Using Item B and Elsewhere, Assess Sociological Explanations of Media Representation of Crime and Effects.

Using Item B and elsewhere, assess sociological explanations of media representation of crime and effects. (21 marks)

In late modern society, the mass media are at the centre of culture, and the media are obsessed with crime. As a result, they are our main source of knowledge about crime. Crime and deviance take up a large percentage of news coverage as found in Williams and Dickinson's study which highlighted how British newspapers devoted 30% of news space to crime. As Item B notes, this coverage may then give members of society a distorted image of the amount of crime, the types of crime and how crime is overcome within a society. For example the media portrays criminals and victims in films and TV shows to be older and more middle class compared to those found in the criminal justice system.

Sociologists are very interested in the possible causes of these misrepresentations. Cohen and Young argue that news is not discovered but manufactured. A central aspect of the manufacture of news is the notion of news values. News values are criteria by which journalists and editors decide whether a story is newsworthy enough to make it into the newspaper. If a crime story can be told in terms of these criteria it has a better chance of making the news. Key news values influencing the selection of crime stories include; immediacy, dramatisation, personalisation, higher status, simplification, novelty or unexpectedness, risk and violence. One reason why the news media give so much coverage to crime is that news focuses on the unusual and extraordinary, and this makes deviance newsworthy by definition since its abnormal behaviour.

Stanley Cohen developed the idea that the media creates moral panics resulting in a deviance amplification spiral, whereby a story is exaggerated and a targeted group is labelled as a folk devil. The exaggerated story-often shown in a negative light- then creates an over-reaction from the public. Moral entrepreneurs approach the 'problem'...