Press reporting of violent crime fuels racism

A new report from the Runnymede Trusti has found that the print media’s reporting of violent crime stirs racist tension. The researchers analysed reporting of violent crime in 2007 and identified different approaches to reporting of crime dependent on whether the victim or perpetrator are Black or White. The authors argue that these approaches serve to influence public opinion and policy, and contribute to the reinforcement of racist stereotypes.

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 andcities. Yet an analysis of the reporting of violent crimeiii 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 ‘crass insensitivity’.

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:
· Gang, gun and knife violence is regularly identified as ‘cultural’ and then attached to particular ethnic groups. The effect is that entire ‘communities’ are criminalized on the basis of their ‘cultures’. While it may be true that certain groups are responsible for a disproportionate amount of certain typesof crimes, it does not logically follow that most members of those groups are involved in offending
behaviour. However, this logical leap is often made.

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.The media’s reporting of teen-on-teen crime has been influential in defining the direction of crime policyin 2007. However, policies based on the assumption that black ‘culture’ creates crime, or that ‘black
crime’ is qualitatively different from ‘white crime’, 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 Laflèche, 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.”

The full report is availabel on the Runnymede Trust Website

Posted by, Asif Yusuf



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