Introduction Four out of every ten feature movies made in the 1920s and 1930s contained lethal violence (Dale, 62). Comics (Spiegelman et al., 240 Barcus, 17),police-detective and men's magazines as well as romance magazines (Otto, 189 Greenberg, 118) are usually filled with violence. Two-thirds to three-quarters of all television plays in the 1950s showed violence at the rate of between six and ten incidents per hour in prime-time and about 20 incidents per hour in children's programs (Head,139). Crime and Media Violence Media violence and crime statistics are usually worlds apart. Studies of trends in front page violence in newspapers, about 18 percent of the stories, and news of violence on network television, 26 percent of the stories, revealed no relation to trends in crime statistics (Clark and Blakenberg, 45 Garofalo, 87). Sheley and Askins (224) found that while violent crimes were only one-fifth of all real crimes, media coverage and public estimates reversed the pattern. Likewise, Dominick (67) found that two-thirds of all prime-time television programs contained some violence with assault, armed robbery, and murder accounting for 60 percent. Unlike in real life, violence by strangers was more frequent than violence by family and acquaintances of the victims. Haney and Manzolatti (131) noted that television crime and violence emphasizes greed and other personal characteristics but rarely underlying social conditions. A review of studies of crime reporting and portrayals (Dominick, 69) concluded that television presents violence from the law-enforcement point of view, emphasizes personal and largely ignores social aspects, does not present an adequate picture of the legal process, and does not provide accurate information about crime, criminals, and real-life violence. Civil Disorders The Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission) (160) was the first to discuss the role of reporting in group violence. It concluded that while initial news reports and television coverage may be exaggerated and inflammatory, and accounts may deviate from events, sensationalism or racial incitation were not the major problems of the coverage. Rather, the major problem was the historic failure to adequately analyze and report racial grievances and tensions. The almost inevitable focus on black-white confrontations and efforts at law enforcement simply continued the historic pattern. Superficial or stereotypically polarized coverage rather than sheer sensationalism have been enduring features of press coverage of xii
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