Criminologists in the Media: Just Another Kind of 'Spin'?

Ted Gest, University of Pennsylvania
Rhonda Cook, Atlanta Journal - Constitution
Kitty Calavita, University of California, Irvine

ABSTRACT
What is the proper relationship between practicing social scientists and media professionals in reporting about research or soliciting opinions about crime? Criminologists welcome the opportunity to present their ideas to a broad public audience, but they often complain that reporters present their work simplistically or out of context -- or, worse, inappropriately use it to advance a particular viewpoint. Reporters and editors welcome the insights that scholarly sources can provide, but they complain that social scientists insist on technical or involved explanations that do not resonate with the public. Moreover, both criminologists and media representatives fear that their work will beused politically to advance agendas that they might not necessarily support -- in other words, that research gets transformed into just another piece of advocacy for "spinning" public perception. This roundtable discussion will explore the uneasy relationship between media and social science and conclude with a practical question: should the ASC develop a media relations coordinating capacity, in order for ASC to become a voice on public policy about crime and justice among the media and policymakers?

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Updated 05/20/2006