Mass Mediated Representations of Crime and Criminality

ISBN: 978-1-80043-759-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-758-6

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 28 May 2021


(2021), "Prelims", Wiest, J.B. (Ed.) Mass Mediated Representations of Crime and Criminality (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xxi.



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Series Editors: Shelia R. Cotten, Laura Robinson and Jeremy Schulz

Volumes 8–10: Laura Robinson and Shelia R. Cotten

Volume 11 Onwards: Laura Robinson, Shelia R. Cotten and Jeremy Schulz

Recent Volumes:

Volume 12: Communication and Information Technologies Annual: Digital Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges of Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean – Edited by Laura Robinson, Jeremy Schulz and Hopeton S. Dunn
Volume 13: Brazil: Media from the Country of the Future – Edited by Laura Robinson, Jeremy Schulz and Apryl Williams; Guest Volume Editors: Pedro Aguiar, John Baldwin, Antonio C. La Pastina, Monica Martinez, Sonia Virgínia Moreira, Heloisa Pait and Joseph D. Straubhaar; Volume Guest Associate and Assistant Editors: Sayonara Leal and Nicole Speciale
Volume 14: Social Movements and Media – Edited by Jennifer Earl and Deana A. Rohlinger
Volume 15: e-Health: Current Evidence, Promises, Perils and Future Directions – Edited by Timothy M. Hale, Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou and Shelia R. Cotten; Assistant Editor: Aneka Khilnani
Volume 16: Media and Power in International Contexts: Perspectives on Agency and Identity – Edited by Apryl Williams and Laura Robinson; Guest Editor: Ruth Tsuria; Associate Editor: Aneka Khilnani
Volume 17: Networks, Hacking and Media – CITAMS@30: Now and Then and Tomorrow – Edited by Barry Wellman, Laura Robinson, Casey Brienza, Wenhong Chen and Shelia R. Cotten; Associate Editor: Aneka Khilnani
Volume 18: The M in CITAMS@30: Media Sociology – Edited by Casey Brienza, Laura Robinson, Barry Wellman, Shelia R. Cotten and Wenhong Chen
Volume 19: Mediated Millennials – Edited by Jeremy Schulz, Laura Robinson, Aneka Khilnani, John Baldwin, Heloisa Pait, Apryl A. Williams, Jenny Davis and Gabe Ignatow
Volume 20: Theorizing Criminality and Policing in the Digital Media Age – Edited by Julie B. Wiest

