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How Does The Reporting Of Crime Create Fear Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2454 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In this essay I will write about the reporting of crime and how it contributes to the creation of fear among audiences, among this would be the production of fear and how the problem frame contributes to fear. There are different mediums that ‘Newsworthy’ news is reported through, which are: television, newspaper, radio, internet and through networking sites, through any of these one can obtain crime news from and shape an opinion and attitude. Crime is a relentless activity that poses a threat in our society; it is somewhat part of how life is, however we can prevent it, but to what extend? The reporting of crime is very important as it brings objectivity information to its audience as well as the impact it might have on the audience. It sets informational tones for the rhythms of life especially as its importance has increased due to the growing concerns by communities whom have been victimized by crime. Communities that experience repeated and unresolved crime are more likely to feel greater fear of falling victim to criminal activities. As well as being important, crime news is a popular topic among other news. It is seen as ‘Newsworthy’ as it can provide its audience with protection and knowledge. Reporting crime has a negative and positive side, negatives being homicide stories which show the strongest relationship to public fear in news; the reporting of homicide is usually found on the first few pages of a newspaper which contributes to fear among the public. An example of a homicide that had a great impact on it audience and created fear would be the multiple murders of the 9 police men and 14 teenagers at a party in Mexico. People who are not exposed to crime rely on mass media to provide them with the information needed about crime and victimization.

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In the media crime stories are selected and only the important and interesting stories make it, as well as the ones written to accomplish an objective. In order to understand the process of ‘news making’, looking at the four levels of newsworthiness makes crime easy to understand, the four levels are: “tertiary”, “secondary”, “primary” and “super primary”. In regards to tertiary they are space fillers which appear in news every day, secondary crime stories they have the potential to be important news while primary level crime stories, these are stories that take the best section of a paper, unlike tertiary and secondary crime stories that are giving limited amount of space, primary level crime gets a large amount of space that editors and reporter enjoy working on. The last level which is super primary crimes which are sensational stories, stories with national and international appeal in terms of their newsworthiness. “Regardless of how the amount of crime in the news is justified, the public is exposed to a lot of it. Violent, property, white collar, victimless, and political crimes can be newsworthy” (Barak, 1994: p. 125). Any crime is seen as important from tertiary to super primary as they place an impact on society which makes them Newsworthy. “Any crime has the potential to be a news story, and its level of newsworthiness determines the process that will be used produce the story” (Barak, 1994: p. 125).

Fear became firmly established after the Second World War and has now become a serious issue associated with crime showing up in news reports and popular culture. Fear being a threat to society has promoted state control and surveillance; this might have cut down crime but fear is still in the picture. “The problem frame promotes a discourse of fear that may be defined as the pervasive communication, symbolic awareness and expectation that danger and risk is a central feature of the effective environment”. (Altheide, 2002: p. 41) The problem frame is part of what generates as the ‘Fear Machine’, it’s the style and way in which the reporters report the news that triggers fear. Victims are also known to be part of the problem frame that promotes fear, “Victimization as a status relies on pervasive fear because this is what makes victimization meaningful and plausible to audiences” (Altheide, 2002: P. 41). People victimized by crime are known to be more fearful and aware of crime as crime now has a significant meaning to their lives. “A major theme transcending the specific issues produced by the post journalism media is fear (Altheide and Snow 1991).

Frames and format is what shapes the news content/context, the use of format and way in which information is presented shapes audiences assumption about news. Frame focuses on what would be said, how it will be said and how not to say it by being subjective. Crime news format enables us to recognize various frames from it. “A major assumption is that the communication process and content are in exorable joined, with one always having implications for the other. In this sense, ‘New Knowledge’ and information is always connected to stock of knowledge and symbolic interpretation. I suggest that many news reports are produced through a process that reflects entertainment considerations and formats, which, in turn have promoted the problem Frame, which then helps frame fear as a dominant discourse in news reports”. (Altheide, 2002: p.43). Shows such as ‘bounty hunter’ and ‘Cops’ can be seen by viewers as another way of presenting crime news and fear as it blends in objectivity and subjectivity. It’s the relationship between everyday life and problem frame that accumulates fear experienced by an audience. An unfortunate event or story reported at a specific time or place having a narrative structure, that can be of any relation to a certain members of an audience is what makes them to fear, which then travels with them and instils it in other members of an audience. “the interaction and shared meanings of news workers who follow the entertainment format and audience members who experience the world through these mass media lenses promote sufficient communication to achieve the news organizations goals of grabbing the audience while also enabling audience members to be informed enough to exchange views with peers” (Altheide, 2002: p. 54) .

Reporting Crime news on television is ways in which audiences can create fear from, audiences see targets, images and pictures which they form their opinion from understanding what and who are to be feared. “It makes a good sociological sense to suggest that we have a “problem machine” in much of the mass media. TV news formats favouring short, dramatic, conflicting, visually exciting reports are ripe for treating events and circumstances as problems” (Altheide, 2002: p. 55).

The word ‘Fear not only shows up in crime News but also popular culture, “My argument is that fear has been transformed by an entertainment- oriented popular culture , including news organisation as well as public agencies and officials who have stake fear and who serve as news sources for the insatiable news-programming market for entertainment. And it is fear that makes for good entertainment. (Altheide, 2002 p. 59) scholars acknowledge the facts that fear and entertainment is joined together, it seems that entertainment media have aimed a fear machine at audiences who have come to expect entertainment. People now play with crime seen as fun, not knowing the consequences it may bring. It is used to provide entertaining news that promotes distrust among audiences.

