The media around the world do the same. For example, a study done in Scotland found that 6.5% of the news reported in newspapers involved crime, and 46% of this was violent and sexual crime, even though only 2.4% of reported crimes were actually violent or sexual (Williams & Dickinson, 1993, p. 35). The same pattern was found in Birmingham, England. Smith (as cited in Evans, 1995) found that while personal crimes constituted 5.4% of officially recorded crimes, they occupied 72.7% of press reports (p. 64). This pattern of the media disproportionately portraying crime can be found in numerous other places. The media all over the world have a fixation on the topic of crime, especially violent and sexual crime.

Not only are newspapers becoming increasingly fixated on the topic of violent and sexual crime, they are also becoming more and more interested in the topic of youth crime. The Canadian Index, from 1991 to 1993, increased their coverage of youth crime by 453%, and this increase cannot be attributed to an increase in youth crime (MacDonald, 1995, p. 153).

Knowing that the media report mainly sensational crimes, research has moved on to look at whether media reports have any effect on citizen's perceptions. Results of studies that have examined the effects have been mixed. Some studies report that those who read newspapers, which report a great deal of sensational crime, have more fear (Williams & Dickinson, 1993). On the other hand, Liska and Baccaglini (1990) state that newspaper coverage of crime lessens peoples' fear of crime, for when people read about the crime in other towns and cities, or even in other neighbourhoods, it makes them feel "safe by comparison" (p. 372).

Media reports on crime contain a number of characteristics that must be considered when examining the effects of the media on fear of crime, including: sensationalism, randomness, proportion of the news devoted to the incident, location, and whether harm is done (Heath & Gilbert, 1996). All of these factors play a role in determining the level of fear that results from the media portrayal of the crime. The media are capable of contacting many people, but whether this contact has an effect, especially in relation to crime, remains ambiguous.


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