Coverage of crimes by present-day television gives rise to a substantial number of questions about the policies and strategies of modern journalists. In particular, it is necessary to determine which type of felonies they usually select for their reports; and how they portray the victims. One of the major concerns is that such broadcasts only aggravate the victimization of these individuals because they disclose highly personal information which should not be revealed to the public, especially if we are speaking about the details of the crime like graphical description or even the name of the person who has been victimized. At first, we need to discuss how these people are described.
As a rule, journalists present all the facts that they possess. For example, they may specify the victim’s age, his or her name, or the names of the relatives. Secondly, while describing the victim they usually tend to speak about the social and sometimes even racial background of this individual. Naturally, the reporters do not express their views on them. However, in some cases they try to emphasize certain aspects, for example, age especially if they speak about the crime committed against a child or a teenager. It is rather difficult to single out the major characteristics of the victims. They may belong to different age groups, ethnic origins, or social classes.
They have practically nothing in common, but it has to be admitted that they are predominantly white. The most striking detail is that the perpetrators are usually African-Americans or Latinos. At least, they are frequently believed to be the prime suspects. In this case, I would like to mention the CNN news bulletin reporting the gang rape of a fifteen-year-old girl. Although the representatives of mass media did not know for sure they supposed that Mexicans could be involved.
Again, they relied virtually on no data. On the whole, we can argue that victims are portrayed in a very emotional manner, as though the media wants to prove to the audience that such tragedy can occur to any member of society.
Mass media reinforces these images in several ways. First, they may take an interview with some of the victims relatives or close friends. To some extent, this is an example of unethical conduct as these people maybe even reluctant to speak to any outsider. This is done not only to inform the public but to engage them as well. It can be observed that modern journalists usually cover only those crimes which can create resonance or sensation.
Unfortunately, the key objective is to raise the popularity rates of the channel or media company. Minor crimes like theft or bribery are of less interest to the viewers and this is one of the reasons why they are so seldom reported. Ironically, statistical data indicate that violent crimes are not so widespread in the United States (Karmen, 2009). However, judging from broadcasts one can think that America is virtually engulfed by homicide or rape.
The most dangerous thing is that reports only harm the victims of violent crimes. At this stage, they have very deep psychological trauma and they do not want any publicity. The major concern is privacy and their right to privacy is so often violated. These examples demonstrate that contemporary mass media are driven mostly by their commercial interests. They try not only to inform people but to boost their popularity.
Karmen, A. (2009). Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology. New York: Cengage Learning.