AResearch Proposal on Media Coverage and Crime Rates in Canada
Inaccurateand biased reporting on crime by the media is common around the worldand Canada as a country has experienced numerous instances where thecrime incidents that have been reported in the news end up notreflecting the reality. The main objective of this study istofind out the extent to which crime news coverage in Canada reflectsthe actual level of crime in the country. The research methodologyfrom this study will include questionnaire surveys, interviews, aswell as, a review of crime reporting in two major newspapers inCanada. A literature review on the accuracy of crime reporting in themedia revealed that there is selective coverage of crime stories inCanada, which makes it difficult to know the actual levels of violentor non-violent crime in the country. There is a need to investigatehow media coverage of crime news has influenced public perception ofcrime and how it has influenced crime prevention policies. Theresearch proposal will encompass qualitative and quantitativeresearch in Sakatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, NovaScotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Colombia, Alberta,Newfoundland and Labrador areas. As such, the research proposal willhighlight the way the media covers crime rates in Canada.
AResearch Proposal on Media Coverage and Crime Rates in Canada
Mostpeople around the world depend on the media as their major source ofinformation when it comes to crime and safety issues, and thereforeany disingenuous information or reporting of crime issues can lead toserious consequences (Sieler-VanEvery, 2012). Research findingsindicate that 95% of the population in Canada gets information oncrime-related concerns from the media (CanadianResource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2016).Therefore, it is because of this reason that the media coverage ofcrime-related events sway public opinion and policy development is inmost cases. According to Sieler-VanEvery (2012), the term mediaincludes a wide range of elements like television, internet, radio,newspapers, as well as, alternate media. Crime statistics in Canadaindicate that about90 percent of the crimes that committed in Canada each year arenon-violent, and about 10 percent are violent. However, there hasbeen a debate on whether the coverage of crime news in Canadareflects the state of affairs in the country. The coverage of crimenews in Canada does not reflect the actual state of affairs in thecountry. This proposed research will test whether it is true that thecoverage of crime news in Canada does not reflect the actual state ofaffairs.
Informationon crime is usually very profound, and consequently, people expectthe media to be very careful when it comes to coverage or reporting.There are many instances in Canada where the information provided bythe media has ended up being erroneous, subjective and misleading.Usually, this happens when the media fails to research properlybefore reporting or when it obtains information from unreliablesources. Misleading information can end up causing unnecessaryanxiety among members of the public or making the government come upwith wrong policies on crime prevention. The media is still a majorsource of information on crime-related issues and any simple mistakewhen reporting on crime can lead to serious consequences. It is,therefore, important to conduct a study to find out if the coverageof crime news in local media reflects the real state of affairs andthe same time determine the ability of the media to influence publicperception.
Theoverall objective of this research is to find out the extent to whichcrime news coverage in Canada reflects the actual level of crime inthe country. The specific objectives of this research include:
To compare what is covered in crime news and the actual happenings in different localities
To find out how media coverage affects public perception of crime in Canada
To find out the extent to which media information on crime news should be trusted
To determine the extent to which media coverage on crime issues influences crime prevention policies
Theresearch questions for this study are:
Does the coverage of crime news in local media reflect the actual state of affairs?
How does crime coverage in the media affect how the public views crime?
Why is the accuracy of reporting on crime a relevant issue?
Does the Canadian public trust crime information from the media?
Which is the most trusted medium when it comes to reporting on crime?
Can a change in policy improve the accuracy of media coverage and reporting on crime?
What are the reasons for inaccurate media reporting on crime?
