Crime and the media part 3: The newspapers compared

OnTheBeat’s recent post on crime and the media showed that people who read different papers have very different views on crime. But, the real question is- WHY?

OnTheBeat conducts a mini experiment to find out how much of an influence they really have on their readers.

The data on crime and newspapers really got me thinking: with such huge variation between readers of different papers, is it the papers that influence our views on crime, or do people with certain views on crime happen to pick certain papers?

One way to find out is to compare the articles in each paper. As a small snapshot, I chose articles from two of the papers that showed very different patterns to one another in the data: The Guardian and The Daily Star.

Do the articles in each paper reflect certain types of crime?

With Daily Star readers being far more afraid of car crime than any other readers, perhaps there’s something in the articles that’s drawing attention towards it. Likewise, with Guardian readers being more afraid of violence than burglary, there might be something in their articles that reflects this.

I took the top 20 news articles from the May 5th online version of each paper and analysed them to see which words were used the most in each. The results are in the word clouds below- the larger a word is, the more it was used across the articles. Underneath each word cloud are the topics of the 20 articles:

The Guardian

Top 75 words used in the most recent 20 news articles from guardian.co.uk at around 6pm on 5/5/12. Includes UK and world news but excludes sport, comment and blog posts.

Articles:

1. Boris Johnson mayoral win
2. Mexico drug war claiming 23 more lives
3. Barack Obama’s new election campaign
4. Briton mauled by cheetahs in South Africa
5. David Cameron getting advance access to Leveson evidence
6. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial
7. Pakistan drone strike
8. Francois Hollande speech on sexism
9. Amnesty International report on Syrian crisis
10. RBS £1.4bn loss
11. Prostitute who triggered US Secret Service scandal
12. Global economy fears
13. Afghanistan mortar attack kills British soldiers
14. Olympics and the police
15. Bell ringers to celebrate Queen’s jubilee
16. Michael Gove and Ofsted inspections
17. Syrian bomb blast
18: Chen Guangcheng case
19. Cairo violence
20. Obama re-election campaign

Daily Star

Top 75 words in the most recent 20 news articles- dailystar.co.uk, 05/05/12, around 6pm. Includes all news articles but excludes blogs and sport.

Articles:

1. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial
2. Michael Gove and Ofsted
3. Stanstead airport queues
4. 94 year old attack victim
5. National Association of Headteachers attacks Ministers
6. M40 motorway closure
7. Study on birth defects
8. Link between hapiness and staying in school
9. Holiday weather
10. Egypt violence
11. Vet against animal slaughter
12. Afghanistan mortar kills British soldiers
13. Falklands advert controversy
14. Local elections
15. South Africa cheetah attack
16. Boris Johnson mayoral win
17. MoD hacking
18. Royal Navy Olympic security exercise
19. Lorraine Kelly to present Daybreak
20. Housewife knits spacesuit for rubber chicken

Looking at the patterns above, the most striking thing is that they are both startlingly similar. The focus of the topics is remarkably consistent across both papers, and six of the 20 stories were actually on the same topic across both. In fact, a number of the Daily Star articles especially were taken straight from press agencies, which also write for a number of other papers online.

However, the only thing to point out is that the Daily Star leans more towards home news stories, and included two transport stories whereas the Guardian sample had none. The most common words obviously reflect this focus and are perhaps less dramatic thanThe Guardian’s, with words such as ‘schools’, ‘people’ and ‘passengers’ versus ‘military’, ‘government’ and ‘evidence’.

Perhaps this focus on local news and transport has an effect compared to The Guardian’s frequent stories on violent foreign crises?

It’s an interesting thought. Though this is only one day’s snapshot, and it only compares the online ‘news’ sections rather than entertainment, sport and the like, it’s a revealing glimpse into what the papers are really saying. The similarities between the two were quite surprising, so perhaps the choosing one paper over another has less of an effect on our minds than we think.

What do you think? As PCSOs, how much do you think the media control our perceptions on crime? Have you noticed a change over the years? Leave your comments below.