Source Variety, Event Frequency, and Context in Newspaper Crime Reporting

Rocky Dailey, Debora Halpern Wenger


Crime and criminal justice content remains an important part of local news reporting because underreporting can lead to underenforcement and overreporting can lead to misuse of resources or misguided public policies. To explore this issue, we conducted a content analysis of six daily newspapers from markets with the highest and the lowest crime per capita. The stories analyzed were overwhelmingly reported as episodic incidents and focused on violent crime. Nonviolent crimes were greatly underreported. Source variety was a key issue, with law enforcement the most commonly cited source and often the only source. This demonstrates a lack of depth in reporting, whether prompted by a desire for convenience or by necessity created from lack of resources.


crime reporting, newspapers, criminal justice

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