One might turn on any evening news broadcast these days and be bombarded with images of war, violence and stories of unsuspecting citizens victimized in their own communities. Is crime on the increase or is it just media hype? There are countless television shows with plots dedicated to the depiction of criminal activities fouled by law enforcement agencies with the helping hand of the law. Newspaper headlines scream out daily in bold print and action photos of the latest tragedies. Should the public be fearful of what the television conveys to us, be cautious of whatever new crime wave is presented on the media? These questions may lead one to wonder if the depiction of crime in the mass media affects the public’s perception of safety and danger in society.
Mass media refers to media that are easily, inexpensively, and simultaneously accessible to large segments of a population (Surette, 10). Although the mass media are only one of the sources from which citizens attain knowledge of crime and justice, it is by far the most influential. According to one study, the mass media are credited with providing 95 percent of the information the public receives about crime (Surette, 10). With these statistics, it seems that the fear of crime is indeed constructed through the media. In March 1994, the Times Mirror Center for the people and the Press conducted a poll that measured the public’s fear of crime. Fifty percent of the respondents said they feared that they would be the victims of crime, up from 36 percent in 1988 (Krajicek, 23).
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...it is the advent of television media that have sparked debate over the integrity of reliable news making. Print media was factual, although sometimes sensational, while electronic media made use of the technologies, such as videotapes and live footage to enhance and exaggerate the drama of the event even further. Many research studies have been conducted to show the effects of the media coverage on crime and how it influences the publics of fear of crime. Mass media has perpetuated a notion that crime is on the increase by portraying events and tragedies in the headlines that are sensational. The public buys into that idea, despite statistical accounts that reflect stable or low crime rates. The more stories people read and watch about crime, the more likely they are to think that crime is out of control. Politicians may then enact legal reforms to sooth the public’s outcry for crime control and prevention. As easy as it may be to hold the media accountable for barraging us with images and ideas that affect our views and beliefs, it important that the public take responsibility for the information that we consume. After all, there is always the “off” button on the remote control.
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