Victims in the News: Crime and the American News Media

Victims in the News: Crime and the American News Media

Victims in the News: Crime and the American News Media

Victims in the News: Crime and the American News Media

Excerpt

Historically, crime victims have been a neglected asset of the criminal justice system. Although the capability to process cases is dependent on the willingness of victims to report crime to the police and cooperate with prosecutors, criminal justice professionals have exploited this important asset. Over the past three decades, dramatic changes in attitudes about crime victims have occurred, resulting in modifications in how the system uses them in the criminal justice process.

Similarly, there has been a growing interest in the news media’s role in the administration of justice. Much has been written on crime in the news media over the past thirty years. Content studies of what is presented to the public about crime, ethnographic studies of the news-production process, and interviews with news personnel provide some background understanding of how the news media affects the criminal justice system.

This book capitalizes on the increased interest in these two areas and reports on how these topics intersect. The primary purpose of this book is to present information on how victims are presented to the public in print and electronic news media. In addition, the news-production process was observed to understand why specific victim images are presented to the public. This book combines three research methodologies—content analysis, ethnography, and interviews—to examine the presentation of crime, victims, and defendants in the news.

Crime is a sensational topic. News organizations try to capitalize on public interest in gore by providing a steady supply of the most revolting crime available. Demand influences how crime news is produced. Individuals in criminal justice organizations—police officers, prosecuting attorneys, and judges—are the primary sources that reporters use for attribution in crime stories. These sources provide a self-serving, distorted image to reporters to manipulate public perceptions of the organization. This book considers how the relationship between news and source organizations limits how crime is presented in the news.

News media use victims to increase the marketability of the news product. The status of crime victims can increase the likelihood that specific images get presented. Crime victims—if they are young or old, are willing to go on . . .

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