Is the nature of crime in our society accurately presented by the media? Discuss.
A considerable amount of literature consistently argues that the way crime is portrayed in the media significantly differs from what official records and research tell us, that is to say, that the media is said to misrepresent the crime problem. Five main arguments are presented demonstrating that the media distorts the crime problem. First, the media tend to report on crimes that are considered `newsworthy.' Second, it is argued that the media's role is that of an agenda-setter. Third, media reporting on crime is supportive of law enforcement agencies but is negative towards courts. Fourth, the media reports on crime that escalates public anxiety to such an extent that it can lead to moral panic about particular crimes. Fifth, stereotypes of both victims and offenders dominate media representations of crime. It is believed that the media is the public's primary source of knowledge about crime and it has exploited this by inaccurately presenting the nature of crime to our society.
The first argument supporting that the media distorts the crime problem is that the reporting of crime is selective and the types of crimes reported in the media are those deemed `newsworthy.' Media compete in a marketplace to attract as large an audience as possible as they are profit orientated organisations. Consequently, crimes are selectively reported and are generally reported in ways that conform to news values of the immediate, the novel, the dramatic, and so on, which reinforce already established images of threat from crime. The assumption that the volume of crime is high and rising is one of the main arguments advanced by society. In Australia, studies have shown that a substantial proportion of the population incorrectly believe that crime rates are increasing when, in fact, they are stable or declining (Indermaur D & Roberts L, 2005). The discrepancy between the crime rate and the public's perceived crime rate has been commonly attributed to the expansive media coverage of crime, especially violent and more sensationalised crime (Duffy B, 2008). The media is the primary source of indirect knowledge of the crime problem and by selectively presenting crime to society in a dramatised and sensationalized manner; it has lead to the myth that the volume of crime is high and rising.
The second line of reasoning is that some contend that the media's construction of crime is more than just selective, it is that of an agenda-setter (Surette R, 1996). As an agenda-setter, the media defines the problem of crime in a way that sets parameters of discussion and debate. The impact of agenda-setting is that only some types of crime are brought to the public's attention and in the same way, only some kinds of criminal justice responses are presented as solutions to control crime. Research has found that the media reports the nature of...