The Influence Of News Media

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In this technological age, it is almost impossible to get information that is not already filtered through news and social media. Most of the information the public receives is not directly from the word of the police report or trial transcript. The primary source for most people is information is directly through the media, and it is no secret that the news media is not unbiased. The way the news media presents stories, especially stories about crime, creates fear and reduces the chances for the viewer to empathize with the offender on screen. This can lead to general public fear and harsher views on criminals and the justice system. The news media has a heavy hand on the public is perceptions, as it uses fear tactics and understands how …show more content…
In a study that focused on empathy and punitveness conducted by a sociology and a criminal professor, James D Unnever and Francis T Cullen, respectively, it is stated that a primary source for people is information on crime is through news media, and “most of those images negatively ‘typify’ offenders” (Cullen and Unnever 291). The news media shows only the bare minimum of stories, cutting the facts down to only the most shocking (and sometimes over exaggerated) details in order to create the fear needed to keep viewers hooked. Sara Sun Beale, a former Attorney Adviser at the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department, examined more in depth the direct link between viewer is opinions and the presentations by the media, finding that “changes in the media is framing of the race issue brought about subtle shifts in racial policy preferences” (Beale 448). Framing, in this case, refers to the two styles of fact presenting a news story typically falls under: episodic framing or thematic framing. Episodic framing is presenting the story in the news as an individual clip; it normally focuses on one single story, event, or individual. Thematic framing is addressing a broader issue, normally presented with statistics and analysis. By throwing the criminals into that spotlight of episodic framing, it focuses the attention on them and makes the case more …show more content…
In order to create the slight aura of anxiety, the media restricts its stories down to the most dramatic and shocking facts (Newhagen 266). They do this in order to create suspense and fear, and it works extraordinarily well. The restraint of information makes it hard for people to empathize with criminal; a lot of times, the news doesn’t report on motive or underlying reasons for the crime, closing off an essential connection that would allow people to connect and forgive with the offender. This was further supported by a study discussed by Karen Gelb in which two groups of people were given a report of the same case. One group of people, however, were given just a brief description, which Karen says is “similar to a media report,” while the other was given “a more detailed description with information on incident and offender characteristics” (Gelb 288). 80% of the people who received the description like a media report described the sentencing as too lenient, as opposed to a meager 15% in the other group (Gelb 288). This statistical evidence provides a strong link between the media’s short coverage of cases and the lack of empathy than can lead to more fearful response. The anxiety and ignorance makes it easy for the viewers to respond with a call for what they know best: imprisonment.

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