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The media is known to exaggerate on the rates of crime in our society. For example the BBC can run a story “crime in the UK is spiraling out of control.” But is this the real reflection of crime in the ground? Usually it is no. a study carried in the United States found out that news about violent crimes may form up to a third of all the news. This paper aims to explain the phenomenon of how the media generally portrays crime rates and whether the way crime is represented can be considered as generally being exaggerated.  

Media’s Resonance with Criminological Theory

Since the 1950s, studies have built evidence that crime rates are especially associated with poverty, disorder and any other sign of community decline in a community’s moral strength. The strain theory for example stresses that a culture like the one in the U.S. encourages its citizens to cultivate a cultural motivation (the American Dream) that will turn others to illegitimate means of acquiring wealth. Besides this, the media considers an exaggeration to produce a negative impact on its viewers or listeners to arouse a negative stereotype. Okoronkwo explains that for example black youth in the UK are usually portrayed as generally violent. Crime statistics indicate that black youths in the UK commit many crimes but the media is known to sensationalize news and blow it out of proportion. The reason for the exaggeration may be that the media wants a certain group to be alienated or marginalized.

On strain theory, media’s focus on social and structural factors will lead to a decline in community and social order. Media can instill in people desires which they cannot satisfy by other means. Media has the ideological role of defining crime and orchestrates people’s perceptions about crime which may lead to deflecting attention from real causes of crime (Crime & Media Research Project).

The Functionalist Approach

Functionalist approach of crime looks at the implications of crime and its control policies instead of just trying to explain the cause of a certain criminal behavior. This approach will favor a repression approach of crime and use of sanctions. It postulates that a society needs crime to function normally. When the crime rates remain within a certain limit, not too high as this will be an indication of an emerging problem, then overall, crime will be seen as an indicator of well-being, low crime will not help people recognize acceptable behaviors. Thus media will want to portray and exaggerate crime even when crime rates as so low to show that the society is functioning (Functionalist Explanations of Crime). We have seen that crime statistics are usually exaggerated and in no way do they provide perfect view of crime rates in society. The media usually presents an unrealistic depiction of crime frequency in our society. This leads to people thinking that crime is more prevalent in our society than it is. The theory simply determines function of the media.  

Frankfurt School and the Hypodermic Needle Theory

The power of the media has drawn a lot of intersect since its discovery. A first major study about media was the “The Hypodermic Needle Theory” in the 1930s in Frankfurt, Germany. The main explanation of The Hypodermic Needle Theory is that messages sent by the media are directly and wholly accepted by the receiver. The model found out that the media ‘injects’ its message to its audience especially with suggestions to trigger a certain effect. With the rise of media outlets like the TV, radio, newspapers and now the internet, it is prudent to realize that the theory was based on mass media. Although further research discredited this theory of mass media due to lack of empirical research, the theory still can have some value and worth in it (Dawn Denmar). When media reports about crime, especially an upsurge in crime, we tend to believe whatever they tell us no matter where they got the information from. This is because concerns of the media effects are usually in three forms: media represents elite interests when reporting about crime to manipulate masses, media undermines civilization influences of high culture and media corrupts moral norms in trying to represent their own ideas.  Mainstreaming

Mainstreaming is a term that implies that the social media is in a state of transition due to a widespread acceptance and uptake by the public. Due to the social media’s rising popularity, with time it seems that many more people will come to accept the social media as it moves into being fabric. Thus through ‘exaggerated’ crime reports in the media, the readership, viewership and listener audience will prevalently increase. Therefore, with increased listeners, readers or viewers, the involved media will be all smiles with increased revenue.  

Desensitization Behaviorism

Desensitization is a term that means to make less sensitive and its aim is to reduce exaggerated or an emotion based to certain information. Systematic desensitization will include gradual exposure to less intense atmospheres such that the fear is not triggered. Behaviorism is a theory developed by b.f. Skinner and is based on conditioning. This is done when two or more sequences of happenings are connected.  

Sherry argues that the media effects tradition was born in such an exclusive way that side with nature. Advances in neurophysiology in the past few years have seen human behavior being theorized that human behavior is as a result of interaction between nurture and nature. A research done in Chicago crimes suggested that crime resulted from the way in which media created the reality and media as a powerful transmitter was the focus of the research. They discovered that someone who is aroused by the media will more likely act assertively than those who have not.

Thus the media understands that the external environment is key to shaping peoples as opposed to their internal analysis. The assumption is that the society and people in general are can be measurable and generalized in people like other animals. External stimuli are vital in determining the behavior of the individual.   

The pros

  • It is a good way of teaching especially in potentially life threatening situations 
  • There is a high possibility of high-stakes consequences and performance

The Cons

  • Behaviorists are known to focus more on the external behavior of people but disregarding their internal actions which produces the external behavior 
  • Cannot be used as an exclusive learning process as it does not include intuitive thinking  
  • The theory seems to just oversimplify how human behavior is conditioned by punishments and rewards (Pros and Cons of NCLB).

Media and violent crime are not naturally linked but it is the idea of mob mentality that works. The media has continued to exaggerate crime. Every year the media suggest that crime rates are increasing. But is this the real situation. Researchers have shown that the media is known to exaggerate crime rates for various reasons to suit their needs. Statistics thus show that crime is more prevalent in the media. The media understands that the external environment is key to shaping peoples as opposed to their internal analysis and thus will do all that they can torepresent their own ideas with the idea of increasing sales. Of course this will translate to more sales.

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