Literature Review: How the British national newspapers over-report on violent crime

Today’s contemporary society is hugely influenced upon by the media which wields immense power over society (Meško, G.O.R.A.Z.D., 2008). People’s attention are drawn to the several news articles published, broadcast or presented by the media. There are a wide array of newspapers published every day all reporting on almost similar occurrences but in different ways. It is more likely to find an article or even more covering on insecurity and violent crime in atleast every newspaper that you would pick.

In Britain, the media and especially newspapers has so much power on the people as they heavily rely on them to get informed on events that happen out of their reach. Many tend to believe on what is in the newspaper to the extent that the media is like the fourth arm of the government to them. (Meško, G.O.R.A.Z.D., 2008) point out that newspaper reports on violent crimes are designed in a manner that identifies more with the people targeted by the newspapers and thus may be passing the wrong message on the violent crime and create different impression on the people to whom they report to in a populist manner (Meško, G.O.R.A.Z.D., 2008).

In general terms, the fear of crime is high among British nationals. This can be attributed to the primarily relying on newspaper reports and information from other media as the sole source of crime data (Charbonneau, M.G. and Copes, H., 2003). In explaining this, (Charbonneau, M.G. and Copes, H., 2003) indicate that prime target for newspapers are rare crimes as opposed to common crimes for rare crimes sell. The effect of this is that citizens would believe that the crimes they read about almost on a daily basis occur on a frequent basis. The true picture is that this crimes are rare but the Ove reporting by the newspapers gives the impression that they are more common than the common petty crimes occurring in neighbourhoods almost on a daily basis.

There is a great danger in the trend of crime reporting as it is today in the British newspaper reports (Cherbonneau, M.G. and Copes, H., 2003). There is a likelihood of moral panic emanating from such kinds of newspaper reports on rare crimes; and this is today witnessed in almost every society that relies heavily on newspaper reports for criminal information (Cherbonneau, M.G. and Copes, H., 2003) and the British society is no exception.

An example of newspapers over reporting on domestic violence and its impact on society is given by (Taylor, R., 2008). Newspapers have reported on domestic violence cases in a way that makes it seem like a social problem with the victim being at the centre of everything (Taylor, R., 2008). In most newspaper articles reporting on cases of domestic violence, too much of information is about the assaulted r the battered party, perhaps on why he/she was assaulted or battered will little information on the perpetrator or on a structural cause of such problems.

This is not healthy to any society. Violent crimes committed in the society needs to be addressed and should not be a means to cause moral panic in any society (Taylor, R., 2008). The example given of newspaper reports on domestic violence is an illustration as to why the move away from certain vices of society are impended as such reports which leaves out the structural cause of problems and reports on the person experiencing the problem do not help the society much but brings in more returns for the media companies (Taylor, R., 2008).

Further examples are given in the American trials of Eric Menendez and Lyle Menendez for the murders of Jose Menendez and Kitty Menendez in California by (Boots, D.P. and Heide, K.M., 2006.). This was a case of were children had construed to murder their parents. Such cases are usually rare but the kind of over reporting they get from newspapers causes panic to the society. This case was in the headlines of newspapers across the globe not for weeks nor months but for years (Boots, D.P. and Heide, K.M., 2006).  This is a perfect case of over reporting on rare cases. The impact of such kind of practices by publishing media firms is huge on the public as it creates panic among them. The impression that we are living in a world dominated by such crimes is created due to over reporting.

Jeremy Bamper’s murder of his adopted parents, two sons and a stepsister is also given as an example by (Boots, D.P. and Heide, K.M., 2006). This occurred in Essex, England back in the twentieth century and wide newspaper reports still carried on well into the twenty first century. This really give bad impressions of the state of society as any citizen reading through the newspaper reports would take it that children are likely to turn against their parents and other relatives and thus creates fear even among related persons in the society (Boots, D.P. and Heide, K.M., 2006).

Looking at the logic in the examples given, the Menendez case and the Bamper case occurred in 1989 and 1985 respectively. The newspaper reports around the cases spread well over twenty years and (Boots, D.P. and Heide, K.M., 2006.) have written about them in 2006. This shows clearly that newspapers target rare crimes in society and over report them in a manner that panic is driven into the public for such a long period of time and what brings in such panic are just but rare occurrences.

Crimes do occur in schools and newspapers do report about them. (Kupchik, A. and Bracy, N.L., 2009) however do point out that those who live outside the school are more afraid of the crimes than those who experience the crimes first hand. Those outside the schools are less knowledgeable of the various crimes than those who are within the schools. The one of the informants to those outside the schools are the various newspapers that they do come across. This thus points out that newspaper reports tend to give a different perception of the occurrences of violent crimes than what is really on the ground (Kupchik, A. and Bracy, N.L., 2009).

Newspaper reports in Britain do provide only certain information on violent crimes (Kupchik, A. and Bracy, N.L., 2009.) This is made possible through the framing of a number of issues that create certain beliefs among the public. This is overly done to ensure that what is intended by the print media houses is indeed achieved and is in a way or the other linked to the profits envisaged from the public purchasing of the newspapers (Kupchik, A. and Bracy, N.L., 2009).

The importance of regular monitoring newspaper coverage of violent crimes is stressed by (Ditton, J. and Duffy, J., 1983). Anyone accustomed to the over reporting of violent crimes in newspapers would agree to this. Print media firms need to ensure that their publications do take an overall picture of a crime they report on and appropriately reported on, not in a manner that will result into moral panic by the public (Ditton, J. and Duffy, J., 1983).  There is need for informative and balanced reports on any violent crime that is published in any newspaper.

Researchers (Meško, G.O.R.A.Z.D., 2008.) have looked at various statistics and victimisation surveys. They report that these do give a true impression of various violent crimes that occur unlike the over reported incidences found in the newspapers. The various statistics and surveys shows the exact information of a crime and all the relevant particulars and adds nothing more. Newspapers however give this in a way they think fit for the readers and one way is through over reporting such crimes so that they seem major in the eyes of the public, something which (Meško, G.O.R.A.Z.D., 2008) are heavily condemning. Violent crime should not be overly reported in the newspapers.








Boots, D.P. and Heide, K.M., 2006Parricides in the Media A Content Analysis of Available Reports Across Cultures. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 50(4), pp.418-445.

Cherbonneau, M.G. and Copes, H., 2003 Media construction of carjacking: a content analysis of newspaper articles from 1993–2002. Journal of crime and justice, 26(2), pp.1-21.

Constructing Dangerousness and Fueling Fear. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 7(2), pp.136-155.

Ditton, J. and Duffy, J., 1983. Bias in the newspaper reporting of crime news. Brit. J. Criminology, 23, p.159.

Kupchik, A. and Bracy, N.L., 2009. The News Media on School Crime and Violence Taylor, R., 2008. Slain and slandered: A content analysis of the portrayal of femicide in crime news. Homicide Studies.

Meško, G.O.R.A.Z.D., 2008. Media and Insecurity. CRIMPREV info, (15).








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