This research paper highlights on the ways that the mass media has encouraged the copycat murders. The copycat effect is used in reference to the situation for which a sensational publicity about the violent acts of murders or suicides causes the tendency to result in more of similar effects through imitation. The Media influence or media effects are terms used in media studies, in psychology, communication theory and in sociology in reference to the theories concerning the ways in which the mass media affect the way in which the audiences think or behave. The critiques of the influences of media suggested that media can weaken or delimit an individual's capacity in acting autonomously by connecting the world to the individuals and reproducing of self-images of the society, this characteristic of media is ascribed as an influence which is reminiscent of the telescreens, These Include all the kinds of media namely; the newspapers, TV, Radio, Internet and the Books.
The media generates information in a networked setup, it then publishes the information using the articles, videos, and the photos to the consumers, this influences the individual's ability to interpret the delivered information while at the same time it potentially influences the unrelated cultural and the personal beliefs, basing on the propaganda model. The Mass media content which is created for the newsworthy events and the untold stories have consequences on the consumer's and culture can also be influenced.
The media has a strong social and cultural impact upon the society. This is due to its ability to reach a wider audience with strong and influential messages. The Television broadcasts have a lot of control over the content delivered to the society depending on the number watching and the times in which the same content is viewed. The internet creates the space for diverse political opinions, social and the cultural viewpoints and a higher level of consumer participation. The process of agenda-setting is almost the unavoidable section of news gathering in the large organizations which are stakeholders of the mass media. The media is not a crude agent of propaganda, but it organizes the public understandings by providing the overall interpretations that are preferred by, and in most cases it is least challenging especially to those with the economic power. News coverage of violent crimes serves the public interest, depending on how much coverage is necessary if it is necessary to cover every violent crime and the level of detail.
The coverage of crimes in the society can be a valuable tool in decision making. If the Individuals are properly informed, they can make rational decisions basing on their personal safety. In case the population has been misled, may it be intentionally or not, depending on the nature of the crimes, and the rarity or commonality of the said crimes. When the coverage is an endless repetition of the apparently meaningless tragedies, then it causes a numbing effect on the population. The public interest may be the justification for the coverage of the mass murders, but in reality profit is the real motivation, since the mass media are in the business of making money and therefore the mass media cannot ignore mass murders. The allegations the mass media unintentionally promotes the mass murder is a serious one. Hence the mass media determine the appropriate level of coverage and it is necessary to cover every such crime. There is need for the media to devise the methods for discouraging the "shoot your way to temporary fame" which encourages copycat murders. It is evident that this problem has not been adequately addressed in the existing works on the media ethics.
A review on a number of the recent works in this field have suggested a trend the general problems of psychological and economic harm caused by inaccurate or unethical mass media reporting has been considered in great depths, However the very severe form of harm which is the unintentional encouragement of copycat murders has not been specifically discussed. A Noted author and the cultural behaviorist Loren Coleman explores how the media's over-saturated the coverage of the murders, suicides, and the deadly tragedies made an impact on the society. This is The Copycat Effect-the phenomenon in which violent events spawn violence of the same type. He recognizes the emerging patterns of the Copycat Effect, how to deal with and counteract the associated consequences as individuals and as the culture.
Loren Coleman translates the academic research on the copycat effects an understandable form in which He brings the imitation of violence to reality through the detailed case studies and the person-centered examples, such as the sensationalized reporting on suicide, sniper sprees, suicide via the airplane, suicidal cults, the post-office killings, and the teenage suicide. The media is largely in a state of denial on how its coverage on the death incidents contributes to the violence and destruction of lives in the society. Loren Coleman's in "The Copycat Effect" examined the major news events, which were encouraged and promoted by the mass media, and those which get repeated in lesser-known incidents which were covered primarily by the local news.
Klaidman & Beauchamp (1987, pp. 93-123, pp. 201-7)) discussed the issues on journalistic-induced harm, but only with respect to the damaged reputations and the business losses. Pointed to the problems of the news organizations which created the news events, including the problems international terrorism, they did examine the possibility that the journalist's efforts can play a part in causing a specific murder. Lambeth (1986) provides a thorough theoretical model in addressing the ethical issues on journalism, However, he fails to address the problem of media-induced harm.
Hulteng (1981, pp. 71-86) sampled out the ethical codes of a number of the American newspapers; he reprinted the complete text of codes of the ethics for the Associated Press Managing Editors, the American Society of the Newspaper Editors, and the Society of the Professional Journalists. All these ethical codes address the issue of harm and balance in a very general way but do not directly discuss how the coverage of a particular criminal act can lead to the copycat crimes. The news media is supposed to satisfy both the obligation of accurately informing the public about the nature of the society's murder problems, and the obligation of the stockholders to keep the circulation up. The inevitable public boredom with the coverage of the meaningless "little" murders makes this an impossible act to balance.
