A Runnymede Trust paper published last week, A Tale of Two Englands â€“ â€˜Raceâ€™ 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 â€˜crass insensitivityâ€™.”
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:
Â· Gang, gun and knife violence is regularly identified as â€˜culturalâ€™ and then attached to particular ethnic groups. The effect is that entire â€˜communitiesâ€™ are criminalized on the basis of their â€˜culturesâ€™.
Â· 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.
Â· 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.
Â· The mediaâ€™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 â€˜cultureâ€™ creates crime, or that â€˜black crimeâ€™ is qualitatively different from â€˜white crimeâ€™, 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 LaflÃ¨che, 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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Filed in: Culture,Race politics