Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crime,Media and the Public

Crime, Media, and the Public
            Imagine you get home from a normal day and you decide that you want to watch some TV.  As your flipping through the channels nothing seems to grasp your attention until you turn to the news channel and in big letters on the bottom that reads:  KIDNAPPING OF CHIDLREN CEASES TO END.  As you watch the news covering the story they make things seem very bad and blow things way out of proportion when in fact it is the first kidnapping in years.  This a common tactic by the media used to gain more viewers.  I am going to discuss how the media does this, its affects on the public, and how to watch for it.
            In order for any television channel to stay on the air and make money is by obtaining a certain amount of views.  Most news stations don’t really have enough material to keep it going through out the day or not enough material to keep the audience entertained.  Some stations like to use little tricks to keep the viewer that some people wouldn’t really see as ethical.
            One of the tactics that is commonly used is showing the same story over and over again throughout the day.  The effect this has is it keeps the viewers watching and thinking about the story wondering if and how the story can change.  For example a murder is committed and broadcasted on the station.  The news station also reports that the killer has yet to be found and police are still searching.  With this tactic being used they would play this same news story again and again throughout the day even though no progress has been made to keep the viewers entertained.  They might even reword the story to make it seem different.
            Another tactic they like to use is exaggerating a story and making it seem more serious than it actually is.  Using the pervious example the news channel might broadcast it like this:  Murderer on a rampage and police seem to be doing nothing about.  This might even cause the public to lose faith in the justice system.
The media have long been peddling a big lie about crime, either that or they have been astonishingly incompetent about persuading their listeners, readers and viewers of the truth because the truth is that crime has been declining for well over a decade. Home Office criminologists portrayed U.S. as becoming a "less violent nation" with half a million fewer violent crime victims than in 1995 - a fall of 45%. They insisted yesterday that the 5% rise in violent crime recorded by the BCS was "not statistically significant".  Their claims are supported by a fall in the murder rate to its lowest level for eight years with 755 homicides, and a 13% fall in gun crime according to the police. Death by dangerous driving however is becoming an increasing problem with a record 462 killed this way last year. Whereas the Times was reporting : Violent crime and robberies rose last year, as did the risk of becoming a victim of crime, while the overall number of offences is slightly down, the Government said today.  Four out of 10 people thought crime had gone up in their local area, according to the annual British Crime Survey, based on interviews with more than 40,000 people.  Drink and drug-fuelled crime has also seen a rise, with over one million victims believing that the offenders were under the influence of alcohol. There were 462 offences of causing death by dangerous driving or while under the influence of drink or drugs. (Barlow, 2007)
            So you must be wondering what effect this has on the public as a whole.  Well in some circumstances this may cause a panic in the public in that they think their community is infected with crime when in reality it is the media amplifying the situation.  For instance if you had watched the news all week and you saw most of the time the news talking about robberies like they occurred all the time, when in face one or two had occurred, then it may cause you fear getting robbed and lose your sense of security.  Another affect, as mentioned earlier, it might cause the public to lose trust in the police department causing them to attempt to take things in their own hands which would lead to more crime in the end.

The media act as agents and conductors of moral indignation, they create media ‘fantasies’ or a criminal ‘hyper-reality’ of produced and consumed images.  They investigate, muck rake then point the finger via gross cases that challenge the publics’ tolerance.  The effect is to create disquiet, worry, fear and anxiety then a desire for security, for order to be returned. This is their constructed reality. So is the corollary of a mythical law abiding and orderly past to return to and envy.  Amplification raises the tension demanding release by authoritarian measures, law and order, swift justice and harsh punishment.  The public ends up calling for their own repression; they desire and demand ‘get tough’ action created by panics. (Crime and the media, 2008)

            This may cause panic in some but do not worry there is some techniques to follow that can aid in knowing when the media is trying to affect your perception of crime in your community.  First if you see a big news story on TV and then you see it again an hour or two later just assume that nothing has changed since then.  Second when the news starts to give out numbers or percentages about the crime rate in your area you can safely assume that it is amplified quite a bit.
            In conclusion we can see how the news media affects our perception of crime in order to get its views.  When in reality the crime rate in comparison to previous decades is at an all time low.  They have some easily spotted tactics if you are aware of them that magnify stories.  “When new laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by 8.5%, and rapes and aggravated assaults fell by 5% and 7%. In 1992, there were 18,469 murders, 79,272 rapes, 538,368 robberies, and 861,103 aggravated assaults in counties without 'shall issue' laws.”(Samuel, 1996, pg10)

Barlow, Nigel (2007) Does the media exaggerate crime?
Crime and the media. (2008) Retrieved 2009-02-18 pg4
Samuel, Francis. (1996) Human Events Concealed weapons laws help reduce violent crime Issue 35, p10, 5/8p 


  1. This is a very interesting subject. It is so true that the media like to blow things out of proportion. They also seem to tell stories over and over again. They'll do whatever they need to do to keep their viewers and keep people interested.

  2. A great article. The media has proved over and over again that ratings are more important than presenting truthful relevant information. The news tends to only promote sensational crimes, and crimes that would make a good movie one day. I do not know how society is supposed to have an accurate depiction of the true crimes in their area when they can not trust their news source.

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