The Construction of Crime News
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 are aimed.
Binary oppositions. Notion that the media presents the
world through polarised constructions
of difference which are fixed and
immutable e.g. man/woman.
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 journalistic shortcuts.
Ideology. Refers to the ideas that circulate in
society and how they
represent/misrepresent the social
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 committing crime.
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
- There are different theoretical approaches to analyse the relationship
between crime and the media.
o Some are more cynical – effects theory of media influence,
hegemonic understanding of the power of the media to define elite
o Some are more positive – pluralist idea of an open media
marketplace, cultural criminologists’ notion of a postmodern
- Each employing different theoretical models to establish different
- Treason, murder and witchcraft were the most popular storylines
- By late 1800s we see the emergence of the aggressive marketing of crime
news to the public that we are familiar with today.
o Crime-related street literature - sermons, speeches, etc for news of
crime and justice.
o Newspapers came to be produced by organisations with profits.
o People either wanted to profit from crime or didn’t.
- An examination of the process by which news is created is revealing for
understanding the content of crime news.
- Two models dominate explanations for the process of news creation:
o Market model – objectively reporting news.
o Manipulative model – distorting news issues to shape public
- Organisational model – idea of rendering an objective, unbiased mirror
image of reality is impossible.
o Incorporates the other two.
o What the public receive as news is capsulised, stylised and
Key themes in existing research on media organisations
- Crime news is ‘manufactured’ along ideological lines:
o Media focus on the most serious stories of crime.
o Crimes that happen everyday are least likely to be included on the
- The demands and constraints of news production intertwine with the
perceived interests of the target audience to produce a set of
organisational ‘news values’.
o Highly selective and largely unrepresentative of the crimes that
o Judgements journos make everyday when deciding what to include
in the news. o Violence in the media is constructed as random, wanton and
intentional act of evil others.
o The victims in the papers are not the victims experiencing crime in
- There are 12 key news values that are prominent in the construction of
- The construction or manufacture of crime news is significant because it
can set the agenda for policy and public opinion.
o Implication coming from previous.
o Influences public opinion, shape who we think are most likely to
be victim and criminal, shape our responses and what we should
do about them.
- New technologies are changing the ways in which news is produced and
o Journos and academics are more likely to use media forums.
o Offer opportunities for creative acts of journalism for those who
Why critically analysing media representations of crime is important
- Has implications for representations of which crime victims can be ‘ideal’.
o If victim is more/less than ideal , it’s more likely to be reported.
- There exists a hierarchy of victimisation.
o Not an equal playing field – children, elderly and women more
likely to be reported than men.
- Elderly women and young children more likely to be deemed ‘ideal
victims’ than are young men, the homeless, and others existing on the
margins of society.
- Cases where a greater deviation from cultural norms is present increase