Media, crime and public

Media in the mediation between the police and the public

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Media in the mediation between the police and the public

Popular TV series which appeared almost simultaneously in Great Britain, Australia and the USA contributed to that in the first place. Everyday police work was realistically shown in these series and police officers were shown as reliable persons with all human strengths and weaknesses and not as stereotypes which had previously been the case. It is hard to say how such media undertaking caused a more positive attitude of the public towards the police, but it certainly offered a powerful perception of the police which was not totally in contrast with reality.

The media influence the reality. For some people the reality as presented by the media is the only reality they know (Splichal in ’94; Barak in ’01). The media do not present information in a neutral way. They do not depict the reality as it is, but they submit information and news to the process called gate-keeping. Donohue, Tichenor and Olien (’72) defined gate-keeping as “the process of the media control over the information which involves the selection of the news, their keeping, mediation, shaping, releasing and repeating” as well as “newsworthiness” which is mentioned by many authors (Shoemaker in ’96; Chandler in ’98) as “news worth releasing”, that is, the aspect of worthiness which the news has for the media as the institution. Those are mainly sensational, surprising, conflicting, controversial, different and peculiar kinds of news which are the criteria that researchers have found in relation to the media presentation of events.
The positive influence of the media in the mediation between the police and the public comes with the development of the society. The state has given great powers to the police whose abuse can be controlled by the public only through the media. In addition, the media have a positive social function of determining the limits of acceptable social behaviour (Surette in ’98), the task of informing citizens about the safety situation and taboo subjects (domestic violence, sexual abuse, child/woman abuse, etc.). There should be communication with the public and not only giving them information. This conclusion also applies to the media as the mediator.
Ever since the mass media have appeared and become popular, the researches in America show that between 10 and 25% of the news report on the safety of the nation (Anderson, Mygler in ’87; Surette in ’98; Police Operation Poll in ’02). These researchers came to the conclusion that 47% of the citizens create the image of the police according to their own personal experience, and the same number does it through the media. So, there is a great responsibility of the media for the public image of the police.

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