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Media Coverage Matters: Examining News Stories About Juvenile Crime During Two Eras

Social problems are constructed through key cultural institutions such as the media. Media organizations apply different explanatory frameworks based on a number of factors, including viewership, profit motives, and prevailing cultural ideas; these frameworks have profound implications for public opinions and lawmaking. This is why I believe analyzing the media is a worthwhile endeavor. The key questions I wanted to answer are: How does coverage of juvenile crime today compare to coverage of the juvenile superpredator issue in the 1990s, and what key characteristics determine the use of different frameworks at different times? I performed a content analysis on newspaper articles about juvenile crime during two periods of time, to examine each era and compare and contrast frameworks and constructions associated with the 1990s superpredator narrative with those applied to modern juveniles. The results indicate rhetoric is used to justify policies, and the type of rhetoric used on juveniles depends on the severity/leniency of the agenda. The implications of the results suggest media coverage matters by influencing both national policy and the public's level of concern for juveniles.

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