The Form of Crime Reporting

Women’s magazines represented a variety of crime narratives as “newsworthy. ”  That is, these magazines found crime to be interesting or exciting enough to attract and inform consumers, and therefore crime narratives were considered important elements when producing the news. Among the crime messages, sexual crimes received almost one-half (50%) of the coverage. This included crimes such as rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment/discrimination. The reporters often evinced the personal accounts of those who were victims.

This added an emotional dimension to the narratives; bringing to the reader an “eyewitness” account, rather than an “objective” report of the facts. Child abuse, which included physical and emotional abuse, followed closely in frequency (25 %), while domestic violence (8%) and murder (7%) remained minor but persistent narratives. Magazines reporters also wrote about criminal justice issues such as the death penalty and victimology (3. 5%).

Crimes such as burglary (3. 0%), juvenile delinquency (2. 0%), and illicit drug use (1.5%) were infrequently in the news stories, and other crimes, such as fraud and kidnapping, were not mentioned in all three magazines. News, Sources, and the Production of Meaning Various sources of knowledge about crime, law and criminal justice were represented in the newsmaking process to create meaning. There were five types of sources used by reporters to construct crime narratives. First, government sources were cited in 60 percent of the crime articles. Representatives of the criminal justice system, such as police, lawyers, judges, and correctional officials, were used as sources in nearly one-third (33%) of all crime articles.

Less frequently, other government agencies, such as social workers and child welfare/ protection services were offered as knowledge sources by reporters (5%). As well, politicians, or elected officials, were occasionally used to supply knowledge (2%). Gender and Crime Narratives Media crime depictions were consistently gendered and women’s fear of crime was constantly constructed and reconstructed. “Intimate danger” was portrayed in 62. 6 % pf the crime messages; “stranger danger” was highlighted in only 23. 2 percent of the news stories and 14. 2 percent of the narratives did not mention danger in all.

In all time frames, intimate danger was more commonly constructed than was stranger danger. Intimate danger was present in over half of all articles. Overwhelmingly, familiar dangers were most newsworthy. Sex was ultimately connected to danger in the media discourses with over half (60%) of all crime messages signifying it. Over different time frames, sexual danger was present in 62. 5 % of all articles. A discourse of sexual inequality in an issue of the three different popular women’s magazines also contributed to the gendered nature of crime and fear. One-fourth (25%) of all crime articles connected sexual inequality to crime and danger.

This suggests that women’s fear of crime was linked to their subordinate status, and can best be understood in the context of broader social inequalities. In sum, the media instructed women to be most fearful people they knew in their own home, to fear crimes of sexual nature and foremost, and to fear for themselves, but also for others. Fear of Crime and Media Coverage The crime reports in an issue of the three popular women’s magazines consistently supplied readers with the resources needed to understand and comprehend crime and danger, particularly on a social and environmental level.

By explaining the source and foundations for crime, journalists did not leave readers asking “why. ” And by demonstrating how to cope with crime, audience members were given solutions that could ultimately be used to exert some control over their own lives. As a result, the news narratives presented crime as both avoidable and manageable. Further, crime accounts were presented in a manner that kept the audience informed about crime and criminal justice issues without relying on dramatic flair.

In sum, crime and criminal justice was framed, in form and content, around an ideology of violence against women, which constructed a gendered nature of fear. This required sourcing the news in a specific manner in order to produce journalists` preferred meaning. For the most part, a central objective for journalists was to inform the audience about the broader social forces that influenced crime as it related to women: the criminal event was a means to educate the reader about the foundation of crime and its prevention.