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Newspaper coverage of the police in Scotland: Comparing National and Local Newspapers in 1991, 2001 and 2011 Heather H PowerPoint Presentation
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Newspaper coverage of the police in Scotland: Comparing National and Local Newspapers in 1991, 2001 and 2011 Heather Horsburgh  University of the West of Scotland. Content analysis part of wider PhD research looking at police-media relationship.

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Newspaper coverage of the police in Scotland: Comparing National and Local Newspapers in 1991, 2001 and 2011Heather Horsburgh 

University of the West of Scotland

content analysis part of wider phd research looking at police media relationship
Content analysis part of wider PhD research looking at police-media relationship
  • How do the police view their relationship with the media?
  • What do the police use the media for?
  • How much control do they have over the relationship?
  • Has news coverage changed as police communications have become more professionalised?
why is it important
Why is it important?
  • The media are arguably the public’s main source of information about the police and crime (Leishman & Mason, 2003)
  • 2010/2011 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey found that around 40% of people got their impressions about crime from local news.
  • Results from the British Crime Survey (BCS) indicate that newspaper readership was the strongest predictor of perceiving that the national crime rate had gone up
previous research looking at news content
Previous research looking at news content
  • Proportion of news coverage dedicated to crime and criminal justice ranges from 5% to over 60% (Reiner 2000).
  • The media focus on the most severe crimes, such as murder and serious sexual assault (Reiner 2000; Leishman and Mason 2003; Ditton & Duffy 1983).
  • Ditton and Duffy (1983) Scottish study of newspaper content
method
Method
  • Analysis of three time periods: 1991, 2001, 2011.
  • Daily Record, Scottish Sun, The Evening Times
  • Two constructed-week samples for each year (Stempel 1952; Riffe, Aust, et al., 1993; Riffe, Lacy & Fico 2005).
  • Recording type of story, type of crime, whether it is solved, whether it is critical of the police or CJS, victim and offender characteristics, etc.
some tentative findings
Some (tentative) findings
  • Read and coded 2,806 stories, so far.
  • In all three years, crime stories were the most common type of story.
    • 1991: 19.6% about crime
    • 2001: 18.7% about crime
    • 2011: 19% about crime
implications of focusing on serious crimes
Implications of focusing on serious crimes
  • A generally favourable image of police (Reiner 2000)
  • Because the crimes which the police are generally poorer at detecting (e.g., vandalism) are not reported by the media, the police are ‘let off the hook’ from their poor performance (Leishman & Mason, 2003).
  • However, can impact fear of crime and impressions of police ability to deter crime
interview with head of communications at strathclyde police
Interview with Head of communications at strathclyde police
  • “one of the things I keep on saying to my staff, which they hate, is that in actual fact until we recently changed the way we were working, you know, our Press Office was one of the biggest contributors to fear of crime in the west coast because all we did was, on a daily basis, churn out story after story about people getting their head kicked in and everything else and I used to say to them well, why don’t we stick out a press release one morning that says good morning ladies and gentlemen, you know, 1.3 million people were not the victim of crime last night because that’s the reality.”
other findings
Other findings
  • 1991: police are mentioned in 15.4% of all news stories and in 45.71% of all crime stories
  • 2001: police are mentioned in 14.1% of all news stories and 44.27% of all crime stories
  • 2011: police are mentioned in 15.3% of all news stories and in 53.1% of all crime stories
findings cont
Findings cont…

Table 2:Percentage of positive, negative, neutral stories about the police

Example of positive: “Armed police uncovered the proof when they seized thousands of pounds in Scottish bank notes during a raid on a West Midlands Yardie stronghold… Lothian and Borders Police have already reported a massive rise in cocaine seizures in the last year, up from £14k to nearly £300k.”

a negative story
A negative story
  • Headline: black PC put on 'trial' by cops dressed as klan
  • “A black policeman was dragged into a room for a kukluxklan-style trial by white colleagues, it was revealed yesterday. He was forced to sit through a series of insulting charges made by the 4 men - two of them Glaswegians - dressed up in White sheets. As other off-duty officers watched, the British Transport Policeman was "accused" of: walking on the black bars of zebra crossings, potting the black ball in pool games, eating black magic chocolates. '....other source said 'the ordeal the young black constable had to go through was humiliating to the extreme. it was a kangaroo-style court and the charges ridiculous. the 4 constables were even dressed up in white sheets - just like the kukluxklan race bigots in America.' spokesman said, 'the investigation is being headed by a chief superintendent of the force'.” (The Scottish Sun, 1991)
have the police solved the crime
Have the police solved the crime?
  • 1991: 29.9% of stories reported a crime that hadn’t yet been cleared up, 48.64% had been cleared up.
  • 2001: at least 49.99% had been cleared up by the police and at least 20.75% had not been cleared up.
  • 2011: at least 46.63% had been cleared up, while at least 32.56 had not been cleared up.
glamorising crime and criminals
Glamorising crime and criminals
  • In 1991, 11.3% of crime stories tended to do this. In 2001 this figure fell to 7.38% and in 2011 it was 5.72%.
  • How newspapers can make crime and criminals “seem dead sexy” is great source of frustration for the police.
  • Mob Vengeance: Two shot dead as drug king is buried'…Grieving father Arthur Thomson Snr buried his murdered drug baron son yesterday. And as the son was being laid to rest, detectives probed the slaying of 2 gangsters - found executed in a car. Like Thomson Jnr, they were involved in the struggle for power in Glasgow's drug world. Like Thomson, both died at the hands of a hitman with a handgun...The men who died yesterday were Bobby Glover and Joe "Bananas" Hanlon. .... 'some came in Mercs, some in BMWs, some in Rollers and some in top-of-the-range saloons...big men with broad shoulders and bull necks dressed in dark, striped suits and dark coats. A few had gold studs in their ears. Most wore chunky gold watches and heavy diamond-studded gold rings. Many other young men walked to the quiet cemetry, a lot of them bearing the scars of previous gang battles across their cheeks. The scene was straight from a Godfather film. Glasgow's own East Enders lined the streets in respect as the car made its way to Riddrie cemetery.