Crime in the News: How Crimes, Offenders and Victims are Portrayed in the Media

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media, victims’ studies


This study examines the representation of crime stories in the news. Using 71 matched pairs, we examine the constructed elements in the reporting of crime stories between newspapers and local television to document similarities and differences across the mediums. Although considerable work has been devoted to discerning differences in reporting across types of media, little research has investigated how the same crime story “gets told” in one medium compared to another. With matched-pairs of stories, we are able to do this. In this study, we also use content analysis to examine a subset of cases that focus on juveniles to ascertain how atypical victims and offenders are portrayed in the media. Although youth are much less likely to commit crime and to be victimized compared to adults, their stories are disproportionately “the stuff of news.” Collectively, the findings indicate that news reporting follows the law of opposites—the characteristics of crime, criminals, and victims represented in the media are in most respects the polar opposite of the pattern suggested by official crime statistics. This was especially the case in news reports involving juvenile victims and offenders.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, v. 14, issue 1, p. 59-83