Mass Media, Crime, and Criminal Justice

V. Future Directions

Based on the existing research on news media and crime, there are a number of areas of research that could be conducted in the future. First, research should continue to develop theory concerning how journalists and news editors construct news through selection processes. As it currently stands, there is no strong theoretical framework for understanding these selection processes. One of the main problems, in this regard, is that few studies have attempted to understand these processes through qualitative research techniques. A deeper understanding of these processes may potentially be gained by research studies that use field methods and qualitative interviews with journalists and editors. Second, with respect to journalistic decision making, future research should look to theoretically and empirically address the potential differences in the approach of journalists depending on location characteristics of the news organization. To date, most studies have mainly analyzed the decision making of journalists in major urban areas.

Third, future research should focus attention on local television news. Most of the existing research focuses on newspaper coverage of crime. Fourth, research should continue to apply the “moral panic” frame of reference to the construction of different social problems, particularly with respect to creation of policy. Fifth, research should continue to explore the specific conditions under which media consumption impacts fear of crime. Research should also focus on exploring these issues in the context of the emerging “infotainment” media market. News-oriented programs have become increasingly popular since the 1990s. Programs like Hannity and Colmes, Hardball, Inside Edition, and The O’Reilly Factor have become deeply entrenched in American culture. Methods used to construct communication delivered by these programs need to be explored.

VI. Conclusion

The purpose of this paper was to review concepts and research findings relevant to the topic of media as it relates to crime and justice. This topic is rather broad, so the paper narrowly focused on (a) the market model as a framework for understanding mass media behavior, (b) organizational imperatives that influence mass media decision making, and (c) effects of mass media coverage of crime. The market model of media suggests that media organizations make decisions about what to cover and the content of media output on the basis of monetary gains that will be generated from the selling of media products. Mass media decisions in the presentation of crime are also governed by organizational concerns intrinsic to media production processes. The pursuit of market and organizational imperatives often results in crime coverage that is disproportionate to the reality of the crime problem.

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