Maddened Fowl links to an essay with regard to media skewing of reportage. (sorry Biff!)
“Research on the content of crime news has long shown that the news media misrepresent the social reality of crime. Although news organizations are obligated to inform the public, they are also compelled to generate revenue, for they are businesses whose primary purpose is to create a profit….In an effort to make crime news more entertaining, and thus more appealing to consumers, the news media over represent violent interpersonal crimes because they are dramatic, tragic, and rare in occurrence.”– Grant Duwe
I recently finished Grant Duwe’s book Mass Murder in the United States. The book is a decade-by-decade account of all of the mass murders occurring in America during the 20th century. It is a fine review of the topic and belongs in the library of anyone concerned with mass murderers, spree killers, and active shooters. As an account of the history of mass killing, the book has no equals.
One chapter, however, stood out above the others for me. It was a chapter that analyzed how the media reports mass murders. I’ve long known that the media is biased, but I had no idea how bad the problem really is. Some findings detailed in the book:
– The number of murder victims strongly correlates with how often and how long a news story is reported. While most murders in the USA have a single victim, those murders with a larger body count get a disproportionately high rate of news coverage.
– Most murders are NOT covered by the news media. Depending on the study cited 40%-83% of the total mass homicides didn’t get a single minute of news coverage, either local or national. What murders get reported? Those murders having white offenders, white victims, female victims, and elderly victims. Crimes committed by or against young black men weren’t as likely to be considered “newsworthy.”
– The New York Times reported on 59% of the 909 mass killings that occurred in the USA during the 20th century. The number of stories devoted to each killing has been dramatically increasing. In the early part of the century, each reported killing averaged 1.67 stories. In the period from 1965-1999, each reported killing garnered an average of 6.36 stories per killing. Coverage of mass murders is now 3x that of what was seen in the country before 1965.
– Mass murders are 3.38 times more likely to be reported if the offender used a gun as compared to other methods (fire, automobiles, knives, etc.)
– Murders where the killer knew his victims and murders during the commission of another felony crime make up the bulk of murders in the United States. The New York Times was less likely to report these incidents than murders that occurred in more “exciting” circumstances.
– “Assault weapon” use dramatically increased the chances that a particular story about mass murder would be picked up by news wires and distributed nationally even though those weapons constitute a very small percentage of murder weapon overall.
– The most widely quoted “expert” sources in the news media are anti-gun criminologists Fox and Levin. Interestingly, the research that they commonly cite does not include the use of fire as a method of mass killing. Fire is used as a weapon in a surprisingly high number of mass murders. Fox and Levin regularly state that firearms are used in a disproportionately high number of mass killings. Interestingly, when mass killings caused by fires are added to their pool of data, the author found that mass killers are no more likely to use firearms as a method of killing than killers who only murdered a single victim
There are far more details in the book, but the bottom line is that the news media seriously distorts the reporting of mass murders. If you were only to look at reported mass murders in the media, you would think that all of them were committed with firearms, in public places, by white offenders who were strangers to their victims. That is a very inaccurate representation of reality.
Of course, you should visit the link, and read the whole thing. Or the book – if you can stomach it.
I used to be ‘on’ Facebook a lot more. I located a number of long-lost friends there, and even connected with high school reunion (and junior high!) folks there.
But, as I became more of a blogger, my time there has been limited. I usually stop by daily, just to check-in though.
While there is occasionally conflict or a difference of opinion in the blogosphere, my experience in FB has not been the same. You see, persons of more diverse opinions tend to make theirs known on Facebook. I’ve no problem with people not being on the same page. That’s one of the things that makes life interesting. I’ve posted about such friends (Ralph). Life would be incredibly boring if we were all in lock-step.
My objection is people who aren’t even on the same planet or in the same universe. These folks concern me.
As an example, I’ve known a guy for about 20 years. We worked together @ TMCCC. We had some similar interests. I liked going all out for Halloween, so did he (for example). But, we never really got political. And he moved to Australia. And back here. And he visited me in the hospital after the accident – a good guy. We’ve reconnected on Facebook, and he’s made noises about getting together for a drink, or lunch, or something. A laudable idea. But…
He obviously not only has no idea where I stand (he doesn’t read this blog); he (re)posts stuff on FB, without any knowledge of the subject, or researching it to see if it makes any sense. One (of many) examples:
This adjacent to a bunch of comments from like-minded folk also piling on, and not understanding either The Constitution or the subject matter. Complete with ‘you don’t need a machine gun to deer hunt’ comments!
