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Communications Network in CJS & the Media

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You have a nephew in high school that e-mails you and asks for your help with a school project about the media. Specifically, he has asked for help regarding how the media is utilized by law enforcement in his community. Reply to your nephew's e-mail and give him information regarding how law enforcement can use the media and other means of quickly and efficiently disseminating information to their benefit. To avoid being one-sided, be sure to provide your nephew information regarding how the media sometimes works to the detriment of the criminal justice system as well.

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Solution Preview

Research suggests that the media can have both positive and negative effects on the criminal justice system.

For example, in Tabloid Justice: Criminal Justice in an Age of Media Frenzy, Fox and Van Sickel document the shift in news coverage style to produce what they call tabloid justice, characterized by several high-profile cases in the 1990s: the O. J. Simpson murder trial, the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, the Rodney King police misconduct trial, the Menendez brothers' murder trial, and the Clinton/Jones/Lewinsky saga. Coverage of these cases illustrates how the informational role of newsgathering has been subverted by the entertainment role. A circus atmosphere dominates, and coverage tends to distort public perception of the operations of our legal system. The authors review criteria used by news outlets to determine newsworthiness and how it has changed. They attribute the change to the growth of cable news outlets and a relentless demand for more news. According to these authors, the "commodification" of criminal trials and investigations has increased familiarity with how the justice system works, and it has also corroded faith in the system. Moreover, it has tended to reinforce social cleavages as it sensationalizes the racial, sexual, and economic aspects of these cases. http://www.amazon.ca/Tabloid-Justice-Criminal-Media-Frenzy/dp/1555879381

Another example comes from a study carried out last year estimated at more than 27,000 the number of articles that referred to organized crime in 15 Canadian dailies and magazines over a six-year period (Beare & Ronderos, 2001). The question they were interested in answering is: Does media coverage of OC-related events influence public opinion, and, if so, how? They reviewed a series of scientific articles and studies written by academic researchers, research groups and various agencies based in Canada, the United States and Europe. http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ccaps/media_e.htm. They found three main findings how the media impacted public opinion of the criminal justice system and crime, in general:
1. The criminal events that the media decide to report on are not necessarily always those, in actual fact, that are the most significant in terms of frequency, trends or the way they represent the offenders involved. In our opinion, giving precedence to the coverage of specific types of crime might influence public opinion with respect to crime, at least regarding the perceived relative importance of specific types of crime.
For instance, researchers Sheley and Ashkins (1981) conducted a study based on the seven FBI-defined criminal indices. They compared trends reported by police, ...

Solution Summary

This solution examines how law enforcement can use the media and other means of quickly and efficiently disseminating information to their benefit. To avoid being one-sided, it also provides information regarding how the media sometimes works to the detriment of the criminal justice system (CJS) as well. Supplemented with an artilce on the media and the CJS.

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