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The media does, indeed, cover up certain crimes. One particularly heinous well-documented hate crime in which cannibalistic actions were among others was never reported on the mainstream media because it was a hate crime from the other side of the racial card, and it may have caused "a stir." Like all news stories, crime is a selective choice for what sensationalism, political slant, or other strategy the people in charge wish.
I'm tending to lean toward response #6. The media as we understand it can manipulate the reporting of crime. That is, the media can put whatever spin on a crime story they want. Probably, I would eliminate the heinous crimes ala Ted Bundy, where the reporting may help to capture the perp. But I have deliberately singled out a horrendous example. What about the white collar crimes? What about the crimes committed everyday by local officials? Now we get into the delineation between money making reporting, and covering up. Yes, the media can cover up a tremendous about of graft and corruption deliberately based on their own interests.There definitely is a close connection between media and crime.
There are really two things being discussed here--media as the tool and media as a business (people). The means of disseminating information has been helpful in solving and deterring crime. Amber alerts, Crime Stoppers, America's Most Wanted, and etc. There is no doubt, however, that media people involved in producing and reporting crime have a vested interest in spreading details of crime-the more salacious the better, and this does sometimes increase criminality.
I agree that the news media thrives on reporting crime. I would also agree that there are some criminals that thrive on the possibility of being reported about in the media without being caught by the authorities. In most cases the local news would be non existent if not for crime.
I have a slightly different perspective on this issue. Media has made it easier to fight crime in some ways, from Amber Alerts which help locate missing children by disseminating information throughout the media, to Crimestoppers, America's Most Wanted and other call in crime shows that essentially deputize the public to help find more elusive or dangerous criminals.
On the other hand, there are some crimes, especially those that are gang-related or in the case of serial killers, where notoriety on the part of the criminals is a major motive for their crimes. Gang members want "street cred" by establishing a name for themselves. Killing a police officer gets you the highest social status in prison or on the street, so such criminals want their crimes to receive attention in the media, and the media usually obliges them. Serial killers are inherently narcissistic, and in the case of the BTK killer, lack of attention by the media was an admitted motivation for more killings.
I would argue that the relationship here is mostly one way. Crime helps to feed the media and enables the media to continue to be profitable.
Crime is one of the things that is very "good" for the media. Crime stories are very easy for media consumers to understand (unlike, for example, stories about government policies). Crime stories are inherently exciting and they follow a coherent story line (investigation, arrest, trial, etc). Because of these factors, they are good draws for the media.
I do not believe that media coverage affects the rates of crime. However, as the albany.edu link argues, media coverage does make people more afraid of crime. This leads, in turn, to more coverage of crime.
It's a complicated one to be sure.
In today's media landscape, where information is instantly available and quickly consumed, news shows and websites need more and more stories to pull in viewers and attract attention. Viewers have come to expect shocking stories and hearing about them does seem to appeal on some level to viewers. Whether this curiosity about crime is fueled by violent movies and TV shows is something that is definitely hottly debated. In either case, the stories about crime are the ones that draw in viewers.
On the more positive side, today's information access allows people to hear about important warnings more quickly and can bring in entire groups to provide information to police and investigators. It also helps warn people of possible dangers in their neighborhood.
There's also the relationship that crime dramas have had on both newscasts and prosecution of crimes. People have come to expect the exciting forensic discoveries and dramatic investigations they've seen on fiction TV shows. Without evidence like what they see on CSI, it's possible that juries and even judges could be unable to be convinced about the guilt or innocence of a defendent.
The media also has an influence on the kinds of crimes that are committed. Based on the crimes that media outlets choose to report and pay attention to, certain preconceptions about race, gender, and socio-economical status could be wrongly reinforced, creating a self-sustaining cycle of crime in certain environments.
In general, the media does thrive on reporting more and more violent crimes. However, whether this is merely a reflection of our society or somehow the cause of its problems, or a combination of those two things, is definitely up for debate. All in all, I'd say that it's a combination, that the media reinforces some dark part of our society that thrives on seeing crimes... but it is certainly not to blame.
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