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Media Representations of Crime

Info: 2505 words (10 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Criminology

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Question 1: In what ways does the media misrepresent the nature of crime? 

In today’s society, there are many different forms of media like magazines, newspapers, radio and television. The media is the primary source of indirect knowledge of the crime problem. Direct knowledge may come from personal experience and/or the experiences of those people known to us.  Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have become powerful platforms that impact the way people think and consequently, will influence societies perception in terms of criminal event and crime.  The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways media misrepresent the nature of the crime and how it can impact society. This will be discovered through research literature and examples to explain how the media view crime.

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The media plays an important role in the definition of the crime and helps shape the social construction of crime in society.  Most people depend on the media when it comes to the definition of crime as they do not have any considerable empirical authenticity to rely on  (Surette, 2001). The reporting of crime by the media can be selective  to the public. “most of the features of news reporting are not the result of ideology––political or professional––but are unintended consequences of a variety of structural and organizational imperatives of news-gathering(Maguire, Reiner, Morgan and Reiner, 2002)”.As stated by (Hennessey Hayes and Tim Prenzler, 2014) “the media plays a central role in placing crime in the centre of public consciousness in terms of entertainment, politics and quality of life in our local communities and as a nation”.

The media can increase the seriousness with which crime is perceived, instead of relying on statistical data or academic research for information about the crime, the media tends to focus on specific types of crimes (usually violent) and portrays it as typical and a threat to the community and public perceptions. (Hennessey Hayes and Tim Prenzler, 2014) explained that “these patterns of reporting create a cumulative distortion of crime by a repeated focus on violent crimes, vulnerable and newsworthy victims and predatory criminals”. Public perceptions about the crime can influence the development of public policy around “the crime problem”. For example, agenda-setting or preventing crime in a way to increase the urgency for policymakers to respond to the crime problem.

Selective reporting of crime can lead to “moral panics” such as bikies on the Gold Coast or the “African gangs in Melbourne”. The study illustrates the amount of crime reported in Australian news due to the media representations of crime which lead Australians to overestimate the level of crime in their community and caused apprehension in the community (Media Portrayals of Crime, 2017). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of crimes that were reported to the police was declined in 2007. However, ( Davis and Dossetor,2010) stated that the media has played a massive role in the misrepresenting the true nature of the crime. Consequently, this misleading behaviour in reporting crime has the potential to cause widespread concern amongst society.

The media and its misrepresentation of crime have a negative impact on society which can help in creating prejudice views towards specific groups in certain communities that is targeted on news platforms. (Maguire, Reiner, Morgan and Reiner, 2002) state that “The role of the media in helping to develop new (and erode old) categories of crime has been emphasized in most of the classic studies of shifting boundaries of criminal law within the ‘labelling’ tradition”. (Hennessey Hayes and Tim Prenzler, 2014) clarified that “Over time, if the stigma attaches, young people may commit themselves to the new label and hence change their identity to fit the label”. Thus, when people develop label among these group, this will cause them to segregate from the rest of the community especially if they have the fear of their capability to commit a crime. (Hennessey Hayes and Tim Prenzler, 2014) further explained that “The media is never able to present a wholly objective view of any aspect of the social world, including crime”.

Research  shows that the media can influence how people think about crime and criminals. This can be explained by adopting the three models which are the effects model, functionalist model and the institutional model. The effect model views consumers of media as passive and uncritical in addition, assumes consumers of media unquestioningly believe the view of crime with which they are presented. However, the institutional model viewing media as a powerful institution of social control by shaping social views of crime and criminals and reinforcing community attitudes about crime, criminals, and criminal justice responses.

In conclusion, this paper has briefly discussed the way media misrepresent the nature of a crime and how it can influence society. The research literature explored how the misrepresentation of the media can mislead personal opinion and have a negative impact upon them as inaccurate news can form in government policies, societies view and belief. The author like  (Surette, 2001) has explained that people depend on media when it comes to a crime as they do not have any considerable empirical authenticity to rely on. Other authors like (Hennessey Hayes and Tim Prenzler, 2014) explained that once the stigma is attached to the individual, he will pledge himself to the new label.

References

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4510.0~2015~Main %20Features~Victims%20of%20Crime,%20Australia~3
  • Davis, B & Dossetor, K. (2010). (Mis)perceptions of crime in Australia’, Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice, vol. 396, pp. 1-6.
  • Hayes, Hennessey & Prenzler, Tim (Eds.) An Introduction to Crime and Criminology (4th ed.). Pearson Australia, Sydney NSW
  • Maguire, M., Reiner, R., Morgan, R., & Reiner, R. (2002). Media Made Criminality: The Representation of Crime in the Mass Media. The Oxford handbook of criminology.
  • Media Portrayals of Crime. (2017) (1st ed., p. 1). Retrieved from: https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-topics/Tragic-events-community-violence/Media-portrayals-of-crime
  • Surette, R & Otto, C 2001, ‘The media’s role in the definition of crime, in Henry, S & Lanier, M, What is crime? : controversies over the nature of crime and what to do about it, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., pp. 139-154.

Question 2: Violent crime can be a source of concern, but is it the most frequently occurring type of crime in society?  

Violent crime has been one of the major concerns in today’s society. Violent crime lays under the six categories which are a homicide, assault, sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping and domestic violence. The aim of this essay is to outline briefly the prevalence of violent crime. The second purpose will be is to discuss other types of crime such as property and white-collar crime.