Editorial Board Members

  • Rebecca Adams

    University of North Carolina Greensboro

  • Ron Anderson

    University of Minnesota

  • Denise Anthony

    University of Michigan

  • Alejandro Artopoulos

    University of San Andrés

  • Jason Beech

    University of San Andrés

  • Grant Blank

    University of Oxford

  • Geoffrey C. Bowker

    University of California, Irvine

  • Casey Brienza

    Media Sociology Preconference

  • Jonathan Bright

    University of Oxford

  • Manuel Castells

    University of Southern California

  • Mary Chayko

    Rutgers University

  • Wenhong Chen

    University of Texas at Austin

  • Jenny L. Davis

    Australian National University

  • Hopeton S. Dunn

    University of the West Indies

  • Jennifer Earl

    University of Arizona

  • Hernan Galperin

    University of Southern California

  • Joshua Gamson

    University of San Francisco

  • Blanca Gordo

    International Computer Science Institute

  • Tim Hale

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • David Halle

    University of California, Los Angeles

  • Caroline Haythornthwaite

    Syracuse University

  • Anne Holohan

    Trinity College

  • Heather Horst

    University of Sydney

  • Gabe Ignatow

    University of North Texas

  • Vikki Katz

    Rutgers University

  • Nalini Kotamraju


  • Antonio C. La Pastina

    Texas A&M University

  • Robert LaRose

    Michigan State University

  • Sayonara Leal

    University of Brasilia

  • Brian Loader

    University of York

  • Monica Martinez

    University of Sorocaba

  • Noah McClain

    Illinois Institute of Technology

  • Gustavo Mesch

    University of Haifa

  • Sonia Virgínia Moreira

    Rio de Janeiro State University

  • Gina Neff

    University of Oxford

  • Christena Nippert-Eng

    Indiana University

  • Samantha Nogueira

    Joyce Saint Mary’s College of California

  • Hiroshi Ono

    Hitotsubashi University

  • C. J. Pascoe

    University of Oregon

  • Trevor Pinch

    Cornell University

  • Anabel Quan-Haase

    University of Western Ontario

  • Kelly Quinn

    University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Violaine Roussel

    University of Paris

  • Saskia Sassen

    Columbia University

  • Lynn Schofield

    Clark University of Denver

  • Sara Schoonmaker

    University of Redlands

  • Markus S. Schulz

    International Sociological Association

  • Mike Stern

    Michigan State University

  • Joseph D. Straubhaar

    University of Texas at Austin

  • Simone Tosoni

    Catholic University of Milan

  • Zeynep Tufekci

    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  • Eduardo Villanueva

    Pontifical Catholic University of Peru

  • Keith Warner

    Santa Clara University

  • Barry Wellman

    Ryerson University

  • Jim Witte

    George Mason University

  • Simeon Yates

    University of Liverpool

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West Chester University of Pennsylvania, USA

Sponsored by the ASA Section on Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology

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ISBN: 978-1-80043-759-3 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-80043-758-6 (Online)

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ISSN: 2050-2060 (Series)


List of Tables and Figures ix
Contributor Bios xi
Acknowledgments xv
Editor’s Introduction
Julie B. Wiest xvii
Chapter 1. Crime News in the Israeli Daily Press: A Comparison between the Quality Haaretz and the Popular Israel Hayom
Alina Korn 3
Chapter 2. Crime in Television News: Do News Factors Predict the Mentioning of a Criminal’s Country of Origin?
Janine Brill, Lars Guenther, Wibke Ehrhardt and Georg Ruhrmann 31
Chapter 3. Demented Mother, Maniac with a Gun, Madman: Prejudicial Language Use in Historical Newspaper Coverage of Multiple-child Murders in New Zealand
Francine Tyler 49
Chapter 4. Intersections between Journalistic Documentary and True Crime in the Context of VOD Platforms: The Alcàsser Murders as a Spanish Case Study
Lorena R. Romero-Domínguez 71
Chapter 5. Framing Gender and Race in Television Crime Dramas: An Examination of Bones
Venessa Garcia 93
Chapter 6. Whose Stories? Victims and Offenders on Television’s Law and Order
Jared S. Rosenberger, Valerie J. Callanan and Darcy Sullivan 111
Chapter 7. The Narco as a Sui Generis Criminal Character and TV Genre
Beatriz Elena Inzunza Acedo 129
Chapter 8. “The Errors are Egregious”: Assessing the CSI Effect and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Forensic Science through a Pre- and Post-test Investigation
Krystal Hans and Kylie Parrotta 149
Index 173

