Crime is among the top concerns of the American public. Concern and fear of crime is influenced by many different sources, including the news media. Newspapers, television stations, and radios are among the most influential sources used by the public to develop opinions about crime and the criminal justice system. Moreover, the frequent presentation of crime in entertainment sources increases the importance of understanding the media images presented to the public. Although the images of crime and criminal justice are important, our understanding of the media as a social control institution is limited.
This points to the fundamental question addressed in this course: What role does the mass media play in crime control? We will address this question in four ways. First, we will examine how media organizations relate to other social control institutions. For example, we will consider how news organizations construct crime stories, and how the reliance on police and court sources for crime information affects the images presented about crime. Second, it will be important to understand the significance of the media images presented about crime, focusing on how these images help establish community boundaries. Third, we will examine how media images can directly affect how the public thinks about crime, politicians formulate policy, and criminal justice professionals dispense justice. Fourth, we will explore in depth media coverage of domestic and international terrorism. The course will help students understand the media's place in the social control structure of our communities.