According to this New York Times heat map, Covid-19 cases seem to be much more prevalent per capita in developed countries compared to developing countries…
The counts are especially high in America, Europe and South America doesn’t fair too well either.
But the count per capita is much lower in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Analysis from Brookings (source) shows the contrast much more starkly – People in developing countries make up 50% of the world’s population but account for only 2% of covid deaths.
The infographic below shows how many people die from covid (the circle) compared to the other main causes of death – if you look at the left hand side, they are generally poorer countries, on the right, generally richer countries…
Are there really fewer covid cases and deaths in poorer countries?
Brookings suggests the different may not be as great as the statistics above suggest. Because….
The different age profiles – Covid-19 affects the very old more severely – especially the over 70s – and to put it bluntly there are hardly any people aged over 70 in poorer countries, because of the lower life expectancy, whereas in developed countries have a more older age profile.
Differences in detecting and reporting covid-19 as a cause of death. In developed countries we have much better detection capacity and it’s possible that Covid has been mis-recorded as a cause of death when really, because of co-morbidity, something else was really the cause. While in the developing world people may well be dying of (or with) covid-19 but it hasn’t been traced.
in short, remember that these covid-19 death statistics are a total social construction.
However, the statics may lack validity, but government responses the world over have been severe – and this social reaction has had very real negative consequences in rich and poor countries alike!
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material is mainly relevant to the global development health topic, but there are also some nice links here to the problems with official statistics.
What is crime? An introduction to crime and deviance for A-level sociology
Crime, or behaviour which goes against the criminal law, covers a very wide variety of acts, from the relatively trivial, such as possessing class C drugs to the very serious such as murder.
A definition of Crime
A simple, starting point definition of crime is:
Crime – the term used to describe behaviour which is against the criminal law. Crime is law-breaking behaviour.
What counts as criminal behaviour thus varies depending on what the laws of a society deem to be illegal. What is legal in one country may not be legal in another.
(A closely related concept to crime is deviance which is rule-breaking behaviour which fails to conform to the norms and expectations of a particular society or social group. Criminal behaviour is usually also deviant behaviour, but there is a lot of deviant behaviour which isn’t criminal.
This post focuses on the questions of what crime and criminal behaviour are (for deviance please see this post). It has been written primarily as an introduction to the Crime and Deviance module for A-level sociology students.
The social Construction of Crime
Newburn (2007) suggests that crime is basically a label that is attached to certain forms of behaviour which are prohibited by the state (government), and have some legal penalty against them. While crime therefore seems easy to define, as the law states what a criminal act is, there is no act that is criminal in itself. An act only becomes a crime when agents of the state label that act as criminal in a particular context. For example, killing someone with a knife during a fight outside a pub in the UK is a criminal offence, but killing an armed combatant during wartime with a knife is not.
Criminal law also varies from country to country, and criminal law changes over time within one country, which reinforces the idea that there is no such thing as an inherently criminal act.
If we examine how the law differs from country to country, it shows us the extent to which ‘crime is socially constructed’.
One example is the variations in the laws surrounding homosexuality – which is punishable by death in 12 countries, but in the United Kingdom and many other European countries it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexuality.
A second example is that women in Saudi Arabia are still effectively banned from wearing clothes which ‘show off their beauty’ (according to this article in The Week, January 2020), however this is open to interpretation, and some resistance from women flouting the rules, as the case from 2017 below demonstrates…
Discussion Question:why might the law (and thus the nature and extent of ‘crime’) vary so much across countries?
The Law in England and Wales
While you don’t need an in-depth understanding of the legal system it is useful to know something about it because it will help you understand where the law comes from and thus how the law changes, and consequently how crime changes over time.
There are two main sources of law in England and Wales
Common Law, which evolves through decisions made by judges at trials, which set precedents for future trials.
Statute Law, which comes about through an Act of Parliament – typically through bills proposed by members of parliament which are debated and modified, often over several months, which then become acts of law.
The Gradual Evolution of Common Law in England and Wales
English criminal law derives its main principles from common law. The main elements of a crime are the actus reus (doing something which is criminally prohibited) and a mens rea (having the requisite criminal state of mind, usually intention or recklessness). A prosecutor must show that a person has caused the offensive conduct, or that the culprit had some pre-existing duty to take steps to avoid a criminal consequence. The types of different crimes range from those well-known ones like manslaughter, murder, theft and robbery to a plethora of regulatory and statutory offences. Today it is estimated that in the UK, there are 3,500 classes of criminal offence.
