1. Give three examples of how the media exaggerates or distorts crime.
To identify relevant examples, you need to have an understanding of what we mean when we say the media exaggerates or distort crimes. This can mean a) dramatising an event, presenting it as bigger and more serious or dangerous than it actually is, and thus increasing public anxieties and fears; b) scapegoating people or activities; c) labelling people as troublemakers and a threat; and d) focusing on certain aspects/types of crime, and types of victim/perpetrator, at the expense of others. Can you think of three examples that best represent these scenarios?
2. What are the two research methods criminologists predominantly use to analyse the reporting of crime? What are the main differences between these?
Content analysis and discourse analysis are the two main research methods. In order to identify their main differences, we need to look at the nature of the data each type of analysis focuses on. Does content analysis focus on qualitative or quantitative data? What about discourse analysis? What form do qualitative and quantitative data take in these two types of analysis? What can each type of analysis show us (e.g. patterns, attitudes, views, changes across places and in different time frames, cultural and social representations, factors shaping presentations and perceptions of groups of people)?
3. Name four of the eight ‘professional imperatives’ that Chibnall identified.
- Immediacy (speed/the present)
- Dramatisation (drama and action)
- Personalisation (cult of celebrity)
- Simplification (elimination of shades of grey)
- Titillation (revealing the forbidden/voyeurism)
- Conventionalism (hegemonic ideology)
- Structured access (experts, power base, authority)
- Novelty (new angle/extreme feature/speculation/twist)
4. What are today’s moral panics and who are the folk devils? What is moral about a moral panic?
Whilst we may have different views on what today’s moral panics and folk devils are, regular exposure to news highlights a range of issues, from gangs to terrorism to online hacking. These issues can create moral panics and generate their respective folk devils. They can also help us identify what is moral about a moral panic – things to explore here are what is seen as threatening about them, why and to whom? What do the activity, and group of people who are portrayed as engaging in the activity, appear to threaten?
5. Give two arguments for and against the proposition that it is acceptable for ‘true crime’ to be portrayed as popular entertainment.
To build a sound understanding of the advantages and risks of using ‘true crime’ as popular entertainment, see ‘Can books kill?’ (Controversy and Debate 6.3) about the book ‘Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors’ and the first episode titled ‘If Books Could Kill’ of the ‘true crime’ podcast Hit Man (released in August 2019). Can ’true crime’ lead to copycat crimes? Can it teach someone crime skills, such as how to become a contract killer? Or can it also shed light on the context behind people’s involvement in crime? If it can, in what ways might this be useful for society?
6. Identify three crime films which can be said to challenge dominant discourses about crime, criminality, and its control, and list the ways in which they do so.
The chapter section ‘Crime on screen’ will help you familiarise yourself with a number of relevant crime films, which you may find appealing. You may want to focus on, for example, gender assumptions regarding offenders and types of offenders, representations of offenders and law enforcement agents (e.g. can the offender be the good person despite their offending, and the police officer the bad person in spite of their position?). Also, what about the realities of systems, such as prisons?
7. List ways in which young people are thought to be at risk from being exploited online.
Taking into account that young people are the most frequent social media users, they can find themselves at greater risk of being targeted and exploited online. They can be targeted in all sorts of ways, for example with reference to their lifestyle, mental health, and sexual identity.
8. How has citizen journalism affected the future of crime reporting? Give a current example of how this can happen.
This chapter’s conclusion discusses the characteristics and (potential) effects of ‘citizen journalism’, both positive and negative. On the positive side, it could be argued to democratise media production, since a wider range of voices can be heard; and it has been suggested that ‘citizen journalism’ may lead to increased political engagement and activism which could, in turn, bring about real social change. On the other hand, as with all forms of media reporting, we need to consider the trustworthiness and reliability of such sources. Can you think of any recent examples you have come across of news stories that have originated from or been heavily influenced by ‘citizen journalists’?