The coverage of crime news in local media does not reflect the actual state of affairs
Coverage of crime news can affect public views on crime both negatively and positively
Accuracy of media reporting is relevant because it helps the public to take precautionary measures and also influences government policy on crime prevention
A large percentage of the Canadian public does not trust crime information from the media
The most trusted source of information on crime issues is the television
A change in policy can improve the accuracy of media coverage and reporting on crime
Inadequate research can cause inaccurate media reporting on crime, poor training of journalists, lack of control mechanisms and policies to curb inaccurate reporting as well as the need to sensationalize crime issues to gain viewership or readership
Adorjan(2011) observes that events such as crime, which are covered by themedia, affect members of the public both directly or indirectlyregardless of whether the events have been reported in mainstream oralternate media. A country like Canada relies on mass media as themain source of news, product information, recreation, andentertainment. The main types of media and coverage in Canada includenational media, local media, web-based media, hard news, as well as,soft news. The public’s perception of crime is influenced in agreat way by the manner in which the media covers crime, as well as,the type of crimes the media chooses to cover. According to CanadianResource Centre for Victims of Crime (2016),editors have to come up with appropriate headlines and make complexdecisions on the type of stories that will be covered. It is always acomplicated affair when it comes to covering crime stories becausethe journalists and the editors have to come up with real facts andquotes for their stories to have some credibility. When it comes tobroadcast and newspaper news related to crime, the media managershave to make a difficult decision on which stories should be giventhe priority. Crime stories are ranked as the fourth largest categoryof stories that are covered by television and newspapers and onlycome after sports news, business and general interest news. Accordingto Brennan and Dauvergne (2011), offenses involving violence are only6% of all the reported crimes, but a survey of a sample of Canadiannewspapers revealed that over 50 % of the crimes that were reportedin the newspapers were violent. This kind of statistics makes thepublic believe that the rate of violent crime in Canada is on therise while the actual reports portray a completely different picture.For instance, homicide cases get a lot of media coverage in Canada ascompared to other crimes, and yet homicide crimes constitute lessthan 1% of all the reported crimes (Boyce, 2015). Thus, the skewedreporting of crimes inhibits the media from highlighting the actualcrime rates in the country.
Illingworth(2015)arguesthat homicide cases garner a lot of media coverage because murdercases are very rare in the Canadian society, and therefore any murderrelated crimes tend to get a lot of coverage in both the mainstreamand the alternate media. Stories that impact the largest number ofpeople and are unique and sensational are normally the main focus ofthe media. The public can be made to believe that there is a rise inyouth violence when one or two incidents are covered in the mediainvolving homicides committed by young people. Truly, such cases arerare in Canada, but continuous reporting or coverage of the fewincidents can completely change the public perception. According toIllingworth(2015),rarestories that shock the public are always newsworthy and end updominating headlines for many days making the public have a distortedview of the actual levels of different crimes in the society.Different crime stories get different levels of attention, and themedia knows the kind of stories that generate a lot of interest. Forinstance, a story involving a middle-class teenager that has beenmurder is given a lot of attention as compared to a story involvingthe murder of a homeless man. Therefore, the media tends to ignoresome common stories that are also of great interest to readers andviewers in search of more sensational crime news. Boyce (2015) agreesthat this kind of reporting makes it difficult for the public todetermine the actual levels of violent or non-violent crime inCanada. In most cases, non-violent crimes get less coverage and whenit comes to covering violent crimes only the most extreme andsensational violent crimes get a wide coverage by the media.
Illingworth(2015)assertsthat the selective coverage of crime stories by the media means thatthe public never gets accurate information on the actual level ofviolent and non-violent crime in their locality. Moreover, onlycrimes that grab the attention of the formal criminal justice systemin Canada get the media coverage while some serious violent crimesagainst woman and children remain hidden from the criminal justicesystem(Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2016).The available literature fails to point out the extent to which mediacoverage of crime news is accurate and the way the perception of thepublic on crime has changed because of media reporting. There is aneed to investigate the impact of inaccurate reporting on the publicand crime levels in the Canadian society.
Bothqualitative and quantitative research methods will be used in thismethod to get both qualitative and quantitative data. To begin with,a questionnaire survey will be conducted on a randomly selectedsample of thirty people. Each of the ten provinces that includeSakatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Nova Scotia, NewBrunswick, Manitoba, British Colombia, Alberta, as well as,Newfoundland and Labrador will produce three respondents in eachprovince for the survey. This will ensure the study covers the entirecountry. Random sampling will be used to select the respondents toget results that are more scientific. The questionnaire will cover awide range of questions in areas such as the respondent’s views onthe accuracy of media reporting on crime, how the media influencestheir perception of crime, and their level of confidence in the mediawhen it comes to crime coverage. Interviews with the respondents aswell as two social analysts and two media experts will also beconducted.