List of Tables and Figures

Table 1.1. Distribution of Investigation Files Opened by Police in 2016 According to Type of Offense. 15
Table 1.2. Number and Percentage of Reports on Crime According to Newspaper and Type of Offense. 16
Table 1.3. Distribution of Reports on Crime (Percentage) According to Newspaper and According to Characteristics of the Events and the Persons Involved. 17
Table 2.1. Frequency of Criminal Acts Reported in Television Crime News. 39
Table 2.2. Frequency of Mentioning the Foreign Origin of a Criminal in Television Crime News. 40
Table 3.1. Summary of Findings. 56
Table 5.1. Percentages of Offender Demographics by Sex and Race. 103
Table 5.2. Percentages of Offenses by Gender and Race. 104
Table 5.3. Percentages of Offender Motives. 105
Table 6.1. Comparisons of Characters’ Race/Ethnicity and Sex in Law and Order to Official Data. 120
Table 6.2. Sociodemographic Characteristics of Victims and Offenders in Law and Order Compared to Official Statistics. 121
Table 6.3. Sociodemographic Characteristics of Victims in Law and Order Over 20 Seasons. 122
Table 6.4. Sociodemographic Characteristics of Offenders/Suspects Over 20 Seasons of Law and Order. 122
Table 6.5. Ratios of Positive/Negative Depictions on Law and Order by Race/Ethnicity and Gender. 123
Table 7.1. List of News Sources Used for the Analysis. 137
Table 8.1. Viewership of Television Crime Series at an HBCU and PWI. 157
Table 8.2. Change in Confidence of Students at an HBCU in Certain Topics Relating to Forensic Science. 163
Table 8.3. Change in Confidence of Students at a PWI in Certain Topics Relating to Forensic Science. 163
Fig. I.1. US Crime Rates per 100,000 Population, 2000–2019. xviii
Fig. I.2. US Adults’ Estimates and Worries Related to Crime, 2000–2019. xix
Fig. 2.1. Frequency of Mentioning the Criminal’s Origin in Television Crime News. 40
Fig. 2.2. Frequency of News Factors in Television Crime News. 41
Fig. 6.1. Character Coding Sheet. 118
Fig. 8.1. Class Composition of Students Enrolled in the Course at an HBCU and a PWI. 155
Fig. 8.2. Academic Majors, STEM and non-STEM, at an HBCU and a PWI. 156

Contributor Bios

Beatriz Elena Inzunza Acedo (tichy) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Sciences, at the School of Education and Humanities at Universidad de Monterrey, México. She is a Member of the National Research System (SNI-CONACYT). She obtained her PhD in a joint degree program from Tecnológico de Monterrey, México (Humanities) and Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium (PhD in Social Sciences). Her doctoral dissertation studied social representations of insecurity and delinquency in the city of Monterrey, among 6th graders. As a Research Coordinator from the National Council for Communication Sciences Teaching and Research (CONEICC), she has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Anuario de Investigación. She is also a Vice Coordinator of the Reception Studies group in the Latin American Association of Communication Research (ALAIC). Her areas of interest are reception studies, audiences, social representations, and imaginaries.

Janine Brill is a Research Associate and PhD student at the Chair of Communication Science with focus on Social Communication at the University of Erfurt in Germany. Her research focus is on health communication, migration, and integration, as well as media coverage and effects. Within the framework of her dissertation, she focuses on migrants’ handling of digital health supplies and information. The representation of individuals with a migrant background in the media and its effects on audiences are of particular interest to her. She will carry on research in the field of journalism, media, and migration studies, as well as health communication.

Valerie J. Callanan, PhD, retired as Professor of Sociology at Kent State University in 2019. She continues to conduct research about media effects on fear of crime, punitive beliefs, and attitudes toward the police.

Wibke Ehrhardt is a Student and a Student Associate at the Professorship of Media Communication and Media Effects of the Institute of Communication Science at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. During her studies, she was part of various empirical research projects in the field of media effects, which constitutes her research focus. The journalistic representation of social equality particularly characterizes her scientific interest. Within the framework of her thesis, she focused on social marketing campaigns in the context of health communication.

Venessa Garcia is an Associate Professor with the Department of Criminal Justice at New Jersey City University. She earned her doctorate in sociology from the State University of New York University at Buffalo in 1999. Her research focus is in the area of women and crime justice as well as crime and media. Her media research has been published in books and encyclopedias. She has also published research on women, race, and policing in academic journals. Her books include Women Policing Across the Globe: Shared Challenges and Successes in the Integration of Women Police Worldwide; Crime, Media, and Reality: Examining Mixed Messages about Crime and Justice in Popular Media; Gendered Justice: Intimate Partner Violence and the Criminal Justice System; and Female Victims of Crime: Reality Reconsidered.

