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How Coverage of Death Sentences Vary: A Study of Two Ohio Newspapers

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: 2007 Pages: 53-78
Marian R. Williams
Date Published
26 pages
This study examined how two different urban newspapers covered death sentence cases that took place in the State of Ohio over a 24-year time period.
The study hoped to provide another dimension in the literature that focuses on media coverage of crime and justice issues, particularly the death penalty. While it is supported that television and particularly the newspaper coverage of these issues is plentiful and, in most cases, sensationalistic, it cannot be assumed that all coverage is equal, especially newspaper coverage. Results indicate that there are differences in the way local newspapers cover death sentences. Cincinnati’s Enquirer provides coverage that is overwhelmingly local, tending to overlook death sentence cases occurring outside the local coverage area. In addition, both newspapers had no coverage of a handful of local death sentence cases. It is argued that conclusions about public attitudes toward crime and justice issues must be tempered by the fact that media coverage of crime, even specific types of crime, is not created equal. Research on media coverage of crime and justice issues tends to examine the effects of this coverage on public opinion, fear of crime, and other attitudes. Coverage of the death penalty, particularly executions, is a popular topic among researchers, who wish to examine whether deterrence is achieved when media outlets cover executions in the news. This study examined an underlying, and perhaps overlooked, aspect of this previous research, how consistent media coverage was of these issues. It examined newspaper coverage of death sentences in two urban newspapers in Ohio, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer and Cincinnati’s Enquirer. Tables and references


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