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Conceptions of crime Essay

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Conceptions of crime are distorted by exposure to media coverage. Discuss. This cours from coursework. inf coga ga” . “r se” . ga . “ga” . “w or”. ga . ” ” . ga . “k inga foga ” . ga . “! The media constitutes a major part of modern society and plays a large role in our lives. It is the prime source of information and entertainment, and moreover acts as a strong influence on public belief and opinion. The media is highly influential in coae ae” . “r se” . ae . “ae” . “w or”. ae . ” ” . ae . “k inae foae ” . ae . “. shaping our views upon the world in which we live.

When it comes to crime, coae ae” .”r se” . ae . “ae” . “w or”. ae . ” ” . ae . “k inae foae ” . ae . “. however, do the reports shown by the media present an accurate picture of the true This cours from coursework. inf events? The more horrific the report, the more likely it is to capture the attention of the public, which obviously secures plenty of profit for media barons. Is our increasing reliance on an institution that relies on sensationalism to create profit unwise, as this could well mean that the facts they report lack truth?

The media reinforces social myths by selective reporting, and thus presents a distorted view ofreality. This could be leading to an increasingly misconstrued public view of certain crimes. The media is a very powerful influence on the way in which we behave and how we view the world, therefore it is important that it shows a realistic picture of what is taking place in our society, otherwise we will gain a false perception of aspects such as crime. Is the media really portraying crime as it truly is, or is it selectively reporting the most colourful events in order to secure audiences and therefore profit? It is important to understand that there are many crimes that are completely ignored by the media, as they are not seen as ? newsworthy?. Usually only those that will capture public attention are mentioned.

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This means that the crimes that fill our screens and pages are usually violent or shocking in nature. From a functionalist perspective this can serve a positive function, as the deviant behaviour makes ordinary people feel safe in the knowledge that they are morally better than the criminal, and reporting of crimes and subsequent punishments can also serve as a deterrent to others and a good method of reinforcing the social order.

However, there is also a certain degree of bias present in all reporting that stems from the integrated norms and moral background of the journalist involved. It is almost impossible to be completely objective when reporting, and most journalists will slant their stories to appeal to the widest possible audience. This is theorized in the hegemonic model, and works on the basis that the majority of journalists are likely to be white, male and middle-class and will therefore bring with them to their stories their own similar set of norms and values, be this unconsciously or otherwise.

The editors will also carry out a selection process on the stories before they hit the public view; therefore it is highly unlikely that any crime report reaches the news in an unbiased state.? Journalists also tend to use a set of stereotypes, which serve to easily identify ? types? of people and reduce complexities of character to a series of ? bad guys? and ? good guys?. These can lead the public to make quick judgments, which may not be based on true fact.? The media? s presentation of stereotypical images can change the public opinion on certain groups in society, and may create a false picture of them that may be harmful.

The groups most often portrayed as criminal are the less privileged and minority groups such as those from ethnic minorities. Because our lives are so deeply influenced by the media we begin to see the portrayal of these groups as a reality, and this may cause crimes committed by other groups or individuals (such as corporate crime in the middle class) to be overlooked or seen as less serious.? In addition, the police can make use of the media to help maintain social order by choosing what to tell reporters, as many news stories use police accounts as a major source for their information.

A good example of the media distorting aspects of crime is shown with the reporting of women involved in criminal activity. The common media portrayal of women is more passive and much less inclined to commit crime, and when they do it is seen as less violent or shocking in nature, or as influenced by a stronger male personality, for example Myra Hindley was commonly said to have been under the influence of Ian Brady when the horrific Moors murders were committed.

Media coverage usually concentrates on the most violent and shocking aspects of crime. This can often be far from the truth, and puts the public in fear when in reality there is a tiny chance of them falling victim. Listening to the news, it appears that the country is riddled with serial killers and rapists however official crime statistics would show that this is not the case. Reporting like this can lead to mass panic and fear across the country, and this aspect was investigated further by Stanley Cohen in his book ?

Folk Devils and Moral Panics? where he studied the 1960s mods and rockers conflicts. The media? s handling of the fights between the rivals groups made it sound as if Brighton was full of riots and was a very dangerous place, when in reality this was a false picture of events. However, these stories grabbed the headlines, and as a result appealed to a large audience and gained lots of attention with the public. At the moment there is lots of media coverage about murders in Cornwall, and about the girl who was kidnapped and murdered on Dartmoor.

