victim of a violent crime where as the remaining 83% were victims of non-violent crimes (Sims, B., Yost, B. and Abbot, C. 2006). This shows that the media is not representing the statistics on an international scale.
The TV news is also not a true representation of crime. TV news are more likely to show injuries or deaths because they have better graphic representation and this is what they use to get the public's attention. The main question is: can we believe everything the news tells us and are we getting the full story? For television, the most important thing is getting high ratings and therefore TV news reports are more likely to exaggerate certain types of crime to make more people watch it. Recently in the news there was a story about a 59 year-old woman who was stabbed to death in London. Both Sky News and the BBC covered this story however there were differences in the reports. The BBC interviewed members of the public who all said it was “a random attack” and they showed Detective Supt Keith Niven of the Metropolitan Police stating that, “Thankfully incidents of this nature are rare” which would put the viewer at ease whereas Sky News had no mention of this and went into more detail about the attacks which could increase the audience’s fear of crime. TV news reports also show negative representations of stereotypes such as...
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