ARTICLE: News increase the fear of juvenile criminals

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Both elite and popular newspapers, along with news blogs, fuel the exaggerated fear of juvenile delinquents, write Nel Ruigrok, of Erasmus University Rotterdam; Wouter van Atteveldt, of VU University Amsterdam; Amsterdam-based communications consultant Sarah Gagestein; and Carina Jacobi, of University of Vienna.

The authors compared the juvenile crime coverage in five Dutch newspapers and two news blogs to the actual juvenile crime rates of 2007 and 2011. They also interviewed 12 journalists and two government officials.

The actual juvenile crime rate fell over 40 per cent from 2007 to 2011. In the three elite newspapers the amount of coverage also dropped. The two popular papers, however, maintained their coverage of juvenile crime on the same level, while the two news blogs actually increased their coverage by 31 per cent.

The authors also investigated the types and sources of the coverage. The elite papers published more thematic stories, telling more about the crimes’ backgrounds and social context, while the blogs and popular papers focused on narrowly reporting each incident. In contrast, the elite papers relied most heavily on governmental authorities as sources.

All things considered, the Dutch media overrepresents juvenile crime, advocates repressive countermeasures and increases the public’s fear of crime, the authors conclude.

The article Media and juvenile delinquency was published by the journal Journalism. It is available online (abstract free).

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