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Violent crime is one of the most vital subjects that the media interesting in which in turn followed by political interest and policy. The assumption that people have on crime is that it in arise level however, this can be unreliable as they do not rely on Australian victimisation survey or any other statistics, this can be due to the misrepresentation of the media on crime. The type of crime that has been reported in the media is the one that considered ‘newsworthy’ therefore, the reporting of crime is selective. Thus, when comparing other crimes such as the property crime or the white-collar crime violent crime is more serious apprehension for the mainstream of the community hence, it is seriously stated by the media (Wood, 2015). (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2014) stated that the number of reported victims in homicide, robbery and kidnapping have dropped in the year 2012 and 2013.  Yet, the media still reporting violent crime as the most common and growing crime in society. Since the media tend to report crimes that involve people or organisations who are prominent or well known. These prominent people or organisations may feature in a variety of capacities, for example, victims, offenders, witnesses and many more. The media tend to focus on stories which will have a greater impact upon the audience and focus on stories where two or more parties are in conflict. The primary purpose of these selected stories is to raise the profit for the media (Wood, 2015). Studies have shown that the rate of assault in Australia according to the police statistic has been increasing steadily over time comparing to the figures that are available (Indermaur, 2000). Overall, the research has shown that victims of violent crime are not the most prominent crime in society and the number of these crimes have been declined.

The most common type of crime in society is property crime. As with violent crime, property offences in Australia significantly increased in the 1970s and ’80s. Property crime generally levelled out by the mid-1990s. “According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Crime Victimisation Survey 2011- 2012, malicious property damage was more common than any other property offence, with 7.5 per cent of respondents reporting having been a victim in the previous 12 months (ABS 2013)”. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (2013), property crime was reported at a higher percentage than the violent crime in 1996 till 2012 though, the media did not report this type of crime. There are many types of property crime that include attempted break-in, motor vehicle theft, malicious property damage and other types of theft. The most common type of crime in society is property crime. As with violent crime, property offences in Australia significantly increased in the 1970s and ’80s. Property crime generally levelled out by the mid-1990s. “According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Crime Victimisation Survey 2011- 2012, malicious property damage was more common than any other property offence, with 7.5 per cent of respondents reporting having been a victim in the previous 12 months (ABS 2013)”. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (2013), property crime was reported at a higher percentage than the violent crime in 1996 till 2012 though, the media did not report this type of crime. There are many types of property crime that include attempted break-in, motor vehicle theft, malicious property damage and other types of theft. In 2015 these types of property crimes have been increased in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) state that “The results for selected household crimes from the 2015 to 2016 survey were similar to those from the 2014 to 2015 survey, with the only significant change in the national victimisation rate for malicious property damage, which fell from 5.7% in (2014- 2015) to 4.8% in (2015-2016)”. The reasons behind the decrease in property offending are varied; for example, increasing prosperity and decreasing unemployment rates as well as an increase in crime prevention measures. Overall, the frequent property crime is increasing, and this type is well knowingly in society.

White-collar crime is one of the most frequently occurring crimes in society. However, it is not reported by the media. White-collar crime is not considered as the ‘newsworthy’ therefore, the media do not frequently record the offences of the white-collar crime. Due to the less evidence and low number in the official crime statistics, it appears very difficult for the media to confess the public that the white-collar crime is taking place in society.  Another factor could be because of the ‘dark figure’  of crime. For example, many people do not report the crime due to the fear of punishment or they want surreptitiously or personally resolve the issue. According to (Ransley & Prenzler, 2015) several types of White-collar crime were not conventionally categorized as crimes. Furthermore, Rollings (2005) states that “ the proportion of lost output and intangible losses for property crime (40 per cent)” by giving an example of fraud for the white-collar crime that goes unreported. Therefore, the white- collar crime is the most frequently occurring type of crime in society.  

In conclusion, some forms of crime such as property crime and white-collar crime have not been represented by the media as much as violent crime. The public perceived violent crime as the most increasing crime in society and that is because of the misrepresentation of the media for this crime. The research literature shows that the property and the white-collar crimes are the most occurring crime in society but due to ‘newsworthy’ the media has unreported these crimes. 

References

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4510.0~2015~Main %20Features~Victims%20of%20Crime,%20Australia~3
  • Australian Institute of Criminology (2013). Chapter 1: Recorded crime. Retrieved from http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/facts/1-20/2013/1_recorded.html
  • Australian Institute of Criminology (2014). Property Crime. Retrieved from http://www.aic.gov.au/crime_types/property%20crime.html
  • Indermaur, D. (2000). Violent crime in australia: Patterns and politics. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 33(3), 287-299. doi:10.1177/00048658000330030
  • Ransley, J. & Prenzler, T. (2015). White-collar Crime. In H. Hayes & T. Prenzler (Eds.), An Introduction To Crime & Criminology (pp. 134-152). Melbourne, Australia: Pearson Australia
  • Rollings, K. (2005). Counting the Costs of Crime in Australia: A 2005 Update. Canberra, Australia: Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from http://aic.gov.au/media_library/publications/rpp/91/rpp091.pdf
  • Wood, W. (2015). Media and Crime. In H. Hayes & T. Prenzler (Eds.), An Introduction To Crime & Criminology (pp. 3-21). Melbourne, Australia: Pearson Australia

 

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