Criminal Justice-coas | Crime, Mass Media & Society
E104 | 0101 | Chermak


Crime is among the top concerns of the American public.  Public opinion
polls consistently indicate that crime is one of the most pressing
problems facing our country; politicians frequently rely on the public's
fear of crime to help pass crime legislation; and community-level
neighborhood watch groups are formed in response to concerns about
crime and safety.
The public's concern and fear of crime is influenced by many different
sources.  It is interesting that most of the public does not have direct
contact with serious crime.  Instead, the public is exposed to crime and
criminal justice processes from vicarious sources of information, such
as 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 three 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.
The course will help students understand the media's place in the social
control structure of our communities.  This course will challenge students
to think critically about the role of the media in society generally and
criminal justice specifically.   Moreover, students will be asked to
consider several different points of view to answer the fundamental
question of the course and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of
several arguments.
Readings: To be announced
Requirements:   Students will be graded on in-class projects, a
research assignment, examinations,and quizzes.
Class Meeting:  Two 75-minute seminars each week (TR, 2:30-3:45P,
OP 105)