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Scholarly vs. Media Definitions

by: ehoy32

Scholarly vs. Media Definitions SOCIOL 2310

Marketplace > Ohio State University > Sociology > SOCIOL 2310 > Scholarly vs Media Definitions
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About this Document

Part 1 of the Scholarly versus Media Definitions of gangs.
Sociology of Gangs
Brian Kowalski
Class Notes
Sociology of Gangs




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by ehoy32 on Wednesday February 17, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOCIOL 2310 at Ohio State University taught by Brian Kowalski in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 25 views. For similar materials see Sociology of Gangs in Sociology at Ohio State University.


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Date Created: 02/17/16
Scholarly versus Media Portrayals of Gangs 2/17/2016  Common media portrayal of gangs doesn’t necessarily match realty and generally reflects a small subset of gangs and gang activities in the U.S.  Ward argues we need to move on from the “distorted, stereotypical view of street gangs as highly organized, criminal organizations bent on murder and mayhem” exaggerated by the law enforcement and media communities. Going to compare and contrast media portrayals of gangs versus scholarly depictions of gangs based in research studies and empirical data  Closely examine the popular media image and its relationship with the general public’s (and our own) perceptions about gangs How do we consume the media in terms of news in our own lives?  TV, radio, print versions of newspapers and magazines, computers, cell phones/tablets, or other o TV – 2 o Radio – 2 o Print versions – 1 o Computers – 12 o Cell phones – 22 o Other – 0  National scale – print versions are still important  Shift towards electronic means Media/Crime Relationship  Broader role the media plays through the lens of crime  Deviance and crime has attracted public attention since the 1800s o Public trials and executions to print media articles to the Internet explosion  YouTube Video: 1994 – News: OJ Simpson Arrested  Various forms of news media have always been the main source of information for the public about deviance, crime, and criminal justice (as high as 65% in some recent surveys; Kurtz, 1997; Surette, 2011) o This is still true today  Funeral Home – don’t want business that bad (murders, drugs, drunk driving)  Gunman and victim in Logan shopping center – killed mother in front of children  Pickaway County – embezzlement  DNA used – identify remains in cold case  Suspected drug dealer – hung himself in Pickaway County jail  Exotic animal law – Ohio ready to enforce  What is Dispatch trying to do? o Grab people’s attention  Important to note that most media entities are for-profit organizations  “Yellow Journalism” is the practice of using sensational stories in the print media to increase circulation and increase revenues o TV media soon followed… “if it bleeds it leads.” o Sweeps, 24-hour news channels, internet news, blogs, Twitter  Only seeing one side of the story  For example: A politician taking a “tough stance” on crime to assess the impact of media messages concerning crime and crime-related issues  Here we can see the politicization of crime and deviance at work o Crime and deviance are “easy” political issues o The majority of society is not “for” crime, so being against it or being tough on it is very safe politically o Politicians use the media as tools to get the messages out  Crime and deviance are often presented by politicians in terms of ideology and slogans o “Get tough on,” War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on Poverty, War on Graffiti  Willie Horton political ad o Commercials were created by the George H.W. Bush campaign during 1988 presidential campaign  Highlighted a single case of violent recidivism on furlough (kidnapping and rape)  Furlough: Letting incarcerated individuals out into the community to work and then go back to the prison  The program was a highly successful Massachusetts prison furlough program  YouTube video: Willie Horton 1988 Attach Ad o The commercial was very harmful to Dukakis campaign  Played on the worst societal fears and prejudices about crime (sociopathic stranger violence, inter-racial offender and victim, weapons-related, and released by a soft criminal justice system) o The political campaign as was very successful  Essentially swung the 1988 presidential election for George H.W. Bush  Messages through the media are powerful o Sometimes necessary to generate broad awareness of an issue o Common technique is claims-making, or drawing attention to issues by inserting “danger messages” that focus on the problems and threats that the behaviors in question (gangs) pose to present and future (and sometimes past) society  Common characteristics of danger messages can include: o Highly emotional claims and fear-based appeals o Draw on the testimonials of various “experts” in the field with specific knowledge of the situation (scholars, participants, ex-gang members, police officers) o Issues are often times presented as “typical” o Use statistics (scope of problem) and dramatic case examples (fear inspiring) Scholarly versus Media Portrayal of Gangs  Esbensen and Tusinshi (2007) – scholars who document the popular image of gangs by content analyzing the nation’s “big three” newsweeklies (Newsweek, U.S. News, World Report) from 1980-2006  Argue that the media have a strong tendency to produce a stereotypical image of gangs based on law enforcement data and information  Broader stereotypes of gang members o Male o Racial and ethnic minoritiy o From the inner city (or urban area) o Remain members for life  Broader stereotypes of gangs themselves: o Organized o Well-defined roles o Well-established leaders o Wide array of criminal enterprises o Satellite sets across country (Bloods, Crypts) o Heavily armed  Stereotypes don’t match empirical data A Comparison of Gang Definitions  Not an easy task to define gangs and gang members o May see gang definitions as a scholarly construct that best suited for critical analysis in a classroom  Ebensen and Tusinski (2007) find that media completely ignored all definitional issues (and maybe it’s not their job to review this scholarly discussion)  These articles simply offered sensationalistic accounts of gang descriptions filled with danger messages A Comparison of Gender and Ethnicity  Gangs have been described historically and currently as an exclusively male phenomenon o Law enforcement estimates indicate that more than 90% of gang members are male o Female gang members are described as maladjusted, sexual property, or wannabes o Early gang research echoed this finding as well  Media articles in the current study do not particularly focus on gender, but the language used in these accounts implies that gang members are male (names, pronouns, etc.)  A large body of recent data and empirical research suggests that females account for a sizeable portion (1/3)  Media articles in the current study also present and reinforce the image of gang members as racial and ethnic minorities o Image stems from law enforcement data where some estimates indicate that as high as 85-90% of gang members are African American or Hispanic  Disproportionate racial and ethnic minority participation in gangs is sometimes found in the research literature as well stemming from a focus on disadvantaged neighborhoods  National samples are expanded beyond the confines of disadvantaged neighborhoods and larger urban areas o We start to see gangs in smaller cities and rural areas where the gang members mirror the demographics of the neighborhoods o Gang members are white in primarily white communities, and gangs are primarily African American in African American communities  Law enforcement tends to drastically underestimate the proportion of white gang members, and the media image is almost exclusively minority


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