In the last thirty years with the growth of 24-hour news channels, Internet only news sites and the decline of the newspaper, there have been tremendous changes in how the media covers crimes. Whether it is a catastrophic terrorist attack, school shooting or a low-profile homicide, violent crime is a staple of news coverage. The field of victimology has documented that the media does not portray all crime victims the same. The race and class of the victim as well as seemingly non-relevant factors such as their age, profession and the location of the crime as well as the demographics of the offender all influence public portrayals of crime victims. Scholars refer to these factors as influencing “victim worthiness.” Victim worthiness can have an influence on jury selection, prosecutorial discretion and sentencing (Stabile, 2006). Utilizing computer content analysis, this study examined three case studies of violent crime, analyzing the news coverage and its impact on “victim worthiness.” The hypothesis of this study was there would be media bias in the portrayal of homicide victims due to “extralegal” factors (e.g. race, age, status, etc.) of either the victim (s) and/or the offender The findings of this study suggest mixed findings in support of the hypothesis.
Research Question & Hypothesis
Is there a media bias in the portrayal of homicide victims? This study examined whether there was a media bias in the portrayal of homicide victims. Our hypothesis was that there would be discernible media bias in the portrayal of homicide victims due to “extralegal” factors (e.g. race, age, status, etc.) of either the victim (s) and/or the offender.
Victim Worthiness: The Effect of Media Coverage on the Portrayal of Homicide Victims.
Undergraduate Review, 10, 49-54.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/undergrad_rev/vol10/iss1/14
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