Stephanie Holgate
Steve Badman


The above image illustrates a young boys fear of what is being displayed on the local news. It’s depicted that the images being displayed on the television are too horrifying for this innocent child to watch, having him resort to hiding behind the couch as he cannot bear to watch it. This symbolizes the fear of not only the youth of today but the general public to believe and be influenced by the misconceptions that mainstream media has bestowed on society.
Public health issue
Crime, criminals and the community are three terms that are commonly associated with each other, in the sense that it is difficult to think of one without the other. In Australia there are some communities that are associated more with crime than others and therefore are more prone to media attention. However due to a high level of selectivity on what is reported in the media a distorted view on the extent and nature of crime, the dangerousness of a particular community, the common perpetrators of crime and the effective responses to crime (A. Sanson, J. Duck , G. Cupit, J.Ungerer, C. Scuderi, J. Sutton,2000). This Forms incorrect stereotypes of particular cultures and communities, creating a public health issue as local citizens who rely on media as a source of information are drowned with fear as a result of these misconceptions (K. M. Drakulich,2012). This is displayed in the artefact above as we see the overwhelming affect media is having on the child. This then begs the question as to whether this is a true depiction of reality or is news just simply making news?
Literature review
Technology has become a major part of today’s society with the Australian Bureau of Statistics stating that in 2011 79% of households in Australia had internet access (Australian bureau of statistics, 2010-11). As a result of this media has more access to the public eye dramatically increasing its influence. What’s so concerning about this is the fact that people put their trust in what we hear and see through these avenues of the media allowing it to shape how they think and what they believe in. Tim Radford of The Lancet (1996) agrees with this in his article ‘Influence and Power of the media’ stating that People tend to rely on what they hear on the television and read in the newspapers as their means of gaining information. It can therefore be argued that how certain issues are portrayed in the media, are going to impact on how people view these issues. This becomes a concern when what is being portrayed are issues such as crime especially when the views of the media involve stereotyping particular communities and cultures.
To be influenced or to not be influenced? When the majority of today’s society relies on the media as a source of local, national and world wide news, there’s not even a question as to why mass media has such power and influence over the public. However is there selective choice of what is displayed a depiction of reality or is it an over representation of the truth, distorting the views of people within today’s society on the reality of criminality in their local areas? Research has shown that media over represents crimes of violence and exaggerates levels of risk and dangerousness. Recent studies provide evidence to suggest that crime rates as depicted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics are not as high as the media portrays them to be (P.Rendall, 2011).
How crime and criminals are portrayed in the media has many negative affects and this poses several community health risks for example if people are lead to believe that they are living in a society of high levels of crime and violence they are likely to isolate themselves from their community reducing personal well-being and the strength of a civil society (A. Sanson, J. Duck , G. Cupit, J.Ungerer, C. Scuderi, j. Sutton, 2011).
Over the past decade technology has become more and more prominent within society to the point where it seems almost inescapable, it’s in every restaurant, in every work place in every home and in every hand. This is a concern as what this is doing is allowing the issue of misinterpretations of crime and criminals in the media to sky rocket.
The constant heighten of public and media issues that focus on criminality are fueling fear to everyday people, leading to a large up rise of health and social risks (A. Doyle ,2006). Gilbert and Heath (1996) defend this notion further stating there is a great concern that the focus of violent crimes in the news and fictional crime reenactment television programs has the potential to generate fear within society. Studies conducted by Hazel Kemshall (1997) an expert in this field highlight that the media tends to display their personal perception of risk on particular issues, voice their own opinions and miscalculate the probability of the recurrence of particular events. Ultimately over exaggerating the seriousness of particular issues which poses the risk of this widespread panic within society.
By being constantly bombarded and confronted by crime, the general census is to isolate and avoid communication of locals in the targeted communities. This is so, as if people are lead to believe that the outside world is a dangerous place they are more likely to refrain from interacting with those in their community. Isolation ultimately affects one’s social and mental well being having a serious impact on and individuals’ holistic health. Community health also suffers as due to these misinterpretations particular stereotypes are formed which can cause conflict within a community. This is so as some groups may take offence to the segregation within their community as a result of these stereotypes and resort to violence against the community. Another possibility is that others in the community may take the law into their own hands and wage war against a group based on what the media has said about their particular demographic. Both instances can potentially cause unwanted conflict which can negatively affect the public health of a particular community causing more crime ultimately fuelling the media with more stories to twist (P. E. BELLAIR, 1997-2012).
