Public Opinion, the Press, and Public Policy

By J. David Kennamer | Go to book overview

7
Marching to the Police and Court Beats: The Media-Source Relationship in Framing Criminal Justice Policy

Jack C. Doppelt


INTRODUCTION

News is often described as "a product of transactions between journalists and their sources" ( Ericson, Baranek, & Chan, 1989, p. 377). Because it is a finite commodity limited by time, space, budget, and organizational constraints, news is necessarily not everything that happens but a depiction of what happens from the perspective of a society's participants and observers.1

The metaphor of a net, in contrast to a blanket, has been used to convey the media's limits in reporting on a societal landscape so vast that important events naturally fall through its holes ( Tuchman, 1978, p. 21). The catch on a given day is dependent upon the media's ability to capture events efficiently and in a manner suitable for presentation as news. The selection process is not random.

It has been argued that the overriding need for efficiency dictates that news organizations consult an optimal number of sources, based pri-

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1
1. This chapter derives from a larger study of the criminal justice system in Cook County, Illinois. The author wishes to acknowledge the indispensable contributions of Peter M. Manikas, John P. Heinz, Mindy S. Trossman, Peter Birkeland, and Lisa Anne Gurr in that project.

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