Lars Guenther (PhD) is a Senior Research Associate in the Cluster of Excellence on “Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (CLICCS) at University of Hamburg in Germany, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and Extraordinary Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He obtained his PhD in 2015 at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany, where he worked in DFG-funded projects within the Special Priority Program “Science and the Public.” He is interested in public perceptions of (controversial) science, science and health journalism, as well as the public communication about risks and scientific (un)certainty. Analyzing journalistic representations of migrants and its potential effects on audiences are research topics that fascinate him; he often uses these topics in his lectures and regularly invites bachelor and master candidates to work (empirically) on these issues.

Dr Krystal Hans is a Forensic Entomologist and Lecturer in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Previously she was the Director of Forensic Biology at Delaware State University, after earning her PhD from the University of Windsor. Her research in Forensic Entomology examines the influence of environmental factors on the behavior and development of forensically relevant insects and the decomposition of remains. She has also done research in the scholarship of teaching and learning relating to student insect identification, as well as student awareness of secondary trauma in forensic science. She teaches Forensic Science and Forensic Entomology courses, conducts workshops for criminal investigators and forensic pathologists, and consults with law enforcement in investigations involving insect evidence on human remains.

Alina Korn is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Criminology at Ashkelon Academic College in Israel. Her scholarly interests lie in the areas of social control and the links between crime, politics, and the media. She has published articles on Israeli press reporting of the al-Aqsa Intifada in Muslims and the News Media (2006), on the ghettoization of Palestinians in Thinking Palestine (2008), on political imprisonment in Northern Ireland and Israel in Threat (2011), and on the control of the Arab minority during the first years of the existence of Israel in Journal of Historical Sociology (2018).

Kylie Parrotta earned her Doctorate in Sociology from North Carolina State University, and she is currently an Assistant Professor in Sociology and Criminology at California Polytechnic State University. Her broad teaching and research interests are inequality (race, class, gender, and sexuality), social psychology, and deviance and criminology. Her research on sentencing disparities, roller derby, welfare-to-work program managers, and scholarship on teaching and learning has been published in Advances in Group Processes, Criminal Justice Studies, the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Sociological Perspectives, and Teaching Sociology. She is currently working on projects exploring the role of identity in the negotiation of organizational change, on trauma-informed education practices, and twenty-first century policing.

Lorena R. Romero-Domínguez, PhD and bachelor’s degree in journalism, is a Member of the research group Media, Communication Policies, and Democracy in the European Union (DEMOC-MEDIA). Specializing in the media situation in Germany, she has collaborated with the Austrian Academy of Science in the book Medienstrukturen und Medienperformanz (Media Structures and Media Performance). She has collaborated as a Teacher and Researcher at the following universities: Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Konstanz Universität, Cardiff University, Johannes-Gutenberg Mainz Universität, and Ostfalia Universität. She has been Evaluator at the National Agency for Prospective and Evaluation (Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain), Vice Dean of Mobility and International Relations (2014–2018), and Vice Dean of Investigation and Innovation in Education (since 2018) in the School of Communication of the University of Seville.

Jared S. Rosenberger, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His research interests include media constructions of the criminal justice system, fear of crime, and the penal system. Recent publications examine the relationship between gender and fear of crime, media and penal attitudes, race and attitudes toward the police, and fear of crime and attitudes toward immigration.

Georg Ruhrmann is a Professor and the Holder of the Chair of Media Communication and Media Effects at the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena in Germany. Since 2019, he is also a Lecturer in the Master’s degree in Security Management at the Berlin School of Law and Economics. He received his doctorate in 1986 from Bielefeld University and completed his habilitation at University of Münster. He has been awarded the Schader Foundation Prize for “Social Sciences in Practice” in the subject of “Migration”; headed two research projects in the international research group “Discriminiation and Tolerance in Intergroup Relations,” funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG); headed the research project “Threat of the Agenda,” funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF); and headed three research projects in the priority program “Science and the Public,” funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG). His areas of scientific interest are integration and media, as well as health, risk, and science communication.

