Saturday, August 3, 2013

Whatcha' gonna do when they come for you.

by Sharon Wilson (Malaysia)

For audiences in Malaysia, crime coverage in the United States is foretold by the fiction and reality of the many television programmes. ‘CSI’,’NCIS’, ‘Law and Order’ and ‘Cops.’ These  are amongst the many crime-cop shows which attract a multitude of viewers from around the world. The main players in the show ‘the good guys’ and the men who are suspects and those who are charged -  ‘the bad guys’ are highlighted with a great script, appealing characters and in some instances, fast camera work. This works because these types of television programming blurs the line between entertainment and fact.

 On a trip to San Fransisco and Atlanta, I was not enamoured by the tall buildings and the fancy stores but I was most excited about the sounds of sirens and the thought that the police are on the lookout for criminals and being a crime and media researcher and constantly surrounding myself with crime reporters and law enforcement, I knew something was going to be mentioned the next day about it in the local paper and that had me. To the point that an incident on 16th Mission street had me pulling out my camera and capturing a moment that I deem the real reality tv.
(Man gets pulled over by Atlanta cops, pix by Fernando A. Venegas Traba)
Most crime news sends out the message of blood and gore but the coverage of crime presents crime as an unfolding mystery story, beginning with the main players profiles after which the crime itself (typically murder), the investigations and finally the trial. These true crime stories are presented as dramatic entertainment. The crime drama fits the profile of being dramatic and lends itself to the replays of the gory details of the crime itself. Crime news is inherently dramatic but it is also the case that there are numerous tools used by journalists to create the sense of drama and concern. Crime stories often include powerful visuals, making them resonate in the culture because certain pictures have shared significance and invoke certain emotional responses.
Victims, culprits, uneasy scenes, gory pictures, but crime reporting does not stop here. Coverage of rape, murder and other violent crimes has been in our media for a very long time. Although what’s perceptibly different now is the positioning of this news in the past two decades, a new redefinition has risen about what is expected to be an important and suitable subject of discussion for the reporting of news. This change in culture which is tied to the general discussions about sex and violence has allowed the respectable media to report crime news which previously has been deemed taboo. Doing so has now made the reporting more detailed and gruesome.
In all forms of reporting, crime is an aspect which has least changed even though debates may have developed and continued from the change in news agenda. Nevertheless, there has not been a news editor who has challenged the importance of a great crime story when creating a list of news for the day and the logic of it is crime sells and there will be a need for crime research and a constant excitement for me.

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