The way these are reported makes people fearful that there is a serial killer on the loose, when in reality there is probably little chance of this happening to them and they should be more concerned with the more common but less ? colourful? crimes that threaten society, most of which would be much more obvious if the public were able to look at official crime statistics. This viewpoint fits in well with the idea of the media as a manipulative entity that is ideologically biased and therefore bases its selection of news on this fundamental bias.

This manipulation theory is Marxist in origin and works on the idea that the public are passive and absorb the information that the media presents them with without question, and that the media consist of the ruling class who use media channels to perpetuate their views and opinions in society. Official statistics paint an interesting picture of the true nature of crime levels in society. It is a fact that crime rates have actually remained stable over the last year, after experiencing a period of decline. This challenges the constant media message that crime is everywhere and on the increase.

When people were interviewed about crime rates many of them believed that crime was well on the increase, as result of a ? heightened degree of press coverage which particularly focused on a claimed rise in crime.? (Jon Simmons in the Home Office Report 2002).? It is a well-known fact that the media tend to emphasise aspects and types of crime that are violent or shocking, such as murder and rape, which affects the general population by creating huge worry about occurrences of violent crime when it is a statistical fact that one is over four times more likely to fall victim to burglary.

Another form of media that can, and often does, present distorted representations of crime are television shows such as The Bill, Merseybeat or reality shows such as Crimewatch. For example Crimewatch focuses on catching criminals who have carried out violent crime and places little or no emphasis on occurrences of burglary or more ? normal? crimes, even though this type of crime is much more frequent.

The Bill shows many incidents of violent crime, however also tends to show other less ? newsworthy? forms of crime such as theft which is a more realistic approach. coac ac” . “r se” . ac . “ac” . “w or”. ac . ” ” . ac .”k inac foac ” . ac . “.

There are a number of media influence models that attempt to explain the extent and nature of media influence. The manipulation theory presented earlier is one of these theories; however there are others that attempt to explain the media? s effect on society in different ways. The pluralist model argues that the public are not passive receptors but active participants with the ability to choose and form their own opinions from the vast variety of information presented by the media, whether about crime or about other social issues. The media only serve to reinforce the existing values that people possess.

Tversky and Kahneman suggest that the easier it is to recall or imagine an event, the more likely we are to see it as risky or as frequent in occurrence (Tversky and Kahneman cit. 1994: 303). Therefore if this is correct then constant media coverage of violent crimes could lead us to believe that such crimes are the ones most likely to affect us. Mass media reporting can also serve as a substitute for direct experience, however research into this supports the pluralist model by showing that people are usually active consumers and interpreters rather than passive recipients.

The issue at hand seems to be the growing difference between the way the public perceive crime and the reality as shown by official statistics. For some reason, society has a far greater fear of murder and other violent crime than is justified by the actual number of occurrence, when in reality there is far greater likelihood of incidences of burglary or car crime. So where do these fears stem from? The answer appears to be that they come from the way in which the media report crimes and how they select the most newsworthy aspects so that more papers will get sold and so viewing figures will increase.

In conclusion it is an unavoidable fact that our society is so immersed in the media that its influence is hard to get away from. To a large extent, media does form our social world, however it is also true that people are active interpreters of information, and are able to utilize their own opinions on events and stories shown by the media. We are only taking in what the media offer to us not the real truth about what is happening. It is very easy for our conceptions of crime to be distorted by the way that the media portray it, as the only information we are receiving on the events is that which comes from the media.

However if people really are actively interpreting and thinking about the true nature of crime levels, while attempting to broaden their horizons of information, then they will be more aware of the reality of the situation and our conceptions will be far less influenced by media constructed images and opinions.

Bibliography Maguire, M, R. Reiner and R. Morgan. 2002 The Oxford Handbook Of Criminology New York: Oxford University Press Haralambos, M. 2000? Themes and Perspectives in Sociology? 4th edition Cohen, S and Young, J. 1973? The Manufacture Of News: Deviance, Social Problems and the Mass Media, London: Constable and Co Ltd.

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