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Crime and Adolescence

The printed media and television are the main sources from which people get information about crime news and discussions of topics related to juvenile violence. In order to appreciate the role of the media in effecting people's attitudes toward violence and other issues, it is important to understand the mechanism that media reports operate by when covering news. First of all, for media coverage of crime to be interesting (and hence financially rewarding for the news organizations through the increase of readers or viewers), reporters and journalists should be very selective and only choose the very odd and gruesome instances of crime. A school shooting that leaves a few dead is a great story. Second, the business-oriented nature of such organizations usually prompts each of the media organizations to investigate what is new in other news agencies and share the heat of breaking news. Mark Fishman (1978) argues in an article titled "Crime Waves As Ideology" that the product of the business interaction between news organizations is usually the creation of a theme that would be continuously fed with similar events from here and there to keep the story running. So the incident of the school shooting would be supplemented with previous shooting accidents. Even robbery, burglary and other property crimes would be incorporated to exaggerate the problem of juvenile crime and to create what Fishman calls "a crime wave pool."
A good example of a crime wave that was created by the media was under the theme of crimes against the elderly in New York, 1976. During the months of November and December of that year, journalists continuously reported stories of muggers, murderers, and rapists of elderly people who were usually black or Hispanic youths with long juvenile records. Gruesome elderly murder stories were used frequently. The mayor who was running for re-election criticized the juvenile system, the N.Y.P.D. increased…

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