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Neighborhood Effects of News Coverage: Understanding the Spatial Distribution of Newspaper Crime Coverage in Atlanta
Unformatted Document Text:  American Society of Criminology Abstract Submission 2009 Neighborhood Effects of News Media Coverage: Understanding the Spatial Distribution of Local Newspaper Crime Coverage in Atlanta In 2006, Atlanta experienced a 22 percent increase in homicides from the previous year, heralded by the media as a “spike” in lethal violence. Yet the news media selectively report on homicides, making strategic decisions about which events to cover and which to ignore. News organizations define certain stories as newsworthy on the basis of novelty, predictability, and youth involvement. One characteristic that has been overlooked is neighborhood context, despite the fact that violent crime is concentrated in “socially disorganized” urban neighborhoods. This study examines whether newspaper crime coverage is dependent upon neighborhood conditions, arbitrating between two competing hypotheses. According to media theory, homicide in socially disorganized neighborhoods should be less represented in the news since violence is more common in those areas. On the other hand, conflict theorists would anticipate that homicides in disorganized neighborhoods should be overrepresented in the news to maintain and perpetuate the status quo. Homicide data from the Atlanta Police Department are linked to crime stories published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution for a four-month period in 2006 to determine whether and how crime news coverage is spatially organized across Atlanta neighborhoods.

Authors: Grosholz, Jessica.
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American Society of Criminology Abstract Submission 2009
Neighborhood Effects of News Media Coverage: Understanding the Spatial 
Distribution of Local Newspaper Crime Coverage in Atlanta
In 2006, Atlanta experienced a 22 percent increase in homicides from the 
previous year, heralded by the media as a “spike” in lethal violence.  Yet the 
news media selectively report on homicides, making strategic decisions 
about which events to cover and which to ignore. News organizations define 
certain stories as newsworthy on the basis of novelty, predictability, and 
youth involvement. One characteristic that has been overlooked is 
neighborhood context, despite the fact that violent crime is concentrated in 
“socially disorganized” urban neighborhoods. This study examines whether 
newspaper crime coverage is dependent upon neighborhood conditions, 
arbitrating between two competing hypotheses. According to media theory, 
homicide in socially disorganized neighborhoods should be less represented 
in the news since violence is more common in those areas. On the other 
hand, conflict theorists would anticipate that homicides in disorganized 
neighborhoods should be overrepresented in the news to maintain and 
perpetuate the status quo. Homicide data from the Atlanta Police 
Department are linked to crime stories published in the Atlanta-Journal 
 for a four-month period in 2006 to determine whether and how 
crime news coverage is spatially organized across Atlanta neighborhoods.  

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