Media reporting on crime in the Information Age is problematic, but what can be done about it?
It was Oscar Wilde who said, famously: “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, modern journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community”. He was speaking of the modernity of the late 19th Century, of course. Is journalism in the 21st Century any different – or better?
A relatively small part of the media concerns itself with providing us with accurate information and informed (and explained) opinion. This might be termed the “quality” end of the media – and it is very small and shrinking, being intended for consumers with attention spans greater than 10 seconds. Those with shorter spans have been conditioned further by social media.
It is called “tabloid” for a reason – like a tablet, something small and easily swallowed. The tabloids pitch to the emotions, rather than the intellect. Australian researcher and social commentator Hugh Mackay identified the shortening of our attention spans by the media offering us summaries of everything without details; to the effect on our vocabularies; and to the fostering of an adversarial approach to life. Things have only become worse with the widespread modern use of texting and social media.