Parliamentary Acts and Changes to Law in England and Wales
Over the last two centuries, many new laws have been introduced through over 4500 Acts of Parliament which have responded to various social changes, one of the most recent being the ‘Psychoactive Substances Act of 2016 which made it illegal to supply a number of so called ‘legal highs’.
One single act can also make a number of behaviors illegal – such as with the 2010 equality act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate against Transgender people and pregnant women.
NB – The fact that there are so many acts of Parliament demonstrates the extent to which crime is socially constructed. Since 2010 there have been more than 200 new Acts of Parliament.
Today, The Crown Prosecution Service recognises eleven classes of criminal offence, ranging from very serious (class A) through to Miscellaneous lesser offences (class I).
Class A: Homicide and related grave offences. E.g. Murder
Class B: Offences involving serious violence or damage, and serious drugs offences. E.g. kidnapping, armed robbery.
Class C: Lesser offences involving violence or damage, and less serious drugs offences – e.g. possession of firearm without certificate.
Class D: Sexual offences, and offences against children – e.g. sexual assault.
Class E: Burglary etc. – Domestic and Non-Domestic and ‘going equipped to steal’.
Class F- K: Theft and Fraud etc. – e.g. possession of articles for use in frauds; counterfeiting notes and coins.
Class H: Miscellaneous lesser offences – e.g. – Possession of Class B or C drug.
Class I: Offences against public justice and similar offences –e.g. Intimidating Witnesses
Class J: Serious sexual offences, offences against children – e.g. Trafficking out of UK for sexual exploitation
A quick look at a snapshot of the Crown Prosecution’s categories of offences demonstrates how crime is socially constructed – More acts become criminal as the law evolves. The table below shows how a whole raft of behaviours suddenly became ‘constructed’ as criminal following the 1998 criminal justice act, such as breaching an ASBO (ASBOs didn’t exist prior to 1998!).
The Criminal Justice System (FYI)
For those that are charged, they will either appear in Magistrates Court or the Crown Court.
Virtually all criminal cases start in the Magistrates’ courts. The less serious offences are handled entirely in the magistrates’ court. Over 95% of all cases are dealt with in this way. The more serious offences are passed on to the Crown Court, to be dealt with by a judge and jury.
Magistrates mainly deal with
Summary offences. These are less serious cases, such as motoring offences and minor assaults, where the defendant is not entitled to trial by jury and
Either-way offences. As the name implies, these can be dealt with either by the magistrates or before a judge and jury at the Crown Court. Such offences include theft and handling stolen goods. A suspect can insist on their right to trial in the Crown Court. Similarly, magistrates can decide that a case is sufficiently serious that it should be dealt with in the Crown Court – which can impose tougher punishments.
If a case is to be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, the defendant will have to enter a plea.If they plead guilty or if they are later found to be guilty, the magistrates can impose a sentence of up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000. If the defendant is found not guilty (if they are ‘acquitted’), they are judged innocent in the eyes of the law and should be free to go – provided there are no other cases against them outstanding.
Because of the seriousness of offences tried in the Crown Court, these trials take place with a judge and jury. The Crown Court deals with Indictable-only offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery or less serious offences that are too complex for the magistrate’s court
If the defendant is found not guilty, they are discharged and no conviction is recorded against their name. If the defendant is found guilty, they are sentenced and the courts can impose four levels of sentence, depending on the seriousness of the offence:
When deciding what sentence to impose, magistrates and judges have to take account of both the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender.
A sentence needs to:
Protect the public;
Punish the offender fairly and appropriately;
Encourage the offender to make amends for their crime;
Contribute to crime reduction by stopping reoffending.
In India, teenage girls aged 14-15 are sometimes pressurized into marrying by their family against their will, often due to financial reasons. The video below explores this, but looks at how teenage female victims try to avoid getting married when they do not want to…
In the less Developed United States of America, it appears that the agents of the State are sometimes less willing to protect child victims of rape and coerced marriage than they are in India.
The video below documents a girl whose family coerced her into getting married after she was raped and made pregnant by her 24 year old ‘boyfriend’.
For reasons that I don’t fully understand and aren’t really explored in the video, the 24 year old child rapist wasn’t prosecuted.
Instead he was legally allowed to marry his by then 15 year old pregnant ‘girlfriend’, with further violent abuse continuing after the marriage.
