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Beckett, Katherine and Theodore Sasson, "Crime in the Media" adapted from Katherine Beckett and Theodore Sasson, The Politics of Injustice: Crime and Punishment in America, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004), ch. 5.

Abstract: Beckett and Sasson describe the impact of the media's representation of crime on the expansion of the criminal justice system. They document several facts about the media:

  • Local TV news spends 30% of airtime on crime;
  • Politicians and public officials trigger surges in media crime coverage by their increased attention to issues of crime;
  • Violent crime rates actually decreased as media coverage increased;
  • Other forms of crime, such as corporate or state crime, are ignored in favor of "street crime;"
  • Crime victims are incorrectly represented by the media as female, White and affluent; benefit except for the growing number of businesses that can profit from them.
  • Crime is represented as a consequence of the failures of the criminal justice system itself, such as permissive laws, liberal judges, and legal technicalities.

Crime news is governed by several factors:

  • The relative value of news stories
  • The profit and market-share needs of the media companies
  • The reliance on government and law officials as sources for actual news content
  • The entertainment value of crime which reinforces at least three ideologically loaded ideas: offenders are professional criminals-clever and evil; liberal judges and lawyers are too often preoccupied with the rights of defendants; and law enforcements officials are the heroes.



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