Kimberly Nucera, "Contemporary Issues in the Press: White-Collar Crime vs. Street Crime"

Kimberly Nucera

Contemporary Issues in the Press White-Collar Crime vs. Street Crime


Kimberly Nucera

History of Journalism in America

Professor Grover Furr

April 17, 1995

Within today's demanding news society, many contemporary issues receive daily coverage by all facets of the media. Some of the most highly debated coverage topics, including crime, drugs, and violence reporting have taken over as forerunners in continuous media coverage.

Generally speaking, we Americans are vehemently against all three issues, although the media's coverage whether it be newspaper magazine Or television is not necessarily true nor objective For instance, the reason why a person commits a criminal act receives limited or no media coverage, but the person's criminal actions itself as well as the punishment are the substantial and emphasized aspects of coverage.

White-collar crime is another classification of crime. This type of crime focuses on the safety of both consumer products and employees in the workplace. Not to anyone's surprise, white-collar crime receives a small amount of media coverage because we, the public consumers, are told that we do not need to read, nor to hear about it. This type of crime in some respects may be even more detrimental to a portion of the public's safety than is a person who commits a form of criminal action on the streets.

White-collar crime cover-ups, hence are not unusual. According to authors Lee and Solomon, the "criminal role of the banking industry" gets little media attention, despite the fact that The New York The New York Timess reported that "more than $100 a year in drug money flows through the nation's banks (241).

Crime reporting in contemporary society has biased double standards in deciding what is covered says Lee and Solomon, despite the fact that Newsweek covered a story that said, "The crack nation includes all sizes, classes, and hues" (241). This sentence is contradictory to the cover photograph that is printed with it. No whites were in the photo, only Afro- Americans and Hispanics in handcuffs, stretched on the ground, and placed against a wall. While another story in Newsweek titled "White-Collar Shame" was written in a less harsh and demeaning tone about big money swindlers.

American society is consumed, mesmerized, and persuaded at times by media coverage. Jeffrey Reiman, a professor of criminal justice at American University said, "We have a system shaped by economic bias from the start. The dangerous acts of crimes unique to the wealthy are either ignored or treated lightly while for the so-called common crimes, the poor are far more likely than the well-off to be arrested, if arrested, if charged convicted, and if convicted sentenced to prison (Lee and Solomon 242). The media reports criminal acts of the poor daily, while the people who commit white-collar crimes go unnoticed.

According to attorney Gerry Spence, "the cost of corporate crime in America is over ten times greater than the combined larcenies, robberies, burglaries, and auto-thefts committed by individuals" (Lee and Solomon 242). To prove Spence's statement, last month The New York Times reported that burglaries in New York City have drastically declined within the past ten to fifteen years. However, this does not mean that other crimes, like selling drugs, have declined, According to the story, the selling of drugs has increased.

According to Lee and Solomon, the magnitude of a crime has little correlation to the amount of media reporting. Reporters just simply report crime, especially murder, This point reinforces the suggestion that corporate crimes that do not result in harm, injury, or death need not be reported, For example, a story in Time titled "There Are Not Children Here" reported a murder, which was alleged committed by an ll-yr old as a means of a gang initiation. Why was this one murder singled out and reported in Time? This story is a typical example of biased crime reporting because the subject deals with minorities, gang violence, but what is most sensational is that a child is suspected of committing a murder. Hence, the reporter refers to the suburban area of Chicago as the "crime-ridden, gang infested Roseland community." This example proves the media's stereotype that crime only occurs in the poor neighborhoods, and for this reason the story was reported.

Crime reports are expressing to the public consumers that the average citizen's greatest danger is from someone below him/her economically, never though from someone well off. For every one murder committed in the United States, two people die as a result of unsafe workplace conditions, But these workplace deaths are not reported, nor are they considered murders by the media. According to Lee and Solomon, Professor Reiman said that the word crime is not used "to name all or the worst of the actions that cause misery and suffering to Americans." The label crime is reserved or saved for the poor's dangerous and criminal actions.

The American judicial system encourages the media's reports of the criminal actions of a selected few, while well-off others are overlooked purposely. In one respect, today's journalists are reporting what our judicial system considers pertinent.

Journalist Kirk A. Johnson monitored and studied 3,200 news stories from two daily newspapers, three television news broadcasts, and one radio station in the Boston area. Johnson concluded that the media in two mainly black sections of Boston reported only crime and violence. Eight-five percent of the media's coverage "reinforced negative stereotypes of blacks as drug dealers, users, thieves, or victims or perpetrators of violence" (Lee and Solomon 243). The results of this study differed greatly from the black media's coverage, which focused on the black communities' desire for education, work opportunities, and better living conditions. The difference between the two media coverages of the same city only reinforces the stereotype of the media's eagerness to report crime in poor communities. The two coverages offer dissimilar depictions of reality.

Why do stereotypes occur in crime reporting? According to author Gaye Tuchman, ethnomethodology is the study of the methods of people and how stereotypical meanings come to be attributed to the acts of other people. Reflexivity and indexicality are two features studied in ethnomethodology. Both features are "integral components of the transformation of occurrences into news events and are components of both public character of new and of the news work itself" (Tuchman 189).

News stories shape the public definition of what is happening in the news by focusing selectively on only specific details; what the editor or publisher wants covered and how they want to cover it. This point goes back to what type of crime is being reported in contemporary society. According to Tuchman, news stories are usually presented indexically meaning apart from the context of their production.

In conclusion, biases still occurs today in the media's coverage of criminal actions. Stories are reported not only not objectively but many other aspects of crime go unnoticed and are ignored daily.

Works Cited

Grace, Julie. "There are No Children Here." Time 12 September 1994. 44.

Krauss, Clifford. "Burglaries Show Big Decline in New York City." The New York Times 15 March 1995. B1 and B6.

Lee, Martin A, and Norman Solomon. Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1990.

Tuchman, Gaye. Making News. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1978.

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