As I say, I don’t understand how the State can legally sanction violence against children, but that’s life in an underdeveloped country such as America I guess!
Ritualised Violence against girls
In the Hamar Tribe in Ethiopia,
When boys reach the age of puberty they have to go through a ritual to become men. The main event in this ritual (for the boys at least) involves jumping over some cattle four times. Once a boy has done this, he is officially a man.
However, before they jump the cattle, young teenage girls beg to to be whipped with sticks by the boys about to undergo the ritual – the more they are whipped, the more ‘honour’ they bring on their families.
NB this isn’t play whipping, some of the blows these girls receive are serious, as you can see from the scars in the video still below, the whipping often opens up quite significant wounds which take time to heal, and with healing comes scaring.
Towards the end of this video you get to see an example of this ceremony – the girls are quite willing volunteers in this ritualized violence, which seems to be a normal part of childhood for girls in the Hamar Tribe.
Child slavery in West Africa
In West Africa, thousands of girls and women have been enslaved by a practice called ‘trokosi’. Girls as young as seven are given away by their family to pay for the sins of family members. They get forcibly shipped to a shrine, possibly in a foreign country, stripped of their identity, and are forced to work as ‘servants of God’.
In the documentary below, one victim of trokosi revisits her home country of Ghana to find out why this happened to her.
She was lucky enough to get out because an American negotiated her release and became her adopted father, which kind of suggests this religion is pretty flexible!
Further examples of how childhood is socially constructed
You can probably also find videos on child labour and child soldiers, two other good examples.
While Coronavirus is no doubt a real-life event, with real-life social and (for an extreme minority tragic) individual consequences, it is also very much a media event, especially since isolation is correlated with a significant increase our media consumption with news sites especially seeing a surge in visits (U.S. data)…
Social media usage (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp) is seeing a similar 75% increase in user engagement.
The News is a Social Construction
The spread of Coronavirus, and the societal reaction to it are media-events, they are socially constructed – that is to say we do not get to see every aspect of reality, only that which is selected by media professionals.
Because Coronavirus was so unexpected, and because the consequences are potentially so horrendous (millions could die from it globally, so we are told), it’s tempting to think that the reporting around this global event are ‘true’ or, at least as accurate as can be given the lack of any actual real data.
HOWEVER, it is precisely because this event is so ‘massive’ ( global, and with a range of different responses), and because there are so many unknowns (missing data on how many people actually have it), that this event in particular is possibly the most ‘media constructed’ in world history.
Add to this the fact ‘ordinary people’ have a reduced capacity to get out and see what’s going on for themselves (because of emergency social isolation legislation), then this is also the most hyperreal event in world history. One might even ask if it’s actually happening at all, as this person does here:
Give all of this, we really need to ask ourselves how the story of Coronavirus is being constructed, and to my mind I see several core narratives which haven’t so much emerged rather than just blasted all of a sudden onto the media scene:
The 11 media narratives of Coronavirus
Panic and Risk based around uncritical use of statistics
Enforcing the importance of social control
‘The War footing’
Celebrities ‘like us’ in isolation
Sharing ‘isolation coping strategies’, while staying isolated
Victims: Private tragedies made public
New heroes (frontline workers and volunteers, especially NHS workers)
The importance of trusting medical experts/ technical solutions to Covid-19
The economic impact/ bailout of covid-19/ ‘pulling through this together’
Blame other countries or poor migrants
This is very much a first-thoughts run through of this, and I might rejig it later. Below I provide a few examples for some of these themes.
NB – I am not saying that we shouldn’t take this virus seriously, and I do accept that this is a highly contagious bug and potentially deadly for some (like the flu, that’s also deadly!), and the challenge we face is the rapidity of the spread of it. But at the same time, I just think we also need to aware of uncritical reporting of the death rates and social responses…
NB for a ‘content analysis’ challenge, scroll down to the bottom of this post!
Media Narrative One: Panic and Risk based around uncritical use of statistics
At time of writing (April 1st 2020) you get this theme from doing a basic Google search for the term ‘Coronavirus’:
The panic is in the language in the ‘top stories’: ‘record surge of cases’, ‘fatality rate shoots up’, but also in the images – you’ve got The Army, the Prime-minister with a lab technician (themes 2 and 10 above there) and then just a sea of red in the next image.
This could all be contextualized instead – things get worse before they get better, in China the cases are coming down:
Theme Two: Reinforcing social control
In case you missed it, same picture as above, search return Number One: Stay At Home: Save Lives| Anyone Can Spread Coronavirus, and this is from the NHS.
