And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.
Doctrine and Covenants 1:3
One possible fulfillment of this prophecy is seen in TV news. The iniquities of the rebellious are symbolically “spoken upon the housetops,” through radio, internet, newspaper and television news stories.
Here are statistics about crime coverage in the United States.
Statistics about crime news coverage
- Crime occupies 4 of 30 minutes. In a 30-minute newscast, commercials take 8 minutes, crime takes 4 minutes, sports take 4 minutes and weather takes 3 minutes.
- Crime comprises 20% of local TV news stories. Researchers analyzed over 17,000 local TV news stories and found 20% of stories were about crime, 11% about weather, 9% about accidents/disasters, 7% about human interest stories/soft news and 7% about health. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- Crime news coverage can be extreme in large cities. In some cities crime accounts for more than 75% of news stories. (University of Kentucky)
Potential negative effects of crime news coverage
- Those who watch more TV news perceive their neighborhood as more dangerous. Though TV news gives viewers the impression that crime is escalating, crime in the United States has steadily declined since the early 1990s. According to the cultivation theory, the more people watch TV, the more likely they are to believe the social reality represented on TV. (Baltimore Chronicle , Wikipedia)
- Crime news can lead to news tunnel vision. About 35 years ago, a New York news station covered a story about a crime committed against the elderly. The story led to a wave of news stories about crimes against the elderly. Though news coverage seemed to suggest crimes against the elderly were increasing, in reality violent crimes against the elderly had decreased from the previous year. (Florida State University)
- Weakened news coverage. Because crime news is cheap to report and grabs viewers’ attention, news directors often resort to covering any news about crime. This undue emphasis on crime takes away broadcast time that might otherwise be used to cover more important public topics.
- Crime news may spur on related crimes. When viewers watch a news story about crime, they may get ideas related to committing a crime themselves. The incessant (near-famous) exposure given to criminals could actually act as a bizarre incentive for some to commit a crime. Sometimes the best way to silence an evil idea is to give it no voice.
“Television news is like a lightning flash. It makes a loud noise, lights up everything around it, leaves everything else in darkness and then is suddenly gone.”
- Hodding Carter
Personal Notes: In my study of journalism at BYU, I learned the reality that “if it bleeds it leads.” Sometimes I hoped TV news would cover more positive news. I felt that perhaps a community could be helped more by hearing inspirational stories, rather than doom and gloom stories. I hope for the day when news will focus on the brighter side of humanity.