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How Police Are Viewed in Editorials and Letters to the Editor: An Analysis of Themes

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 16 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1988) Pages: 195-197
D P Lambkin; R H Morneau Jr
Date Published
3 pages
Newspaper perceptions of police officers were studied by analyzing the content of editorials (ED's) and letters to the editor (LE's) from January 1, 1982 to June 30, 1984.
Two Los Angeles newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News, and the New York Times were reviewed. The number of ED's and LE's was counted, based on their major themes, and the physical size of ED's and LE's was measured by theme. Themes were defined as negative, neutral, or positive images. Study findings revealed that intelligence operations, the chief of police, and retirement pensions took more space and were the subject of most ED's and LE's in Los Angeles, while complaints against police and complaint review processes were most common in the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times was 41.6 positive, the Daily News was 76.1 percent positive, and the New York Times was 45.5 percent positive. The New York Times did not view policing functions as a major category of ED or LE interest. The two Los Angeles newspapers gave wider coverage to law enforcement topics. While ED's and LE's generally followed the same pattern of positive versus negative images in both the New York Times and the Daily News, the Los Angeles Times stood out as having a much higher percentage of ED's with negative themes and LE's with a higher percentage of positive themes. At least in the case of the Los Angeles Times, law enforcement officers appear to be justified in arguing that newspaper ED's are not in agreement with the public as expressed in LE's. 10 references, 3 tables.