How race and crime are covered in media


by Sunny
24th April, 2008 at 4:42 pm    

A Runnymede Trust paper published last week, A Tale of Two Englands – ‘Race’ and Violent Crime in the Press, analyses newspaper articles over a two month period, and identifies clear differential patterns in the way in which the press reports on violent crime. These patterns are strongly informed by notions of race.

From the press release: “The tragic and disturbing patterns of violence between young people are a legitimate cause for concern and for media coverage. Too many young people are victims or perpetrators of violent crime in our towns and cities. Yet an analysis of the reporting of violent crime for two months of 2007 shows that the deaths of Black victims are of less concern to the print media than those of White victims.”

“When Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Ian Blair, pointed this fact out in January 2006 he was accused of ‘crass insensitivity’.”

Further, the report shows that the way in which violent crime is reported when the perpetrator or victim is from a minority ethnic background reinforces stereotypes:

· Gang, gun and knife violence is regularly identified as ‘cultural’ and then attached to particular ethnic groups. The effect is that entire ‘communities’ are criminalized on the basis of their ‘cultures’.

· While it may be true that certain groups are responsible for a disproportionate amount of certain types of crimes, it does not logically follow that most members of those groups are involved in offending behaviour. However, this logical leap is often made.

· Anecdotal evidence is too often treated as conclusive proof. For example, an inconclusive and brief
Metropolitan Police report on the London gang profile was employed as evidence that the majority of
young refugees are committing violence on the streets of Britain.

· The media’s reporting of teen-on-teen crime has been influential in defining the direction of crime policy in 2007. However, policies based on the assumption that black ‘culture’ creates crime, or that ‘black crime’ is qualitatively different from ‘white crime’, are unlikely to be effective. Indeed they may fuel racist responses and hold back effective work to tackle the scourge of violent crime in our neighbourhoods.

Michelynn Laflèche, Director of Runnymede, said: “The press is in a key position to provide information about people, places and events of which individuals and groups may have little first-hand experience. Needless to say, this power can be used to promote understanding and open-mindedness, or conversely, feed into vulgar prejudice. Therefore, it is alarming to think that while the language used in the press may have changed in the last 30 years, many assumptions linking minority ethnic groups to violent crime remain intact.”


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  1. billericaydicky — on 25th April, 2008 at 2:54 pm  

    I will have to disagree with you on this one Sunny. The first mistake you have made is to rely on anything that comes out of the Runnymede Trust. It is presented as an independent think tank but is anything but. Like other similar set ups, the Young Foundation comes to mind, it is in the business of finding racism. Like the CRE if the racism didn’t exist it was invented.

    There are literally hundreds of these think tanks/consultancies dreaming up schemes to make money. I read most of the press every day as well as the two main black newspapers every monday. I am very suspicious of the fact that this report is based on two months last year and I am going to take a bet that they have been very selective about the months.

    I have been trying to down load the report without success to look at it in detail but from my experience there has been no bias over the last few years in the amount of coverage of black crime.

    First of all most black crime in terms of violence or murder is on other black people or on whites. Very often the black on white crime is related to muggings but there have been a whole series of attacks on or murders of white people by African Caribbeans or Asians.

    There is considerable evidence to suggest that if anything the media has down played these incidents to avoid giving the BNP an axe to grind. It hasn’t done any good as the BNP has made sure they are all well known.

    As far as I know there is only one scheme in the country to work with young people to prevent them getting into the syndrome of attacking people of other ethnic groups. It is called Operation Wedge and it has an ambitious program In Barking and Dagenham where there are twelve BNP councillors. It is bringing young people from different ethnic groups together around sport and has already begun to show results.

    I don’t know of any similar scheme operating in any other group anywhere in the country but maybe others do. I had a look at the rest of the Runnymead Trust projects and they all look pretty dubious.

    One of the things to be careful of is the”independent think tank”. Non of them are and even if the agenda is simply to keep the money rolling in for the salaries they are no way unbiased. Should be a good thread this!

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