"You have a role to play, in providing information to counteract rumour. People will hear about crimes through casual conversations or rumour, or they may hear a siren as a police car dashes along the road; they will be only half-informed. It is your job as a journalist to tell them the truth about the rumoured crime or explain why the police car went past."
--Chapter 35, The News Manual
This is an aspect of crime reporting that I think sometimes people forget about. There is definitely a sensationalistic element to reporting on a particularly scandalous crime to the point of over-exposure, but there is a responsibility journalists have to provide the facts about a crime. Without this reporting, there would probably be a lot more fear and confusion because rumors would allow the real facts of the story to be exaggerated. However, the fact that news stations spend so much of their time reporting on crime gives some people a false perception of how often crime really does happen, and that sometimes causes needless fear as well. Still, it's more important to have an objective account of what is known about a crime to keep things pretty much in perspective. That's why it's so important to report in a way that preserves the integrity of the legal system and doesn't accuse people who haven't been found guilty. Another interesting thing this chapter brought up is the idea that reporting on crime shows people how laws are broken and how they are punished. I think we all take it for granted that when a crime happens, we hear about it on the news and we find out about the trial and the sentencing. But without the news, a lot of people would not have as much immediate knowledge of the legal system and perhaps feel more at liberty to do unlawful things because they don't know about the consequences. So the next time I see the media become obsessed with an O.J. Simpson or a JonBenet Ramsey kind of case, I'll just remind myself, "It's for the greater good!"