This issue is one of great importance and requires immediate attention from the government in the sense that something must be done in order to ensure that what is being reported in the media becomes more of a reflection of the truth rather than what the media believes will get them the best ratings. As although the networks responsible for this issue rely on good ratings, they must take into consideration the damage the selectivity of what is reported can have on an issue as serious as crime. There are countless legislations surrounding media restricting what can and can’t be shown on television and other forms of media. For example certain fictional television shows are only allowed to be shown on television after a certain time so that children do not see them (Gutterman, 2011). This is an affective measure and it is clear that there is a need for something similar when reporting the news. As like the evidence suggests there is a lack of restriction on what is reported and what is not resulting in a distorted depiction of the truth. Needless to say the current lack of restriction is a serious issue because as is so evident in literature analysed the effect of misinterpreting an issue as serious as crime in the media can have catastrophic effects on the health of an individual and a community.
Cultural and social analysis
The issue of mass media and the influence it has on the public is very much prominent within Western Society as people have become reliant on technology and media as a form of both gaining information and communicating (Marlow, 1993). However according to Gong, Li and Stump (2007) there are some cultures in the world that do not share the same levels of reliance on technology and media as a means or gaining information or communication. There are many reasons for this including conflicting religious beliefs, access to technology and poor economic status. As a result of this however it does mean that the issues surrounding mass media do not affect the people of these cultures like they do the people in today’s western society. As without this prominence of technology within their community they are not faced with the issues of a distorted reality through the misinterpretation of information provide by these forms of media. Subsequently meaning that the lives of the people within these particular cultures are not influenced to the same extent as the people of today’s Western Society.
In saying this however although mass media may not influence the lives of people from different cultures in the sense that it does not change the way they view the world like it does the people in today’s western society, it still has a great effect on their lives. Mass media is in fact guilty of racial segregation on both a local and global scale and is responsible for a large proportion of racial stereotypes through the angles it has taken on both local and global issues in the news. Stein (1994) defends this notion suggesting that stereotyping in America’s mainstream media is evident, with reports on the African American population continually using offensive terminology, biased reporting and a narrow-minded view of American society. This has a serious affect on this particular population as if the media is stereotyping them as violent and associating them with criminal activity due to its influence over society this is how the public will view this particular population. Ultimately creating a public health issue as communities may be divided by cultural segregation causing health issues for both the individuals involved and the community as a whole. On a more global scale the media is also responsible for the views of the people of today’s western society on different cultures in the world. For example, the media in western society has placed a great deal of emphasis on Africa and the violence taking place there. Many things have been said about the degree of brutality of the events taking place there forming opinions in the minds of the people of western society that Africa is a place of war. This stereotype is not entirely accurate as not all of Africa is war torn, however this is the focus of the media and as a result of this these are the views the public will form on Africa (Hawke, 1992). This is a serious issue as with distorted views of the rest of the world, people in western society may become fearful and judgmental of other countries and cultures. Meaning that they may never be able to travel and explore the beauty of other countries and cultures and they may not be very accepting of other cultures.
From this evidence it is clear that whilst the issue of mass media does not influence the way people from other cultures around the world live their lives to the same degree as those living in today’s western society. It does most certainly affect their lives in one way or another.
Analysis of the Artefact and Learning Reflections
From the analysis of this particular topic we can now see how appropriate the above artefact is in depicting the seriousness of such an issue. The young boy hiding behind the couch symbolises the general Australia public and how they are fuelled by fear from the influential stories that are being displayed in the media. This therefore allows the people of today’s society to relate to the terror displayed in the image emphasizing the true significance of the artefact. This boy is not only a reflection of the Australian public but of me personally as I am to heavily influenced by the media, therefore also allows me to relate to this artefact.
From analysing the in depth research found on this topic I now have a much greater understanding of how the power and influence of the mass media affects the vast majority of individuals as the media seems to be inescapable. The portrayal of the media often stereotypes particular communities and cultures when in relation to crime, which has a major impact on the public health of the communities involved. However what I discovered is it’s not a matter of what they report but how they report it.
With this heighten knowledge of the negative affects of the media, I now know not to put all my trust into the depictions of the media and search deeper to find a true reflection of reality through more valid sources such as journal articles. This has had a major impact on my future learning, as I now recognise the true importance of valid resources when conducting my own research.