How can I possibly make nice with this guy?
I have friends who are liberal. I have friends who are independent. And we’ve had healthy, sometimes heated discussions. I’m just not certain I can do so with this guy. And that ticks me off, as he’s a friend.
When I first became a PI, I began to make note of certain reference materials I often used. For example, telephone numbers for the County Assessor. Of course, this was way before cellular telephones, personal computers and the Internet. Much information was gleaned by telephone and the judicious application of well-worn shoe leather.
So, I kept a list of telephone numbers, addresses, and other reference material.
I went from Thin Man & Associates to Eric K****ac to P**M** to Tom Ezell. And eventually formed my own firm, Camelback Investigations.
And the list grew. I converted it to a Rolodex. Remember those?
Eventually, my reference directory turned into a three-ring binder with pages in plastic sleeves. And the directory saved me much time.
I still have it. Paging through it is interesting.
First we have the Motor Vehicle statutes by code, as reflected in Driver License records. Also on this page is an extract of the information available from the Assessor and the Superior Court.
The next page has the internal Motor Vehicle codes – if a driver has had a license suspended, for example.
And how many points are assessed per violation.
Then is the
Ma Bell CNA telephone numbers list. (I don’t remember where I acquired this! In fact, I don’t have it, anymore. You didn’t see this here! :-P) These are the telephone numbers used by telco employees to determine a name and address that goes with a specific telephone number. Even if the number is non-published. One just has to know how to ask. And now there are a bunch of Baby Bells. Of course, this information is 27 years old, now. I suspect it’s all done via smartphone or laptop, now. Damn monopoly break-up and technology! It’s probably all phony, anyway. It’s gone. I never even saw it!
But wait, there’s more!
Of course 99% of this information is now available over the Internet, or has been severely restricted by law since I was using the book. AND, I never was able to get my cash deposit back from California DMV when I quit being a PI! Bastards!
P.I. – pre-Internet.
We’ve touched before on some of the things TV/movie PI’s rarely address. Obviously, modern technology: cellular telephones, GPS units, and the Internet have revolutionized investigation.
But, back in the day, none of these things existed. And, much PI work consisted in tedious research, in government records offices, and public libraries. Legwork. Shoe leather.
The library with which I was most familiar was on the N.E. corner of McDowell Road and Central Avenue.
(the new library is a multi-story facility a block South of this location, on Central Avenue).
They had a large collection of city directories (still do), published by Polk and Cole’s.
The Polk City Directory and Cole’s Directory were readily available. If one didn’t monopolize their time, one could call the reference librarian and perhaps pose a question regarding information in these volumes.
My understanding is it’s much more difficult today by telephone to do this, fear of stalkers, perverts and such. Liability.
A personal visit is time consuming, but always informative.
If you’ve never seen city directories, they can be revealing.
The Polk’s Directory lists addresses, telephone numbers and names, both of businesses and individuals. In the olden days, they actually had surveyors do a house-to-house-to-business survey, asking questions, names, telephone numbers-sometimes getting confidential information like non-published telephone numbers.
And the business listings had names of company corporate officers, sometimes linked to their residence information, as well. The older volumes even had maps showing the Rural Route addresses. I imagine today, it’s all compiled from data mining. The Internet suggests they focus now more on business and automotive data.
Cole’s Directory was/is a volume, much like a telephone directory. Except printed out in reverse. Of course, back then, people just had land-lines. And didn’t move as often. And no cellular telephones!
But one could utilize both directories to find out who lived at what address, and when. They were generally published yearly. And if you purchased a Cole’s. you could call them for updated information, post-publication. They seem now to sell both the bound volumes, and provide Internet access to their directories.
The public library also had telephone directories for the city and the State. As the telephone company is now many telephone companies, I suspect they no longer do this. But, usually issued yearly, these too, can be revelatory.
Many folks became tired of certain kinds of harassing telephone calls, and paid extra for ‘unlisted’ or ‘non-published’ service. The difference being one simply didn’t get published in the telephone directory, the other wasn’t even available through directory assistance.
But many times, they’d just keep the same number, more anonymously. That’s why old telephone directories have value. Five years earlier, they might have been published!
When there was just one telephone company, I had a standing order for all the city and town telephone directories in the State, as published, for my PI business. And had City of Phoenix proper back eleven years on my shelves. You never knew what information treasure lurked therein.
As an investigator, I suspect now much of this data is available on line, or DVD, for a fee.
As a private citizen in a world with no privacy, I hope not.