Examine the extent to which the media can be said to inform and misinform us about the nature and extent of crime.

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Examine the extent to which the media can be said to inform and misinform us about the nature and extent of crime

Matriculation number: 10008032

Worldwide, the media is recognized as the fourth estate, seriously affecting public opinion. In a democratic society the media plays an important social function - informs the public about the political, social, criminal, economical and other problems. Without media we would know nothing. In this respect the media's interest in all topics of interest to us is a natural and justifiable thing. On the other hand media have motive and methods by which they distort information and misinform the public. Firstly this essay will try to examine the extent to which the media inform and misinform people about the nature and extent of crime through sensationalism and selective reporting and secondly this essay will look how online newspapers represent domestic violence crimes.

Everybody agree that media is a significant informant, the primary source to get information about what’s happening in the world. It draws our attention to social issues, provides a picture of events that people do not experience directly, teach people about their society and people who are outside their social groups, moreover helps structure how people see the world (Bullock & Cubert, 2002). Today media is all about crimes and as a result crime consumes an enormous amount of media space. TV schedules, films in cinemas, headlines in newspapers indicate that general population is fascinated or even obsessed in crimes and criminal behaviours (Marsh, Cochrane & Melville, 2004). Grabosky and Wilson (1989) suggest that crimes as well as criminals, victims and criminal justice attract society’s attention because such reporting is full of drama, pain, involves real life, real people, and the frightening power to deprive a person of liberty (Grabosky & Wilson (1989) as cited by Goddard & Saunders, 2001). Others say that violent crime news is so widespread because society may be willing to tolerate threatening and frightful stories because those stories provide public with a way of monitoring their environments in order to avoid danger (Valdivia, 2006). Media (newspapers, television and radios) are among the most influential sources used by the societies to develop opinions about crime and the criminal justice system that’s why there is a continuous debate on effectiveness of media informing the public about the nature and extent of crimes. While many reporters take the position that they reflect society’s ‘face’, the media is still accused of misinformation, exaggerated public alarm and effective interpretation of how people need to understand about what’s happening in our society, what is considered "deviant" and, therefore, what is "normal", also of selecting what is important and relevant enough to appear in the media and presupposing about what to think, thereby shaping the public image of crime (Dobryninas, 2000). Moreover critics often suggest that the media inaccurately reflect the social reality of crime and give too much attention to crime in general when compared to the total news content (Mackay, 2007). There is certain evidence and motives which can suggest that media do more misinform than inform the society about the nature and extent of crime. Let’s take sensationalism. It’s a perfect way to distort information and mislead or misinform the society. Newspapers highlight all details of the incident as it occurred without placing the crime in any context, sensationalising events with shocking, ‘screaming’, emotional and threatening headlines like ‘In a State of Terror’ or ‘Wild in the streets’. Stories are presented in a more dramatic, ‘film like way’ than they really are, using a high proportion of sensationalised language with emotional turns of phrases and language that focus on victims feelings; appealing to the reader’s imagination (Rogers, 2005), for example, stories about rape often focuses on dramatic attacks by strangers in public places (parks, taxis, toilets), whereas women and men are more likely to be raped in private places by someone they already know (Soothill & Walby, 1991). Also once the suspect is found the papers often print judging, evidence lacking, irrespective and inaccurate sensational information about suspect, creating distorted view of reality; for example - article ‘Naujagimis saldytuve’ (Baby in a fridge) tells a story about the mother who hid her baby in the freezer. Although case was closed but a significant article about the event was printed stating that the lack of evidence let the killer of the baby walk free (Drungiliene, 2001). So using sensationalism media present to society a distorted, misleading view of reality where crimes, situations and suspects are often showed worse that they really are, misinforming people about the true nature of crimes.

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Media also misinform society about extent and nature of crimes using the selective reporting. Because of today’s competitive market and lack of time, media covers just a fraction of crimes so they focus on what sells. Journalists are not interested in common crimes, involving the usual victims, they are interested of what makes a good story that their audience wants to know about They concentrate on unusual, ingenious, vicious and audacious crimes like bloody murders or maniacs, cannibals (Reiner, 2002). The likelihood that a story will be reported lies on ‘visible or spectacular act’, ‘political or sexual connotations’, ‘graphic presentation’, ...

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