If you think such a simple statement doesn’t require analysis, then you do not have a sociological imagination.
Coronavirus is the most searched for term atm (NB that is an assumption, but I think I’m pretty safe making it!), and Google is the most used search engine in the world: so these are the nine words which people in Britain are the most exposed to.
There’s a rather nasty psychological manipulation technique going on here – social control through the internalizing of potential guilt: if you go out, you could kill someone.
However, the fact that this advice comes from the trusted and loved NHS makes us think (maybe) that while dark, this must be ‘good advice.
Confused yet, terrified? I’m not surprised!
NB: Keep in mind that this advice is reinforcing government emergency lock-down legislation, legislation that is not based in hard statistics on the actual chance of people dying from Covid-19 – there’s every chance that the real mortality rate from the disease is the same as the flu, but here we are in lockdown for three weeks.
On the theme of social control, I found this from The Sun especially interesting…
Here we have the perfect way of reinforcing the stay at home method – a 19 year old female nurse (although I don’t know how she can be qualified at age 19?) crying because people are flouting the stay at home rules – the perfect hero and victim, all rolled into one!
If that doesn’t make you feel guilty for going out, nothing will, I mean look at that face, how could you hurt her?
Theme Three: The War Footing
President Trump has declared himself a war time president, and he’s far from the only one using the ‘War Footing’ narrative – besides using war related language (fight against, achieving victory, the national effort), a lot of commentary harks back to WW2 analogies – I heard one lab technician today saying how his small lab, testing for Covid-19, was like one of the boats from Dunkirk, for example.
Theme Four: Coronavirus Villains
You really don’t have to look far, and probably no newspaper does a better of job of singling these out for us than The Sun, which tells us that going out for a too long walk is now deviant (top right hand corner below)
Anyone who now goes out for anything but emergency health reasons or going to the supermarket for essential food shopping is now a deviant!
Theme Five – Celebrities like us in Isolation
I present you my man Gregg Wallace – getting buff while in isolation in his Kent Farm House… coping with isolation, just like us! (Except he’s probably in a very large farmhouse in a very exclusive part of of Kent with several acres surrounding him, and a couple of million quid in the bank to fall back on in tis of crisis, like every other celebrity.
Theme 6: Coping Strategies
Here’s a nice middle class example from The Guardian. I’m sure there are plenty of other social media sharing strategies going on out there!
Theme Seven: Victims: Private tragedies made public
This example from Sky News is interesting – it shows how the media is lining up to report on ‘the most extreme’ cases… even before Covid-19 is confirmed as a cause..
Theme 8: New Heroes
The NHS front line workers appear to have emerged as the new heroes, as well as other essential key workers, but it’s mainly NHS workers who are getting the praise – the weekly clap for the NHS has become a media event with extreme rapidity (clapidity?)
Theme nine: The importance of trusting medical experts/ technical solutions to Covid-19
This is an emerging theme, which I expect we’ll see a lot more of in coming weeks. Not much to say on this atm, but it is there – at the bottom of the BBC News links – I might be overanalysing this, but the fact that it’s at the bottom, or at the end, does suggest implicitly that such technologicla drug trials are the way out….
Theme 10: The economic impact/ bailout of covid-19/ ‘pulling through this together’
A key idea in the sociology of crime and deviance is that crime is socially constructed which means that whether an act is criminal or not is determined by social processes. In the case of crime, the introduction of new Acts of Parliament which change the law constantly change the nature of crime.
As a result, there are many things that were not illegal in the past which are criminal and thus illegal now.
A brief timeline of some recent changes to the law illustrate this…
1973 – Motorcycle helmets made compulsory
Before 1973 it was perfectly legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, not so from 1973.
Previous to this it was held that men could not rape women within marriage, because the marriage union was equivalent to consensual sex at any time. The illegality of rape within marriage was not formalised until the 2003 sexual offenses act.
1994 – informally organised Raves made illegal (sort of)
In 1994 The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was aimed at clamping down on anti-social behaviour. It effectively gave the police new powers to break up raves, or any informally arranged gathering of 100 or more people listening to music involving a series of repetitive beats.
The 1992 Castlemorton rave, the biggest ever informally organised rave in British history, is one of the events that led to the establishment of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Anti-Social Behaviour Act…
NB the act didn’t technically make it illegal for you and your mates to organise a rave, it just makes it easier for the police to break them up, slap an injunction order on you, and then arrest you the next time for breaking the injunction order.
