Does news organizations support the continuation of moral panic?

D’Amonti Batton-Jackson

Moral Panic ?

fear-and-panicWhen the concept of “moral panic” comes about, a fear among a smaller population is reflected upon the larger society as an issue that will affect the population at large. Having such a large following and being viewed as credible, news organizations/corporations can be an agent in initiating or continuing a moral panic through coverage.

The Role of Television News in the Construction of School Violence as a “Moral Panic”

An early example of news organizations initiating a moral panic was shown in an article that focused on Television’s news coverage in creating school violence as a moral panic. “During the 1997-1999 school year, the American public was riveted by magnified coverage of highly unusual crime stories of school shootings that turned into what some news outlets described as an “all too familiar story“.”

  • “Rather than providing context, the media’s labeling of these shootings as “a trend” has tended to exacerbate people’s fears about the safety of their children and youth in schools. The result is that misdirected public policy is being generated to safeguard the schools, even though the real threat may lie elsewhere. To remedy the purported “crisis” of classroom violence, politicians have proposed solutions ranging from posting additional police officers in our schools, to eliminating any minimum age at which children may be tried as adults, to expanding the death penalty to juveniles.”



Key Elements/ stages in moral panic include:

  1. Defining the threat to society (moral, values, interest)
  2. Accessible construct that can be presented by media
  3. Abrupt public fear
  4. Response from public officials
  5. Causes social change


The Process of Creating News2014-09-15_2209

To understand moral panic within news organizations, it is essential to understand the process involved in the creation of it. Being highly profit driven, the realization that news organizations  have an interest in entertainment to achieve its goals. The “similarities between entertainment media and news media, which are expected to depict an accurate and objective view of reality, are unsettling considering the enormous impact of the latter on the social construction of reality.”

Finding similarities to entertainment, the images, and messages used in the news are similar. Falling in the middle of two models (market & manipulative)  that determine the content in which media is created, it can become difficult to reason with. On one hand, the market model states that “the newsworthiness of an event is determined by what is of interest to the public”. In this model, objectivity is assumed to be supreme and features factual information being reported. On the other hand, the manipulative model “newsworthiness is determined not by what is of interest to the public, but by what is of interest to the news agency owners.”

Creating a cycle of repetition, news organizations tend to confide in social institutions or credible officials to give reliable. “This easy influx of news allows the news agencies to utilize their financial resources elsewhere.” As a result of this, news often time resembles the social norm while seemingly supporting the institutions/organizations from which the information is pulled from. Maintaining the idea that crime news is profitable, it is “being prepackaged (manipulative) and popular (market), it helps the news organization in its routinization process.”

Works Cited:



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