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NCJ Number: 193785 Find in a Library
Title: Accidents, Icons, and Indexing: The Dynamics of New Coverage of Police Use of Force (From Police Misconduct: A Reader for the 21st Century, P 198-216, 2001, Michael J. Palmiotto, ed. -- See NCJ-193774)
Author(s): Regina G. Lawrence
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 19
Sponsoring Agency: Prentice Hall Publishing
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
Sale Source: Prentice Hall Publishing
Criminal Justice and Police Training
1 Lake Street
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Book (Softbound)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study explored the construction of news about police use of force in the Los Angeles Times over a 6-year period (1987 through 1992), culminating in the crisis generated by the Rodney King beating.
Abstract: For the purposes of this study, the term "police use of force" referred to the broad set of police actions that involved physical coercion of citizens and suspects. All entries in the Los Angeles Times Index that pertained to police use of force were examined. The data presented in this paper are best viewed as indicative of the relative prominence of voices and views, rather than as measures of the absolute number of such voices and views in the news. All views about police brutality, or police use of force more generally, that appeared in both news items and editorials were identified and categorized according to whether they were made by officials or non-officials. A total of 593 Index entries were identified as containing views about police use of force, out of 1,189 Index entries on the subject of police use of force and approximately 2,500 total entries regarding police. The data analysis was designed to test the "indexing hypothesis" as a means of explaining the content of the news over time. This hypothesis contends that "mass media news professionals, from the boardroom to the beat, tend to "index" the range of voices and viewpoints in both news and editorials according to the range of views expressed in mainstream government debate about a given topic" (Bennett, 1990, p. 106). The data analysis of the current study suggests that the "indexing" norm may not fully explain the pattern of inclusion of nonofficial voices and challenging views in the news. Dramatic news events apparently can license journalists to include challenging views in the news in significant proportions, even in the absence of or prior to "elite conflict." These findings are explained in part by the characteristics of police-brutality news itself, and in part by news organizations' conversion of dramatic "accidental events" into "news icons." A comparison of media treatment of two dramatic cases of alleged police brutality, however, suggests that although dramatic events can bring challenging ideas into the news, both the characteristics of events and the presence of elite conflict are crucial to the ultimate effect of those events on the construction of public problems in the news. 3 figures, 2 tables, 9 notes, and 30 references
Main Term(s): Police use of deadly force
Index Term(s): California; Lawful use of force; Media coverage; Police misconduct; Police-media relations
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