This notorious act also made it easier for the police to break up road protests, move on travellers and arrest hunt saboteurs.
Made it illegal to smoke indoors in public places such as public transport and bars.
You used to be able to smoke in pubs, as the video below illustrates…
Besides being some seriously excellent music, there’s plenty of people smoking away in the background! Keep in mind that this was on mainstream TV in 1982 at Christmas, when smoking in public was perfectly usual!
I’d throughly taking a study break for 40 minutes and watching the whole thing, but if you’re ‘on a study vibe’ fast forward to around 4 minutes and the second song ‘London Girls’ – you can clearly see the cigarette smoke wafting behind Chas, or it might be Dave. (I love them, but I’m not sure which is which!)
NB ‘London Girls’ is also a lesson in gender norms at the time. Things have ‘progressed’ there a bit too you might say!
Acts restricting (or allowing) the use of psychoactive substances are useful examples in themselves to illustrate how ‘crime’ is socially constructed. While the UK has been toughening up its drug laws increasing numbers of states in America have been making the growing and sale of cannabis legal.
2020 – parents to be banned from smacking children in Wales (probably )
Smacking your children isn’t illegal in England, at least as long as you don’t leave any physical signs of bruising on them, but there is currently an act going through the Welsh parliament that aims to ban the physical punishment of children by parents outright. It looks set to pass at some point in near future.
2020 – Coronavirus: The Lockdown Laws
There are currently (November 2020) three main lockdown laws which apply nationally in the UK:
Gathering restrictions – ‘the rule of six’ prevents people from gathering in groups of more than 6.
Face mask rules – people are required by law to wear a face covering on public transport and when going into shops
Business restrictions – pubs and restaurants have restricted opening hours, night clubs must remain closed.
The Lockdown laws are one of the best illustrations of the social construction of crime – they came into effect suddenly in Spring 2020 and are still under constant review. More over there are also locally applied restrictions, so the laws vary from area to area!
So in 1972 you could have drunk a couple of pints in the pub while smoking (in the pub), organised an attended a quick Rave with your mates with all of you high on Spice (or whatever so called ‘legal highs’ existed in 1972), ridden back home on your bike without your helmet on (assuming you were within the drink driving limits) and then forced yourself on your wife without her explicit consent, and non of that would have been illegal, thus you would have committed no crime.
At out the same scenario today and you’d be breaking multiple laws and looking at a lengthy jail term.
NB this post makes no judgement about the morality of any of the above acts or laws, it’s merely to highlight the extent to which crime is socially constructed.
The number of violent crimes and sex offences recorded by police in England and Wales have more than doubled in the last four years.
This is an excellent article by the BBC summarising this trend, with a pretty shocking embedded video in which reporters witness two serious crimes: one ‘moped mugging’ and another just ‘regular’ attempted mugging in a park.
The latest police figures for the 12 months to September from 44 forces show:
68,968 robbery offences, up 29%
138,045 sex offences, up 23%
37,443 knife crime offences, up 21%
1,291,405 violent crime offences, up 20%
However the ONS says higher-harm violent offences, such as knife crime occur in relatively low volumes, and also tend to be concentrated in cities and are therefore not “well-measured” by the Crime Survey.
Analysis (from the BBC)
Although there’s likely to be a dispute about the accuracy of the police crime figures because they hinge, to some extent, on the way forces log offences, how pro-active they are and the willingness of victims to come forward, they clearly demonstrate a rapidly rising caseload.
At the same time, the number of police officers has continued to fall: in the 12 months to last September, down 930 to 121,929. That combination – rising crime, declining police numbers – is creating enormous strain for forces.
Applying Perspectives to explain this increase in crime:
From Right Realist perspective, this increase crime will be a direct result of the declining police numbers, although the decline is so small, it probably doesn’t explain that much of the decrease.
From a Left Realist perspective, it could be due to increasing levels of marginalisation and relative deprivation (more likely?)
I think we can rule out postmodernism in the above cases – I don’t think (I might be wrong) that serious violent and sexual offences are done for the ‘thrill of the act’ – I’m fairly sure criminals don’t enjoy mugging people, for example.
From an Interactionist point of view, this increase in Police Recorded Crime (NB not reflected in the CSEW) is just an artefact of more people reporting crime – so there’s not necessarily a corresponding underlying increase.
