The Culture of Crime

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Overview

There is no journalistic work more deserving of the designation “story” than news of crime. From antiquity, the culture of crime has been about the human condition, and whether information comes from Homer, Hollywood, or the city desk, it is a bottom about the human capacity for cruelty and suffering, about desperation and fear, about sex, race, and public morals. Facts are important to the telling of a crime story, but ultimately less so than the often apocryphal narratives we derive from them.

The Culture of Crime is hence about the most common and least studies staple of news. Its prominence dates at least to the 1830s, when the urban penny press employed violence, sex, and scandal to build dizzying high levels of circulation and begin the modern age of mass media. In its coverage of crime, in particular, the popular press represented a new kind of journalism, if not a new definition of news, that made available for public consumption whole areas of social and private life that the mercantile, elite, and political press earlier ignored. This legacy has continued unabated for 150 years. The book explores new wrinkles in the study of crime and as a mass cultural activity—from exploring the private lives of public officials to dangers posed by constraints to a free press.

The volume is prepared with the rigor of a scholarly brief but also the excitement of actual crime stories as such. Throughout, the reader is reminded that crime stories are both news and drama, and to ignore either is to diminish the other. The work delves deeply into current problems without either sentimental or trivial pursuits. It will be a volume of great interest to people in communications research, the social sciences, criminologists, and not least, the broad public which must endure the punishment of crime and the thrill of the crime story alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Examines popular accounts of crime from the 19th-century National Police Gazette to just before the O.J. Simpson case. Among the topics of the 19 essays are the cosmology of fear, the treatment of victims and their families by journalist and bystanders, the coverage of drugs and gun control, crime reporting in Russia since the fall of the proletariate, cop shows and court coverage on television, and other aspects. A highlight is a perspective from defense lawyers by the late William Kunstler. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560008262
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224

Meet the Author

Everette E. Dennis is Felix E. Larkin Distinguished Professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business, where he serves as chair of the Communication and Media Management Department and as director of the Center for Communications. Some of his books include Beyond the Cold War, Justice Black and the First Amendment, and Radio—The Forgotten Medium. Craig L. LaMay is director of media research at the Urban Institute, Northwestern University. Before that, he served as editor of Media Studies Journal. He is co-editor, with Everette E. Dennis, of America’s Schools and the Mass Media and Higher Education in the Information Age.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 The Wicked World: The National Police Gazette and Gilded-Age America 9
2 Cosmology of Fear 23
3 The Reporter I: Cops, Killers and Crispy Critters 35
4 The Victim: Twice Wounded 49
5 The Criminal: Where the Sun Don't Shine 55
6 The Cop: Waiting for Good Dope 65
7 The Lawyer: "A Chill Wind Blows" 75
8 The Judge: Justice in Prime Time 83
9 The Court Officer: Meet the Press 89
10 The Reporter II: Better Than Real Life 97
11 Nervous in the Naked City 103
12 Kids and Crime 111
13 The Female Fear 121
14 Firearms Follies: How the News Media Cover Gun Control 127
15 Desperadoes and Lawmen: The Folk Hero 137
16 Making a Killing: An Interview with Elmore Leonard 145
17 You Want Me to Read a What? 155
18 Raskolnikov's Regret: Covering Crime in Russia 163
19 Glimpses of Gotham 175
For Further Reading 187
Index 191
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