Media Images of Criminal Justice: We've Heard It All Before on the Radio"

Derral Cheatwood, University of Texas - San Antonio

ABSTRACT
The belief that the current views of the criminal justice system presented in the entertainment media represent a group of genres developed relatively recently in the visual media - movies and TV - ignores the contribution of radio. Long before television, and with greater saturation than motion pictures, the radio emerged as a significant media affecting America's perceptions of and attitudes toward the Criminal Justice System. All of the significant themes, genres, and formats that exist in television and film were present in some form on the radio. As a consequence, a true mass media impact on America's view - or sound - of the criminal justice system probably existed long before we commonly acknowledge. Most of the sub-genres dominating the 21st century media image of crime and the criminal justice system developed in the first half of the 20th century, including reality programs, info-tainment programs, the outsider cop, the technology whiz kids, the dedicated prosecutor, the sleuth, and others. The modern police force and media in the form of the radio grew up together, being born from much of the same technology. The relationship between crime, criminal justice, and the media is thus much older and more basic than we often recognize.

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Updated 05/20/2006