Assess the sociological views of the relationship between crime and mass media. 21 marks.
We live in a media saturated society. The media is all around us, and they are obbsessed with crime. Crime is the main theme of the media, both fiction and non fiction. The media have become our main source of knowledge about crime. What we know or think we know about crime is heavily influenced by the medias representation of it. Crime and deviance make up a large proportion of news coverage. Williams and Dickinson (1993) found British newspapers devote up to 30% of their news space to crime. However while the mass media show interest in crime they give a distorted image of crime, criminals, and policing. For example compared to the picture of crime we gain from official statistics the media over represent violent and sexual crime. For example Ditton and Duffy (1983) found that 46% of media reports were about violent or sexual crimes, yet these made up only 3% of all crimes recorded by the police.
The media portray criminals and victims as older and more middle class than those found typically in the criminal justice system. Felson (1998) calls this the age fallacy. Media coverage exaggerates police success in clearing up cases. This is partly because the police are a major source of crime stories and want to present themselves in a good light and partly because the media over represent violent crime which has higher clear up rates than property crime. The media exaggerate the risk of victimisation especially to women, higher status individuals and whites. Crime is reported as a series of separate events without structure and without examining underlying causes. The media overplay extraordinary crimes and underplay ordinary crimes. Felson calls this dramatic fallacy. Media images lead us to believe that to commit or solve crime one needs to be daring and clever – the ingenuity fallacy.