Cheap sensationalism characterizes much of what passes for news reporting on incidents of violent crime. This has the tendency to inflame without really informing which is very dangerous for a world inundated with images of violence in every home. Violence begets violence, especially for the young and impressionable, emotionally and mentally unstable and for those simply prone to violence. The News Media presents a nightly carnival of the most terrifying stories. This sensationalism is especially true with local news which is the primary news source for 2/3 of Americans with 61% of all lead stories on local news dedicated to crime, fires, disasters and Accidents (Pew Research Center 2006). Giving prominence to stories of crime and violence has various effects. It emboldens the perpetrators of the violence, making them into criminal superstars who feed off the media recognition. Everybody desires their 3 minutes of fame, even criminals. The media makes this and more possible for them. In another instance, through constantly highlighting the criminal actions of a few, the media adversely colours an entire race of people. Also, the effects can be felt in the unhealthy fears and anxiety that the viewers may experience. Therefore, we believe that it is imperative that the media present the news without promoting crime and violence.
Let us first begin by defining two key words in the topic of debate. News is defined by the Oxford Concise Dictionary as newly received or noteworthy information especially about recent events. To promote as defined by the Oxford Concise Dictionary, is to one (1) further the progress of; support or encourage and two (2) raise to a higher position or rank. Therefore it is the responsibility of the Media to present current and noteworthy information about crime and violence in a manner that does not raise, support or give a higher position to said crime and violence. The Media should present the news in an objective, neutral and unbiased manner but what we find most often than not is the total opposite. Media houses, in an attempt to stay ahead of the competition, often promote their own agenda and unfortunately crime and violence sells and the more sensational the better but the social effects are disastrous.
When horrendous crimes are carried as cover stories or aired as main stories, this gives credence to the perpetrators who are then seen as a force to reckon with which then creates mayhem in representing gangs or group with each group attempting to prove that they are ‘bigger and badder’. This is evidenced in Spanish Town, the capital of St. Catherine, where rival gangs ‘one order’ and ‘clansman’ often noted for their monstrosities which include extortion, rape, murder etc. When the actions of one group are highlighted in the news, this fuels the next group to outdo the first by preying on innocent civilians or for retaliation purposes.
Based on our investigations and interviews we strongly believe that criminals feed on the fact that their names and the crimes they commit are highlighted in the news. In the 2006 article “Media-Made Criminality: The Representation of Crime in the Media”, Robert Reiner highlighted that more than 50% of 3 year olds have television sets in their bedrooms, and among this age group, approximately five hours per day is spent before a television screen. These youngsters have impressionable minds and absorb everything they see and learn. Just as how we learn to say thank you, please and excuse me, and these values would stay with us for the rest of our lives, it is also true that the act of criminality seen in the media is imprinted on the minds of children and lorded by children watching. One may wonder why we are speaking about children and crime, but based on information received from the Statistics Division and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (J.C.F.), 80% of major...