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Who’s the Fairest One of All?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Society's perception of crime
  3. The entertainment side of the media
  4. Crime control policy
  5. Sensationalist reporting and distressed citizens
  6. Journalistic emphasis placed upon crimes
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

The mirror is quite an interesting and useful tool; they allow people to see themselves in great detail and in ways one would never imagine possible. This greater perspective of oneself is very important for various reasons that run the gamut from physical aesthetics to inspecting oneself for abnormalities. As such, we trust the mirror to be as accurate as possible in relaying information about ourselves and we would find no use in them if they twisted or distorted the original image. As the primary source of information in contemporary industrial society, we rely upon the media to do the very same. As the proverbial mirror of society, we trust the media to faithfully relay accurate information to us so that we may better understand our world. Suppose for a moment that the media better resembled the likes of a funhouse mirror rather than those loyal panes of glass we stand in front of every morning. The consequences of this distortion would most definitely be a cause for serious concern. Crime and criminality are often found at the forefront of television news casts, the front page of newspapers, in our movies and in our video games. The former not being a far cry from the latter, it would seem as though criminal behaviour is indeed quite a popular area of concern to the many of us peering into the societal mirror. However, the nature in which crime is depicted is not often faithful to reality, and therein lies the problem: our faithful bearer of information is, in reality, much more similar to the likes of a carnival funhouse mirror; one that is better suited for amusement rather than serious inspection. Unfortunately, as one of our primary sources of information, the ramifications of this distortion find their way deep into the very policies used in crime control.

[...] We will explore the nature of these complex relationships found between the three elements described and analyze factors such as causality and their effects on one another. The entertainment side of the media is often considered less reliable in terms of accuracy to reality. And yet, there lies an evident correlation between this type of media and society's perception of crime. Televised depictions of crime for entertainment purposes, ranging from dramas such as the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) series to "reality" programming such as COPS, play a key role in sculpting the image of what the general public supposes criminal behaviour is in reality. [...]

[...] Instead, our trust is placed in a wacky funhouse mirror we find at the local carnival; the one that provides us with an appalling image of moral decline. Our traumatized response, unfortunately, is to create reflexive and punitive crime control policies. This easily accessible mirror has our interest and attention, and that is all the carnival owner could hope for. With sordid images of moral decay from the funhouse mirror in mind, society appears to be well prepared to do whatever it takes; effectively cleansing the streets of bad guys as the carnival owner's pockets swell. [...]

[...] In the analysis of twenty nine articles of the Los Angeles Times, randomly selected in the time period of August 1997 to July 1998, it was found that an alarming one third of all articles were focused on crime coverage. Of this host of crime stories, only 16% of the articles were "Issue stories, which would likely help readers perceive and start to understand the large role [that] crime and violence seem to play in their community" (Rodgers and Thorson, 2001). [...]

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