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How important is the media presentation of crime?

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Introduction

How important is the media presentation of crime? The public's fascination with crime lies at the heart of popular culture and crime occupies a large proportion of space in the public's discussion and imagination. Crime reports form an integral part of the daily media consumption. Some see the media as a cause of crime, others see it not as a cause but as "an exaggerated public alarm" (Maguire et al 1997.) There are various genres of media that discuss crime. The most obvious are tabloid newspapers and broadsheets, news reports on the television. However crime can also be discussed in academic journals, true crime magazines and books, crime fiction, television, films and music. Tabloids, broadsheets and television news are the most widely available accounts of crime to the general public. One only has to pick up a newspaper of switch on the television to see the state of crime in society today. True crime magazines and books are becoming more and more popular in today's culture. Television dramas, soap operas, films and music all portray crime through their mediums and help to fuel this public fascination with crime. ...read more.

Middle

There are few attempts to discuss causes of, or remedies for crime or to put the problem of crime into a larger perspective." Sherizen adds to this; "Mass media provides citizens with a public awareness or crime... based upon an information-rich and knowledge poor foundation... Anyone interested in learning about crime from the mass media is treated to examples, incidents and scandals but at such a level of description that it is impossible for them to develop an analytical comprehension of crime." The media, especially films, began to associate mental illness with violence until it became a clich´┐Ż. The stereotype of a homicidal maniac as being mentally ill is prevalent in such horror films as Psycho, Silence of the lambs, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Many people believe that these types of films spawn criminal behaviour and copycat crimes. One question we must ask ourselves is, is there a causal relationship between exposure to media and the public perception of crime? Simon (1966) studied the effects of newspaper sensationalism on mock juries. One group were presented with a tabloid newspaper style sensationalised version of the offence whilst the second group were presented with an account of the crime as it would appear in a broadsheet newspaper. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is clear that the media plays an important role I the portrayal of crime to the public and influences their thoughts on who is deviant and what to think about crime. However the mis-representation of certain crimes can fuel public fear. People now hear about murders and rapes near everyday as opposed to being made aware of the real crimes that are more likely to affect them in their everyday lives such as car theft. The media is also blamed for being a cause of crime. Although there may be some people who will listen to a certain piece of music or watch a particular film which may inspire them to go out ad commit a crime, there are a significant majority of those who do not. The media should not be blamed for an individual's actions, a violent film or piece of music may trigger something inside of them that makes them go out and kill but it is not actually the media that make them kill, it is down to individual differences. In conclusion, the media presentation of crime is important as it is through the media that the general public learn about crime and create their own views and perceptions of crime and criminals. ...read more.

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