What do you think the reasons are for the increase in the amount of violent crime recorded by the police in recent years?
Has there been an increase in hate crime since Brexit?
The Number of hate crimes reported to the police in England and Wales between 2012-13 and 2016-17 jumped by 90%, but is this because of an actual, underlying increase in hate crime incidents (or the seriousness of incidents that would warrant reporting), or is it just because people are now more likely to report ‘hate crimes’, maybe having interpreted something as a hate crime when, in fact, it wasn’t.
There is some evidence that suggests ‘misinterpreting’ or ‘over-reporting might be the case – court convictions in 2016 were lower than in 2010.
Possible increases for the increase in reporting are as follows:
The authorities actively encourage it
incidents can be registered anonymously
The victim or witness to a crime only has to interpret a crime as being racially motivated (for example) for it to be classed as a hate crime.
No evidence is needed to back up the reporting of the hate crime to get it recorded.
So it might just be, that there has not been an increase in hate crime at all, this could just be a complete social construction.
In fact, this ‘increase’ might be harmful – in that it suggests that we are more divided than we actually are!
Lord Bassam, Labour’s soon to be chief whip in the House of Lords has just agreed to repay £41 000 in expenses. The peer claimed a remarkable £260 000 over seven years to cover the cost of his accommodation in London, despite the fact that during that time, he commuted daily to his accommodation in London, a trip for which he claimed an additional £41 000 in travel expenses.
It might appear that logic would dictate that one of these must be a Fraudulent claim, a fraud committed against the UK taxpayer who pays these expenses, given that you can’t do both at the same time!
However, no sanctions or prosecutions were brought against Lord Bassam, because peers of Lord Bassam do not define his actions as a Fraud, just a ‘breach of the rules’.
Imagine if this had been someone in work claiming benefits – it’s pretty much the same thing! It’s a fraud against the UK taxpayer – the state would have taken action action against such a person.
This is a great illustration not only of how crime is socially constructed, but also yet more supporting evidence for the Marxist view of crime – in this case that ‘fraud’ is only ‘fraud’ when it’s being ‘committed’ by the poor.
Lord Bassam is far from the only only criminal peer: a recent study identified 16 ‘silent’ peers who had collectively claimed about £400 000 in expenses and daily allowances, over a year in which they had made no contribution whatsoever to debate.
News Values are general criteria such as ‘extraordinariness’, ‘negativity’ and ‘elite persons’ which journalists use to determine whether an event is newsworthy (‘worthy of inclusion in the news’).
The existence of news values is one of the reasons why many sociologists view the news as a social construction – in other words the news is not simply an unbiased reflection of the objectively most important events ‘out there’ in society; rather the news is the end result of selective processes through which gatekeepers such as owners, editors and journalists make choices about what events are important enough to be covered, and how they should be covered.
Spencer-Thomas (2008) defines News values as general guidelines or criteria that determine the worth of a news story and how much prominence it is given by newspapers or broadcast media. Brighton and Foy (2007) suggest that news values are ‘often intangible, informal, almost unconscious elements’. News values define what journalists, editors and broadcasters consider as newsworthy.
The best known list of news values was supplied by Galtung and Rouge (1970). They analysed international news across a group of newspapers in Norway in 1965 and identified a number of News Values shared by Norwegian journalists (1)
Galtung and Rouge did uncover more news values, the list below is just a selection of the most ‘dramatic’:
Extraordinariness – rare, unpredictable and surprising events have more newsworthiness than routine events.
Threshold – the ‘bigger’ the size of the event, the more likely it is to be reported.
Unambiguity – the simpler the event, the more likely it is to be reported.
Reference to elite persons – events surrounding the famous and the powerful are often seen as more newsworthy.
Reference to elite nations – events in nations perceived to be ‘culturally similar’ to the United Kingdom are more likely to reported on – for example, disasters in America are more likely to be reported on than disasters in African countries.
Personalisation – if events can be personalised easily they are more likely to get into the news.
Negativity – bad news is regarded as more newsworthy than good news.
According to Galtung and Rouge, journalists use News-Values to select-out certain events as less newsworthy than others, and they thus act as gate-keepers – they quite literally shut out certain events, and let other events into the news-agenda, thus narrowing our window on the world.
There are some contemporary critiques of the concept of News Values, but I’ll come back to those later!
(1) Chapman 2106, Sociology for AQA A-Level, Collins.
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