From Wed Apr 11 08:50:10 2001
From: Phil Gasper <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Crime in the &#&8217;Liberal&#&8217; Media
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Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 04:50:01 -0500 (EST)

Crime in the ‘Liberal’ Media

By Sean Gonsalves <>, Cape Cod Times, 10 April 2001

I hate to disappoint readers of this column who see a conspiracy behind every news story, but in my stint as a journalist I have yet to come across, or even hear rumors, of a smoke-filled room where a group of old white guys gather to plot against the masses and dream up ways to scapegoat blacks for every social ill in America.

But then again, I suppose if these conspiracy meetings were being held in some mysterious back room, I&#&8217;m sure I wouldn&#&8217;t be invited.

It&#&8217;s not that conspiracies don&#&8217;t happen. For sure, they do. And while the uncovering of a conspiracy is much more fascinating, what brings real insight into the nature of power and social relations is institutional analysis.

Whether we are examining a bank, a prison, or the Pentagon, analyzing institutions helps us see the social roles we play, allowing us to determine if these various institutions conform to our values and are governed by a spirit of fundamental fairness.

This is why I find a new study being released today extremely interesting. I think you might find it valuable, too. The report is called Off Balance: Youth, Race & Crime in the News, authored by Lori Dorfman of the Berkeley Media Studies Group and Vincent Schiraldi of the Justice Policy Institute.

You probably won&#&8217;t be surprised to find out, as the study shows, public perception of crime is heavily influenced by the news. In fact, 76 percent of Americans say they form their opinions about crime based on what they see or read in the news. Only 22 percent claim to get their primary information on crime from personal experience.

So the study puts forward the sensible question: Does the news media present an accurate picture of crime in America? The answer, according to the study, is a resounding no.

The study found that although youth homicides declined by 68 percent between 1993 and 1999 and are at their lowest rate since 1966, 62 percent of the public believes that youth crime is on the rise.

Examining over 70 content analyses of newspaper and television crime coverage, the report uncovers some disturbing discrepancies. For starters, the news media report crime, especially violent crime, out of proportion to its actual occurrence.

Homicides make up one- to two-tenths of one percent of all arrests, but 27 to 29 percent of all crimes reported on the evening news are of homicides. Eighty-six percent of white homicide victims are killed by other whites and most homicide victims know their killer. But the least frequent killings—homicide between strangers and interracial killings—receive the most coverage.

From 1990 to 1998, crime coverage on network news increased by a whopping 473 percent as real crime rates have fallen dramatically. (For example, homicide arrests dropped 32.9 percent from 1990 to 1998).

Another major finding is that the news media, particularly television news, unduly connect race and crime, especially violent crime. African-Americans are underrepresented in crime reports of victims and are overrepresented as perpetrators of crime. Articles about white homicide victims tend to be longer and more frequent than articles that cover African-American victims.

African-Americans were 22 percent more likely to be shown on local TV news in Los Angeles committing violent crime than nonviolent crime even though actual crime stats indicate that blacks are just as likely to be arrested for nonviolent crimes as they are for violent crime.

In California, seven of 10 local TV news stories on violence involved youth, even though young people make up only 14 percent of all violent crime arrests. Youth of color fare far worse than their white counterparts... A study of Time and Newsweek found the term &#&8217;young black males&#&8217; became synonymous with the word &#&8217;criminal&#&8217; in coverage.

The study concludes: It is not just that African-Americans and other people of color are overrepresented as criminals and underrepresented as victims, or that young people are overrepresented as criminals, or that violent crime itself is given exaggerated coverage. It is that all three occur together, combining forces to produce a terribly unfair and inaccurate overall image of crime in America.

The study makes a few recommendations, which includes putting crime into context by providing relevant data on crime statistics, balancing stories about youth and crime with stories about youth accomplishments, and conducting voluntary periodic audits of news content and sharing the results with news consumers. (For more information, check out <>).

The get-tough-on-crime crowd—usually the same bunch hollering about a liberal media and dumbed down youth—might see things different if they did their homework and got in touch with reality.