Blood, Violence & Fear: Making Crime Newsworthy
Agenda setting. The way in which those who work within
the media decide what is important
enough to report.
Audience. The assumed group at whom media texts
Binary oppositions. Notion that the media presents the world
through polarised constructions of
difference which are fixed and immutable
Citizen journalism. Form of demographic participation
brought about by mass ownership of
phones with cameras, image sharing sites
and popularity of blogs.
Ethnocentrism. When a country‟s news organisations
value their own notion over others.
Framing. The shared cultural narratives and myths
that a news story conveys via recourse to
vital imagery, stereotyping and other
Ideology. Refers to the ideas that circulate in
society and how they
represent/misrepresent the social world.
Moral majority. Encapsulates the imagined community to
which the popular press address
Newsworthiness. Encapsulates the perceived public
appeal/interest of any potential news
story (determined by news values).
News values (12). Professional, yet informal codes used in
the selection, construction and
presentation of news stories.
Populism/populist punitiveness. Perception that the public demands more
punitive justice and punishment strategies
to deter would-be offenders from
Public appeal. Measured in sales figures and ratings.
Public interest. Qualitative assessments of what public
should/shouldn‟t be made aware of.
Social constructionism. Emphasises importance of social
expectations in the analysis of taken-for-
granted and apparently natural social
processes. Avoids the conventional
binary opposition of
representation/reality by suggesting that
there is no intrinsic meaning in things,
but that meaning is conferred according
to shared cultural references and
Representations of crimes come in different forms:
o Visual e.g. movies, TV shows, nightly news.
o Written texts e.g. articles, books.
o Verbal communication e.g. friend telling you, politician making a
Importance of media
Allow us to access and give meaning to crime.
o Provide us with knowledge, understanding and meaning.
o What‟s happened.
o Who is involved.
o Responses of the CJS.
o Gain knowledge without direct involvement.
o Help us understand and make sense of crime.
o Accord some meaning to why crime happens.
Provides a story around the facts e.g. a woman with 3 kids is killed.
Provide a context.
Helps us gain a perception of what‟s occurring and how to respond.
Media‟s role in representing reality is highly contested and subject to
Constructing the ‘truth’
Media representations of crime are productive.
Actively construct the „reality‟/‟truth‟ of crime.
Do not simply reflect the „reality‟ of crime – they offer their account.
o E.g. Underbelly – Gang A depicted committing a murder (constructed
reality); Gang B tried for the murder (actual reality).
‘Reality’ & ‘meaning’ constructed
Meaning or significance is a product of social processes.
By representing crime we decide what a certain crime means.
Crime occurring = the fact.
Factors that shape news production:
o Meditated picture of „reality‟ is shaped by the production processes of
news organisations and the structural determinants of news making,
any or all of which may influence the image of crime, criminals and
the CJS in the minds of the public.
o Media makes assumptions about their audience.
Select news items and prioritise some news stories over others
Edit words, adopt a particular tone and decide on visual images
Meaning of the crime = debated and constructed by representations.
o Media plays significant role in construction.
o The way crimes are presented through the media is to shape the
meaning of the crime as well as others. o They actively produce a reality around crime.
o How we conceptualise and view crime is shaped by the media.
Represensttion example – 9/11:
o 1 pndception – plane crash.
o 2 perception – US under attack.
o 3 perception – „great crime‟; „crime against humanity‟.
o 4 perception – „act of war‟; „act of terrorism‟.
o It is through the representation of these attacks as an „act of war‟ that
they have come to be understood in the way that they have
Representation example – Redfern Riots:
o Events occurred in response to the deaths of Indigenous Australians
arguably due to police negligence.
o Use of term „riots‟ shifts the focus from „act of political resistance‟ to
„Indigenous Australians misbehaving.
o Depicted to us as a riot, drunk people lashing out at police.
The nature of media representations
Ideal – free from political influence, objective account.
Not completely comprehensive or objective.
Adopt a partial, selective and particular approach (they decide the parts
they‟re going to report).
Trying to sell to us by reporting what they think we want to see the most.
What makes news newsworthy
o New, sudden or rare. E.g. 9/11.
o Draws a lot of news attention, shocks/inspires confusion.
o Simple, easy to follow, somewhat routine.
o General court reporting.
o E.g. drunk driving with a twist – father 3X BAC.
o Relevance to people‟s lives.
o Sense of proximity.
o E.g. death of Australians overseas; Victorian bushfires.
o Celebrities or people we know as either victims or offenders.
o E.g. Lindsay Lohan, anything gangland related.
o Value judgements that journos make about the public appeal of a story
and whether it is in the public interest.
o Bad news is usually favoured over good news.
o Has to be massive e.g. bombing, mass killings, etc.
o Media usually first use shock horror headlines - occasion for all sorts
of narratives to explain what happened. o The more bizarre the more likely it will be reported.
o Humorous, nostalgic, grotesque more likely to be reported.