CRJU 20423 Chapter 4: When Crime Waves: Chapter 4

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Texas Christian University
Criminal Justice
CRJU 20423

When Crime Waves by Sacco Chapter 4: Mass Media and Crime Waves I. Introduction a) An understanding of mass media structures and processes is central to any effort to make sense of how crime waves unfold. That crime waves might find their origins in the ways in which journalists construct the world for their audiences is not a new insight. b) The situation in our time is more complicated than it was in the period in which Steffens was writing. Journalists are both more blatant and more subtle; media outlets are more plentiful and more varied. Audiences are more literate and yet more susceptible to the power of images. c) The focus, while perhaps clear in the abstract, creates two practical problems for us. The first concerns the fact that news media differ from each other in terms of their emphases, their reliance on the written or spoken word or on the visual, their invasiveness, and a wide range of other dimensions. A second problem concerns the assumed uniqueness of the media category called news and information. II. Importance of Crime to Mass Media a) That crime and policing are key themes in all forms of media news and entertainment seems beyond dispute. Crime and crime control provide central forms of narrative. Even a causal observer of contemporary media must be struck by the near cultural obsession with crime (TV shows). b) With respect to news, several systematic analyses of newspaper and newscast content show quite clearly that crime is a major news category. Crime news accounts anywhere from 4 to 28 of all news, averaging around 7. This makes it the third largest news category found in newspapers. 13 of total network news is devoted to crime. c) The Increase in Crime Coverage 1. While crime has always figured very prominently in the media culture landscape, most observers agree that the amount of crime news and information available to us has increased dramatically over the past several years. There are many reasons for this. a. An Increase in Carrying Capacity a. In the Untied States there are about 1,500 daily newspapers; 11,000 magazines; 12,000 radio stations; 1,500 television stations; and 25,000 theater screens. b. Crime news like celebrity news and sports news is readily available and adaptable to diverse media technologies. The flow of crime news seems limitless, as does the appetite for such news on the part of many segments of the media audience. b. Diffusion of Newsgathering Technology a. Cameras have become smaller, lighter, and by implication much more portable. The widespread use of security cameras and the number of cameras in the hands of journalist and ordinary Americans has produced a flood of
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