“Now it is of fundamental importance to realize that stereotypes are creative: they are categories which we project on to the world in order to make sense of it” (Fowler 1991). The media are known to stereotype society especially the portrayal of teenage boys, teenage boys who wear hoodies, they are prime targets and are known to the media and society as ‘Yobs and Scum’s’. Figures show that half of the stories about teenage boys in national and regional newspapers in the past year were about crime. Teenagers are known to the media and society as fearless, heartless and frightening because of the crimes they commit. When reporting coverage on a teenager related to crime they are less likely to receive any sympathy or else their coverage was about them dying. The media image of teenagers are often reproduced and re-experienced in a new context just because the stories are always similar an example, Knife crime and Gang related stories. As a result of negative press society is now wary and fearful when they encounter with a teenager turning a blind eye on them, in regard to other teens, they risk the life of falling into the stereotypes or being victims themselves. The vast majority of teenagers are centred on crime and drugs, when reporting coverage on them it is very hard not to be subjective as teenagers of today are our tomorrow’s leaders. However being objective is important in order to find a solution and bring fear among audiences down as we should not be fearful of teenagers but embracive.”The teen boys’ ‘brand’ has become toxic. Media coverage of boys is unrelentingly negative, focusing almost entirely on them as victims or perpetrators of crime – and research shows that the media is helping make teenage boys fearful of each other.” (By Richard Garner, Education Editor 2009). A major issue in the media injecting values, ideas and information into the passive receiver is the reporting of Muslims and afro Caribbean citizens; they are seen as outsiders of civilization. After September the 11th in New York Muslims are seen as the prevalent threat in society, the media makes society aware of any one that has the features of a Muslim and to avoid them especially ones that wear hijab and turbans, media also stereotype black people, seeing them as druggies and violent as most of news coverage connects drugs and violent to them, this then creates fear among audiences as we do live in a diverse society, a society where we encounter different races and religious views in our day to day routine.

“Fear of crime is an emotional response of dread or anxiety to crime or symbols that a person associates with crime … to produced a fear reaction in humans, recognition of a situation as possessing at least potential danger, real or imagined, is necessary. This conception of potential danger is what we may call perceived risk and is clearly defined by the actor in association with others” (Altheide, 2002: p. 63). Reporting crimes are amplifies issues and styled in different ways, ways such as re-enacting a scene in order to establish an objective or to catch a criminal. Shows such as crime watch and watchdog are prime examples of reporting visual crime which often create fear among audiences. In regards to crimewatch they reconstruct some of the toughest cases that have remained unsolved for years, they feature major crime stories from bombings in Brighton in 1984 to the shooting of 11 years old Rhys Jones in 2007, this way audiences are able to understand the causes of crime, although they create fear among audience they also create fear for criminal as these shows, show that criminal from previous times can still be caught, so in some ways it sort of prevents crime. Making something visible to the mind when one cannot see it gives audiences an opportunity to visualise what happened and why it happened. Visualising crime allows journalist to act as watchdogs, watching over society in terms of producing the truth and solving the problem.

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Role of the media root moral panic’ deflecting concerns away from the social problems that emit from ‘capitalism’, the media over exaggerates stories and dramatize them with their headings, an example “Pilot Charged With Murder Of Missing Wife” or Extremist website urges Muslims to kill British MPs, it’s the headings that alert us as audiences, which we then shape a judgment on what the coverage would entail.

The reporting of James Bulger caused a lot of panic as it was thought to be influenced by a movie a ‘Child’s Play’. The story caused mother’s to be wary of strangers around their children even young adults that might seem innocent. In regards to the movie child’s play, audiences feared the pressure it may have on their children as the case of Bulger confirmed it was one of the many reasons for the unfortunate event to occur. Deviance behaviour is always reported in the news media as an issue and problem in our society, it is the act of deviance that one experience which leads to the creation of fear among audiences. “The importance of mass society theory in the current context is that it gave rise to a number of theoretical and empirical models claiming that the mass media can be used subversively as a powerful means of manipulating vulnerable minds”. (Jewkes, 2004: p.7)

To recapitulate this essay I will finish on the facts stated above on how the reporting of crime have a say to the creation of fear among audiences, which is on the path of the problem frame and stereotype’s, the media is influential and authoritative we are very much conformed to the means of the media, whatever we read or hear, we believe especially when it comes to fear, when a reporter gives information on crime it is their pitch and wordings gets our attention as well as body language.

The stereotype of young youths of today is causing more inconvenience as it’s only making youth to be angrier, causing people to fear about the problem escalating. “Bad news provides good lessons about collective values and identity. “Value news that carry organisations are more directly involved in defining and responding to deviance” (Ericson, Baranek and Chan, 1989: p.65). The media can create, alter, and reinforce attitudes. When we are exposed to too much violence in the media, we might form the opinion that the world is a mean and dangerous place to be a part of. As audiences we enjoy bad news, we crave for it and see it as entertainment as long as it does not affect us, however when we do become victims of crime we then fear for our safety. Reporting crime in a newspaper and television have different effects on audiences in a newspaper we are left to visualise the story and on a television its shows the vision.

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