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date: 04 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines crime news between the late eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, focusing on the newspaper press in Great Britain. It lays out trends in crime and media historiography; describes the main press discourses about “crime,” “criminals,” and “criminal justice”; identifies the key agents who created crime news; and considers the press’s role in “moral panics.” Showing that the press has been a dominant source of crime information from the late eighteenth century and that crime reporting has constituted a substantial proportion of newspaper content, it argues that crime news has consistently offered a distorted view of crime, with the greatest attention being given to those crimes that least frequently appear in official statistics; this inaccuracy can reveal distinctive fears and attitudes in particular historical contexts. Moreover, “human interest” reporting, while often sensationalist, has sometimes contained quasi-political social critiques cast in a more digestible language for a general readership.

Keywords: crime, media, press, newspapers, moral panic

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