Professor of Criminal Justice, Jacksonville State University
- Media portrayals of the criminal justice system have transformed in the last century (1890s-1990s).
- The mass media defines the public image of police, prosecutors, courts, and corrections by acting as gatekeepers of crime coverage.
- Fictional storylines and the news media reinforce one another by covering crime as an immediate public threat.
In the article, “Mass Media and Criminal Justice: the Introduction to this Special Issue,” Kania and his co-author discuss how the media impacts the public perception of the criminal justice system by analyzing previous work on the topic to draw their conclusions. Kania began examining prime-time TV and print media descriptions of criminal justice topics in the mid-1980s. The researchers concluded that the media portrayals of the justice system had changed over the century (1890-1990). They also drew the conclusion that the mass media serves as gatekeepers for coverage on the corrections process through the news as well as prime-time TV shows, which blur the line of fiction and reality. They also noted that the news media and entertainment media reinforce each other to promote the idea that crime is immediate and a public threat. The authors concluded that if justice scholars and other professionals do not take an active role in framing criminal justice stories in the media, then news and entertainment producers by default with determine the perception of this industry.