Darcy Sullivan is a PhD Student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Kansas. Her research investigates reproductive health disparities experienced by women with disabilities. Her current projects examine pregnancy intentions and desires among women with disabilities and analyze how women manage menstruation during natural disasters.

Francine Tyler is a PhD Student at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand. She teaches crime and court reporting and media law at the postgraduate level and media law and ethics at the undergraduate level. Previously, she was an Investigative Journalist and a Court and Crime Reporter for a National News Organization. She has a Master of Journalism from Massey University and published the results of that research, “New Zealand Media Camouflage Political Lobbying,” in Pacific Journalism Review.


This volume follows Theorizing Criminality and Policing in the Digital Media Age, Volume 20 in the Emerald Studies in Media and Communications series. Both focus on the broad theme of media and crime, as both arose from the successful 2019 Media Sociology Preconference plenary panel that I organized and moderated, titled “Media Representations of Crime: Constructing Culture and Shaping Social Life.” Thank you to those panelists – two of whom authored or co-authored chapters in this volume – for sharing their insights and expertise: Valerie J. Callanan (Kent State University), Venessa Garcia (New Jersey City University), Lisa A. Kort-Butler (University of Nebraska – Lincoln), Nickie Phillips (St Francis College), and Alicia Simmons (Colgate University). Thanks also to the Media Sociology Preconference organizing committee, including chair Casey Brienza, Kenneth Kambara, Laura Robinson, and Ian Sheinheit. I also am grateful to the scholars who reviewed these chapters and whose comments and suggestions certainly enhanced the overall quality of the volume; to series editors Laura Robinson, Shelia Cotten, and Jeremy Schulz for their support and guidance; and to Emerald’s fantastic publishing team, especially Jen McCall, Dheebika Veerasamy, Carys Morley, and Harriet Notman.

Julie B. Wiest

Professor of Sociology, West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Senior Crime and Media Editor, Emerald Studies in Media and Communications

Editor’s Introduction

Julie B. Wiest, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, USA

Stories about crime and criminality have long been the mainstay of news and entertainment media content, and the intersection of crime and media is a common topic in scholarly research. Moreover, substantial amounts of evidence indicate that these media depictions are highly influential, especially for consumers in economically advanced societies – who tend to have little personal experience with crime – as they form perceptions about criminality, crime rates, characteristics of criminals, and even their own likelihood of victimization. One reason relates to the sheer amount of time that media consumers spend engaged in various platforms. According to the Nielsen Company (2020), the average US adult spent nearly 11 hours per day consuming mass media during the first quarter of 2020, while the comparable global average is estimated to be about eight hours per day (Zenith Media, 2019). And there is longstanding and widespread agreement among social scientists and media scholars that media representations shape consumers’ perceptions of social reality (e.g., Fox & Philliber, 1978; Gamson, Croteau, Hoynes, & Sasson, 1992; Gerbner, 1998; Hall, 1975; Massoni, 2004; McQuail, 1979; Medrano Samaniego & Cortés Pascual, 2007; Morgan & Shanahan, 2010; O’Guinn & Shrum, 1997; Smythe, 1954).

Late media scholar George Gerbner (1998) and his research team launched what is known as the Cultural Indicators Project in the 1960s to study the long-term effects of media consumption on viewers’ perceptions. Among the many findings of the decades-long project was an unexpected insight related to public perceptions of crime that the team dubbed the “mean world syndrome” (Gerbner, 1998). The finding called into question taken-for-granted ideas of the time that consuming large amounts of violent media content promotes antisocial behavior, especially among children (e.g., Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, 1972), suggesting that consuming large amounts of violent media content instead tends to increase public fear and anxiety related to crime. This concept is clearly illustrated by the fact that, despite steadily declining crime rates in the United States over recent decades, US adults tend to believe that the opposite is true and also indicate a disproportionate amount of worry related to crime and violence occurring in their own community (see Figs. I1 and I2).

