Media and Fear of Crime

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MEDIA AND FEAR OF CRIME

The mass media is a vehicle for delivering information and to entertain. But implications that the media do more harm than good concerning its practices and its effects on the public. The two main categories of mass media are print media and electronic media. Although they overlap in some areas, they differ mostly in the subject matter they cover and in their delivery methods. Research had been conducted in using both these forms to gauge the impact that each one has on the public. Print media tends to be more factual based whereas electronic media tend to focus more on visual aids to help relay the information. The public's fear of crime has an impact on the public agenda of policy makers. Fear of crime not only affects individual but may also have an impact on the laws that affect crime control and prevention.

One might turn on any evening news broadcast these days and be bombarded with images of war, violence and stories of unsuspecting citizens victimized in their own communities. Is crime on the increase or is it just media hype? There are countless television shows with plots dedicated to the depiction of criminal activities fouled by law enforcement agencies with the helping hand of the law. Newspaper headlines scream out daily in bold print and action photos of the latest tragedies. Should the public be fearful of what the television conveys to us, be cautious of whatever new crime wave is presented on the media? These questions may lead one to wonder if the depiction of crime in the mass media affects the public's perception of safety and danger in society.

Mass media refers to media that are easily, inexpensively, and simultaneously accessible to large segments of a population (Surette, 10). Although the mass media are only one of the sources from which citizens attain knowledge of crime and justice, it is by far the most influential. According to one study, the mass media are credited with providing 95 percent of the information the public receives about crime (Surette, 10). With these statistics, it seems that the fear of crime is indeed constructed through the media. In March 1994, the Times Mirror Center for the people and the Press conducted a poll that measured the public's fear of crime. Fifty percent of the respondents said they feared that they would be the victims of crime, up from 36 percent in 1988 (Krajicek, 23).

There are two main categories of mass media that will be discussed: print media, and electronic media. Although one category may over lap with the other, the variations between the two seem to have generated different responses from the public. The effects of newspapers and television, in particular have been found to differ. Newspapers tend to affect beliefs about crime, whereas television more affects attitudes such as fear of crime (Surette, 80).

PRINT MEDIA
The first mass media that developed came in the form of print media: newspapers. In addition to books and magazines, printed media traditionally tends to be more fact oriented. Print media can be more analytical in their reporting and can cover a story in more detail, and are less suited to emotional, visceral reporting than, say, television (Surette, 12). Newspapers contain only news and not the fictionalized crime drama presented on television. But that is not to say that print media is not capable of sensationalism all the same. A 1988 study found that newspapers in the mid – 1980s covered violent crimes (murder, robbery, rape, assault) four times more frequently than property crimes (burglary, larceny, theft), even though property crimes are nine times more prevalent (Krajicek, 98).

Krajicek gives an example of how the print media uses a formula to construct and manipulate news stories to generate readership. "The basic formula in newsmag writing is to mentioned in varying places of prominence that crime trends were down, not up. To note near the beginning of the story that the crime...
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