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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77199 Find in a Library
Title: Serious Crime, News Coverage, and Ideology - A Content Analysis of Crime Coverage in a Metropolitan Paper
Journal: Crime and Delinquency  Volume:27  Issue:2  Dated:(April 1981)  Pages:191-205
Author(s): D Humphries
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 15
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This exploratory study of the coverage of serious crime by the 'New York Post' is based on 126 routine crime stories taken from newspapers published in 1951 and 1968.
Abstract: The 'Post' was selected because its coverage of crime was judged to be a reasonable representation of the way other metropolitan papers throughout the United States presented crime news during the same period. Crime stories published during the McCarthy era and during the political turmoil of the 1960's were compared to answer two questions: (1) How does the news reflect the phenomenon of crime? and (2) What changes, if any, occurred in the content of postwar crime coverage? For each of the 126 stories (48 from the 1951 issues and 78 from the 1968 issues), indepth content analysis was performed, including collection of 'crime-related facts' such as the offense, its location, seriousness, and effects. In addition, the stories were regrouped according to four types of offense: serious crime, conflict crime, municipal corruption, and petty crime. Offender and victim 'facts' included data on race, sex, age, and employment. The analysis examined the relationships between crime facts and demographic data, as well as language and qualitative modes of explanation. Study findings revealed that approximately 45 percent of the routine stories in both samples were devoted to serious crime, and over two-thirds of the serious crime described in these stories took place in New York City. Although these features remained stable, other characteristics shifted between 1951 and 1968. Homicide accounted for 66 percent of the stories on serious crime in 1968, but for only 23 percent in 1951. Death, as a reported effect of the crime covered, occurred in 66 percent of the 1968 stories on serious crime, but in only 27 percent of the 1951 stories. In both years, reporters frequently described offenders in terms of age, gender, racial membership, and employment status, and used these descriptions to situate individuals within the social world. Often, the mode of explanation used implied that male youths, nonwhites, and under- or unemployed persons were members of illegitimate social categories. These descriptions, however, included no information that would place violence and serious offenders in the structural or historical context of the postwar period. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for an understanding of the ideological content of crime news. A total of 50 footnotes are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Media coverage; New York; Offenders; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Public information; Urban area studies; Violent crimes
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