Furthermore,there will be a systematic review of newspaper reports in two leadingnewspapers in Canada to determine the accuracy of their reporting onvarious crime issues. The two major newspapers that will be reviewedinclude the Starand the Globe.The main reason for doing this is to get an insight on how crimereporting and coverage in two major print media outlets in Canadaaffect public perception on the level of both violent and non-violentcrime. A review and interpretation of crime reporting in bothnewspapers will provide qualitative data for this study. The chosenmedium for this study is the newspaper because it is easy to trackreporting on various stories and topics as compared to other types ofmass media. The deductive data analysis approach will be used to findout the similarities and differences in the data collected by usingthe research questions to group the data.
Theconsent of potential respondents will be sought before they areinvolved in this study and respondents have to make a free choice toparticipate in the study. The respondents will be interviewedseparately in a confidential setting. Furthermore, their identitiesand information they provide will also remain confidential.
Coveringan entire country looking for respondents from all the ten provinceswill be a major challenge in this study. In addition, most of therandomly selected respondents may not be willing to participate inthe study. Moreover, some of the respondents may not be aware ofcurrent events hence making it difficult to collect the requireddata. Moreover, a study that covers an entire country requires manyresources, and this may lead to budgetary limitations for theresearch.
Accordingto the review of literature, newspaper reporting, and surveys,detrimental policies on crime control have been developed because ofbiased and inaccurate media coverage of crime. Furthermore, 60% ofthe respondents were of the opinion that what was reported in themedia did not reflect the reality in their localities when it comesto crime issues. 30% of the respondents believe that the mediareports what exactly happens regarding crime events while the rest ofthe respondents were not sure their response on this matter. Theresearch also determined that the desensitization of certain criminalacts is strongly linked to lack of media exposure. Moreover, therewere certain localities that were major targets of the media when itcomes to reporting on crime, and this has led to the stigmatizationof certain localities. The study also revealed that the media has thepotential to play a major role in improving the state of crime in thesociety as well as crime prevention strategies. The analysis ofnewspaper reports on crime revealed that most of the stories thatwere covered lacked in-depth investigation and necessary contextapart from the fact that they used very few sources. Moreover, thecrime news had too much conjecture but too little fact. Limitedmedia accountability mechanisms and poor training of journalist weresome of the major reason for inaccurate and biased reporting.
Itis clear from the research proposal thatthecoverage of crime news in Canada does not reflect the actual state ofaffair in the country. To gain viewership and readership, most mediaoutlets only focus on sensational stories leaving out important factsthat can help to improve crime prevention strategies. Moreover,biased reporting has led to the stigmatization of certain groups orlocalities, and this is not good for the society. It is alwaysdifficult to measure how the public perception is affected by themedia coverage of crime. Moreover, media coverage of crime hascontributed to neighborhood degradation, moral decline, locality ofcrimes, feelings of insecurity as well as increased victimization. Onthe other hand, the coverage of crime in the media has alsoinfluenced the development of tougher public policies and at the sametime led to the fear of committing a crime. Several crime preventionstrategies in Canada have been influenced by media coverage of crimenews, but most of the reporting remains biased and inaccurate.
Adorjan,M.C (2011). Emotions contests and reflexivity in the news: Examiningdiscourse or youth crime in Canada: Journalof Contemporary Ethnography,40(2): 168-198.
Boyce,J. (2015). Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014.Retrieved on 27 May, 2016 fromhttp://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14211-eng.htm
Brennan,S. & Dauvergne, M. (2011). Police-reported crime statistics inCanada, 2010. Juristat,31 (21 July): 1-39.
CanadianResource Centre for Victims of Crime. (2016).Understandinghow the media reports crime.Retrieved on 26 May, 2016 fromhttps://crcvc.ca/publications/media-guide/understanding/
Illingworth,H. (2015).HighProfile Cases in the Media: Invasion of Privacy or Society`s Right toKnow? Retrieved on 27 May, 2016 fromhttp://www.victimsweek.gc.ca/symp-colloque/past-passe/2011/presentation/hillingworth_1.html
Sieler-VanEvery,C. (2012). Media Constructions of Youth Offenders Considered for orGiven an Adult Sentence under Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act. ElectronicsTheses and Dissertations,Paper 5544.