This article examines the media's influence on the public's understanding of crime and justice, a key consideration for criminologists.
Through this study, the authors shed new light on a key line of inquiry for criminologists: the way the media influence the public's understanding of crime and justice. The authors argue for expanding the lens of studies on the media's construction of crime, moving away from one-dimensional reactions to crime to an integrated set of frames about crime and justice policy while considering the potential influence of a diverse array of media forms and content. Most critically, this social construction process must be placed in context, specifically, the racial composition in which people consume media. By using two nationally representative surveys matched with contextual data, the authors identify two forms of media consumption that seem important to understandings of crime: local television news and TV crime dramas. Interestingly, local news seems more important than national news even to perceptions of national crime trends, whereas news consumed over the Internet is not relevant, nor are 24-hour cable news channels once political views are taken into account. Television news viewers are also more likely to support tougher crime policies. Importantly, context matters, the influence of television news and crime dramas on perceptions of crime is strongest among White respondents who live near larger numbers of Black neighbors.
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