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Print media reporting on drugs and crime

Media Release

28 January 2001

A paper, Print Media Reporting on Drugs and Crime, 1995-1998, released by the Australian Institute of Criminology today, examines a sample of print media reporting on drugs and crime over a four year period, from January 1995 to December 1998 to provide an empirical study of how the media portrays drugs and crime in Australia.

In releasing the paper, Dr Adam Graycar said "In any modern society, the media provide important sources of information about matters beyond people's personal experience. This applies especially to social deviance, including drugs and crime. How the media reports drugs and crime, therefore, has a great impact on public debate about, and ultimately on policy decisions related to, drugs and crime".

From the data it was found that the number of articles focusing on drugs and crime has increased over the period studied, with a marked increase in regional newspapers.

It found that while the proportion of articles that drew on research or cited statistics has increased, overall use of such information is extremely low.

The study found that there was greater reporting of property crime by individual users than there was of drug trafficking and associated criminality. This appears to be related to increased attention to heroin as the main problem drug.

The paper, by Michael Teece and Dr Toni Makkai provides some suggestions about how media professionals and stakeholders (especially criminal justice researchers and government) can work together to improve reporting on drugs and crime.