Fig. I.1. US Crime Rates per 100,000 Population, 2000–2019. Source: Based on data from US Department of Justice (2020).

Fig. I.1.

US Crime Rates per 100,000 Population, 2000–2019. Source: Based on data from US Department of Justice (2020).

Fig. I.2. US Adults’ Estimates and Worries Related to Crime, 2000–2019. Source: Based on data from Gallup (2020)

Fig. I.2.

US Adults’ Estimates and Worries Related to Crime, 2000–2019. Source: Based on data from Gallup (2020)

Ongoing examination of crime images within various types of mass media aids in understanding of the associated messages and meanings that are disseminated to consumers. Although assessing any subsequent influence on public perceptions remains difficult, comparing media representations of crime and criminality with known information about their reality can offer valuable insights. The studies in this volume will enhance the knowledge of junior and senior scholars, as well as graduate and advanced undergraduate students, in the fields of criminology, sociology, journalism, and communication/media studies, particularly because of the inclusion of crime stories in a variety of formats and that represent media content from six nations spanning four continents.

The first four chapters focus on nonfiction media representations on platforms including contemporary and historical newspapers, television news, and video-on-demand (VOD) systems. In Crime News in the Israeli Daily Press: A Comparison Between the Quality Haaretz and the Popular Israel Hayom,” Alina Korn examines media representations of crime in the Israeli press by comparing reports on offending patterns in two daily newspapers, one that is considered “elitist” (i.e., Haaretz) and the other “popular” (i.e., Israel Hayom). Next, “Crime in Television News: Do News Factors Predict the Mentioning of a Criminal’s Country of Origin?” by Janine Brill, Lars Guenther, Wibke Ehrhardt, and Georg Ruhrmann, is a novel study investigating the factors related to the inclusion of an accused criminal’s country of origin in related news reports, as well as the potential implications.

In “Demented Mother, Maniac with a Gun, Madman: Prejudicial Language Use in Historical Newspaper Coverage of Multiple-child Murders in New Zealand,” Francine Tyler analyzed 60 years of historical reporting on multiple-child murders in New Zealand to take a closer look at the longevity of “mad,” “bad,” and “sad” frames that have been more commonly found in contemporary studies of child murder. Then, Lorena R. Romero-Domínguez, in “Intersections between Journalistic Documentary and True Crime in the Context of VOD Platforms: The Alcàsser Murders as a Spanish Case Study,” offers an examination of true crime productions and investigative documentaries on VOD platforms while distinguishing between the two genres and offering insights into their divergent aims, components, and outcomes.

The next four chapters examine representations in fictional media. In “Framing Gender and Race in Television Crime Dramas: An Examination of Bones,” Venessa Garcia uncovers unrealistic representations, as well as gendered and racialized images, within the popular television crime drama series Bones. Then, Jared S. Rosenberger, Valerie J. Callanan, and Darcy Sullivan, in their study, “Whose Stories? Victims and Offenders on Television’s Law and Order,” take on Law and Order to explore representations of crime victims and offenders on the long-running series that has likely shaped perceptions related to the US criminal justice system, victims of crime, and criminals for two decades. And Beatriz Elena Inzunza Acedo, in “The Narco as a Sui Generis Criminal Character and TV Genre,” compares representations of drug figures and drug trafficking within narcotelenovelas and news accounts while identifying intertextual references that are present in both fictional and journalistic reports.

Wrapping up the volume is “‘The Errors are Egregious’: Assessing the CSI Effect and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Forensic Science through a Pre- and Post-test Investigation,” by Krystal Hans and Kylie Parrotta, which lends insight into the preconceptions of students who are new to forensic science, as well as their later self-assessments of acquired competencies. In doing so, the authors offer a test of the so-called “CSI effect” while also comparing the views of students in two different academic environments, namely those at an historically Black institution and others at a predominately White one.


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