Does Skewed Media Coverage Encourage False Perceptions About Crime?


Skewed coverage by the news media is one of the greatest contributors to false perceptions about crime, says Scott Henson in the Grits for Breakfast blog. He cites a Houston Chronicle story last week quoting Alex del Carmen, chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Texas at Arlington, as saying, “When we say crime stats are going down, it could also be that citizens are not reporting crime as much. It could also be that certain types of crimes are moving to other parts of the city or outside of the city. When we say crime is going down in the city of Houston, it doesn’t necessarily mean that citizens in Houston are safer.”

Henson says, “The media sell papers by hyping fear [ ] And for TV news, of course, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ ” He mentions 2011 Rasmussen poll finding that, “More adults than ever report that crime in their community has increased over the past year, and most think the continuing bad economy will cause the crime rate to rise even higher.” In reality, crime continued to drop after the 2008 recession hit, plummeting to modern lows. So most adults believe something that is demonstrably false – that crime is increasing and the economic downturn made it worse.

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