NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Reality And Reporting Of Crime

October 12, 1998

Most crimes aren't reported by the news media, and a new study suggests that those crimes that are reported don't reflect actual patterns of crime or risk of victimization. Researchers studied newspaper coverage of 9,422 homicides in Los Angles County, Calif., between 1990 and 1994. They found that 13 percent of the murders were covered by the Los Angles Times.

Also, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health:

  • Homicide victims in Los Angeles tend to be young adults -- 85 percent were minority and 85 percent were male.
  • But crimes that made the newspaper tended to have victims who were women, children or the elderly, and victims with more education received more coverage.
  • Newsworthy homicides usually were ones in which the victim and killer were strangers.
  • Murders of women were twice as likely to be covered as murders of men.
  • Murders in neighborhoods where the household income was more than $25,000 were also twice as likely to make the newspaper.

Researchers say the skewed crime reporting might be one reason the majority of people believe that the country is not making progress against crime.

Source: Laura Beil, "Study Finds News Doesn't Reflect True Face of Nation's Homicides," Dallas Morning News, October 12, 1998.


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