Is the nature of crime in our society accurately presented in the media?
In today’s modern society, with the rise of digital media platforms, increased news cycles and fast paced media consumption, we are now more exposed to media than at any point in our history. A recent report from the Reuters Institute (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2016) concludes that just over half of the respondents surveyed now use social media as their primary source for news. Given this rise of unpaid news access, one might expect media outlets to publish the more dramatic or flamboyant aspects of news. Which leads us to question, is the nature of crime in our society accurately presented in the media? This essay will begin by looking at the influence media has on our lives. It will then cover the nature of modern media reporting on crime statistics, and outline why different crimes receive various levels of coverage. Within the examination and discussion of the question ‘Is the nature of crime in our society accurately presented in the media?’ academic research will be used to explore media bias for dramatic crimes, and how this uneven portrayal impacts society’s understanding of crime.
Dole Cheats get good ratings
There exists a lot of room for potential bias in media reporting on crime. Take for example this recent study on Social Security fraud that finds the clear majority of persons prosecuted do not conform to the traditional image of greed based crime presented by the media, but are in fact more a need based crime (Marston & Walsh, 2008). The case study further goes on to conclude that while the media portrays these types of cases as “Dole Cheats Get Jail”, that type of sentencing is generally in the minority and atypical. Chibnall (1977) argues regarding news reporting, that we should always be aware for the potential of misdirection, either overtly or covertly. This type of bias can further be explored by the effect the media can have on the public.
Drama, conflict, heroes, and villains
Yanich (2004) describes the types of crime stories media portrays as having it all, drama, conflict, heroes and villains. It’s well known that the media loves drama, they are an institution after all that requires an audience. But when the media frame events to be more dramatic than they are, the kind of influence this can have can be far reaching. Schindeler & Ewart (2014) reported on such an instance where the Gold Coast Bulletin ultimately successfully framed the narrative of crime into a desperate “Crime Wave” needing urgent attention, but when examining the region’s crime statistics, there was no significant increased risk or threat. This type of biased reporting can have far reaching consequences, as in this case where the misrepresented facts went on to affect and influence government policy decisions. Given the success of the biased reporting, we then need to examine if the public is aware of the misrepresentation of crime by the media.
Opinions of crime stem from media exposure
Both Sacco (1995) and Beale (2006) establish that there exists a misrepresentation of crime in the news media compared to the statistical records of crime. This is important to know because a 2001 American study concluded that only 22% of people form their opinions on crime from firsthand experiences, and that that over three quarters of the population, 76% of people form their opinions based on media they are exposed to (Dorfman, 2001). The study further goes on to show that during 1990 to 1998 in America, homicide rates were falling by as much as 33%, but that the major news outlets reporting on homicides had increased by over 400%. This type of evidence clearly shows that society’s understanding of crime is heavily influenced by how the media reports on crime, and that these reports do not always mirror the true level of crime according to the official crime statistics.
Ad revenue impacts reporting quality
The studies and reports presented above show that media bias exists when it comes to the level of reporting on types of crimes, and how coverage can fluctuate. They also show why crime reporting is important to the media as it attracts attention, and the level of influence the media can have on not just the general population but also government policy as well. And they also show how the nature of crime reports in media can affect the public’s understanding of crime. From the evidence this essay has shown, we can clearly conclude that the nature of crime in our society is not accurately presented in the media. The reports and articles presented here instead show that the media frames crime in a way to engage the public and capture their attention, regardless of if the true crime statistics match what is being reported.