The media coverage on some murders in the sensational manner has been customized in many events. The editors justify this time-honored tradition basing on the economic considerations and in light of the major roles. The editors need to figure out the many innocent lives that will be sacrificed in order to boost the circulation, or promote the political agendas. These mass media studies suggest that that there is need for standardized means in which a kind of crime violence should be given the attention proportionate to its size, in relation to the its magnitude, and base on the importance of its victims. The Violent crimes of all types should be highlighted, in a relative way to other causes of suffering, which are proportionate to the social costs.
Meyer (1987, pp. 155-156) points to the problem of the unbalanced reporting of the health and safety issues in the mass media causes the wild and inaccurate notions on the relative risks of various causes of death. He gives an example where a surveyed group of the greatly underestimated deaths caused by the emphysema, relates to the deaths by homicide. Meyer described one of the studies carried out by researchers at the University of Oregon, in which it was found that the pictures formed inside the heads of the people who were interviewed tended to be influenced by the spooky, violent world of the newspaper content as compared to the real world.
It is important that the studies recognizes how the misleading portrayal of the real world can become an artifact of the popular morbid curiosity, that the newspapers must satisfy or lose in their circulation, this reflects what Meyer terms as, "The Distorting Effects of the Perceptual Models." In brief, the journalists through the mass media enhance certain assumptions in their work. They make use of the facts which do not fit into the journalist's perceptual model that tends to be downgraded in its importance or ignored. This study bases on the facts which include the statistical analysis, even at the most basic level, but the primary liberal arts orientation given to the journalists comes to the forefront takes the precedence. (Meyer, 1987, pp. 48-50)
David Lester's (1989) study titled, "Media Violence and Suicide and Homicide Rates." He summarized the two reports extracted from the National Coalition on the TV Violence.
he first report asserts that there exists a negative correlation between the suicides and violent, media related issues, and a positive correlation in relation to the homicide at the same time. The second report asserts somehow similar, which does not statistically signify the relationships between the best-attended films, suicide and the homicide. Lester's shows that the National Coalition on the TV violence is not an objective source, Lester did not attempt to analyze the methods used, or critically evaluate the significance of these reports. There are serious problems that prove or disprove the causal relationships that exist between the television entertainment and the violent behavior; therefore there is no reason to assume that the television news provides the easier opportunity for such research.
This research employed a web based survey in gathering data on the Media influences and promotion of the copycat murders. I analyzed news coverage of the mass murders in Time and the Newsweek for the period ranging 1984-91 for the evidence of the disproportionate, coverage of certain categories of mass murder in a manner that influenced the occurrence of the subsequent incidents. I used this design in order to trace the root of copycat murders and at the same time justify the hypothesis which assumes that copycat murders are accelerated by media influences.. The instrument was divided into two parts;
The "Descriptive Analysis", which describes the influences of media in the individual's ability to commit a crime as a result of the interests developed from the media highlights.. The "Critical Analysis", which assesses the extent to which the American based print media, perpetuates the copycat murders. This involved the analysis of two main Newspapers, the Times and the Newsweek based on their modes of reporting the violent criminal incidences.
ÿ Table 1 shows the data gathered on the different types of murde , it is clear that the arson mass murderers and the knife mass murderers received relatively very little attention from the Time and the Newsweek. The data shows that, there is a very large discrepancy between the amount of coverage that given to the arson mass murders, and the mass murderers involving the guns exclusively. The fire arms leads with a factor of almost nine times as much coverage as seen from the comparison between the coverage given to the exclusive firearms mass murderers and to the arson mass murderers.
Murderer Month/Year Dead Newsweek sq. in. Newsweek Sq. Inches/Dead James Huberty Jul-84 22 157.50 7.16 Sylvia Seegrist Nov-85 2 0.00 0.00 William Bryan Cruse Apr-87 6 0.00 0.00 David Burke Dec-87 43 57.75 1.34 Robert Dreesman Dec-87 7 0.00 0.00 Ronald Gene Simmons Dec-87 16 78.75 4.92 Richard Wade Farley Feb-88 7 0.00 0.00 Laurie Wasserman Dann May-88 2 54.00 27.00 Patrick Purdy Jan-89 6 370.34 61.72 Joseph T. Wesbecker Sep-89 8 52.50 6.56 James E. Pough Jun-90 9 0.00 0.00 George Hennard Oct-91 24 78.75 3.28 Firearms Murders 152 849.59 5.59 There is a large discrepancy that exists; however, this is because of the many articles which mentioned Patrick Purdy's crime. But even with the exclusion of all coverage of Patrick Purdy's crimes (there is still a very charitable assumption on the data by the Time and Newsweek, in consideration of the centrality to the Wesbecker's actions of the Time's coverage), the square inches per dead body for the firearms mass murderers is still more than 5 times the coverage when it comes to the arson mass murderers. This dramatic difference was shown by Plotting the square inches per dead body mass media coverage on the selected murderers incidents as shown below.