Media Falling Down on Crime Coverage

Article excerpt

The news media seriously underreports the role alcohol plays in violent crimes, injuries, and traffic accidents, contends a study by Ohio State University, Columbus. While alcohol is believed to play a role in about one-third of homicides and fatal motor vehicle accidents, media reports link it to specific accidents or crimes significantly less frequently.

Some of the largest discrepancies occur in reporting alcohol use in violent crimes, particularly for television news. Only 1.4% of television news stories in the sample mentioned the role of alcohol in their reporting of homicides, according to Michael Slater, professor of communication

The result is that the public may underestimate the dangers of alcohol use. Slater maintains. "People's perceptions of risk are strongly shaped by what they see in the media, so many people may have distorted views about the risks of alcohol use. If the media doesn't report on the link between alcohol and violent crime and accidents, most people won't be fully aware of the risks. This may also decrease public support for alcohol control measures that can significantly reduce alcohol-related problems"

While alcohol is linked to 34% of motor vehicle accidents, 12. …