Media Coverage of the Criminal Justice System

by titi123 on November 22, 2015 - 11:57pm

Media Coverage of the Criminal Justice System


The criminal justice system is a system that allows the government to differentiate right from wrong.  Within a country, the criminal justice system’s primary goal is to try and govern the role of crime.  In order to reach this goal, governments must enact laws and regulations. Since the criminal justice system differs in each country, I will focus my research on the American criminal justice system. In today’s society, the media has a dominant role in creating the public perception of the criminal justice system. Each day different cases and stories go viral on media outlets that alter the public’s view of the criminal justice system. Society constantly turns to the media to gain a better understanding while furthering their knowledge about certain profound criminal justice topics. The research question that I will be investigating is does the media influence the criminal justice system in ethically troubling ways? I will emphasize my research particularly on how the media manipulates and uses propaganda as a mechanism to allow society to look at the criminal justice system I’ve chosen this topic because I am in enrolled in a law and society program and I am very interested in criminal law and the justice system.


    The media can have a big impact on how the public perceives the criminal justice system. There are many situations where the media manipulates storylines or tries to omit details to lead the audience towards one view or another. An example of this could be seen in the Trayvon Martin case that happened in February 2001.Mr. Zimmerman, a police officer shot an unarmed black 17 year-old boy. Mr.Zimmerman claimed that the boy had attacked him, punching him in the nose and smashing him down on the pavement. Mr.Zimmerman said it was self-defense but he was still charged of second-degree murder in 2013. This on going case had many people questioning the criminal justice system (CNN,1)(Alvarez,1).  The public was enraged and began to protest against the law.  This case was constantly disputed and highly controversial as the media discussed it through many of their platforms. The most intriguing platform was media. People from all over the world starting tweeting about this horrifying case using hashtags such as #TrayvonMartin, #BlackLivesMatter and #ifTheyGunnedMeDown. Hillary Clinton also reached out to Trayvon Martin’s family because she was so touched by this. Treyvon’s mom Sybrina Fulton says in her interview “Hilary is interested in making changes in the area and is paying attention to what is going on in our Country right now on a daily basis and it is probably affecting her indirectly and so she wants to make some type of changes” (Youtube, Fulton). Hilary Clinton saw what people were saying in the media and felt it was necessary to take a stand. 


      Trayvon Martin became a symbol of a phenomenon called  “racial profiling” and left many people angry and confused as to why they let this police officer go. Many people protested that Mr.Zimmerman shot this innocent African-American boy because of his skin colour. The media is responsible for news and information around the globe. The propaganda that they feed to the public affects the image of the situation at hand. The media outlets are able to alter the context of situations which makes it ethically wrong on their part. The information that spreads can either be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. The information that was being released about this specific case was both positive and negative. It was good because it opened a lot of people eyes and spread awareness. A good rare example of how the media helped this case was through a lady named Maria Roach, who decided to take a stand and create a petition about the subject.       

      ‘’A few hours later, she decided to do something with her stress. She logged on to, of which she had been a member since 2008, created a petition through and shared it with her roughly 200 followers on Twitter. “I thought maybe I’d get 100 signatures, and by the end of the day I had 75,” she said. “By Monday morning I had 75,000 and now it’s up to 479,000.” (Gray,1)

   Maria was very surprised to see all the people who reached to her petition. She said, “It showed how powerful a tool social media turned out to be in turning a local police case into a viral movement’’(Gray,1). The Media helped spread awareness as it elaborated on the issue of racism. This petition had over 1.5 million signatures. It was attached to Twitter and Facebook which helped grab national world attention. Brianna Bayo-Cotter,’s communication’s director said that “this is their largest online petition drive ever” and it is because of social media (Gray, 1).


   “Ten years ago people would have read about this in the newspaper, then left it alone feeling sad. Now people can take their outrage and turn it into real action,” says Bayo-Cotter. “It’s really a testiment to the tragedy of this case and the power of social media to draw attention and allow people to have an avenue.” I agree with Bayo-Cotter because without social media and the advances of technology Maria would of never been able to spread awareness on this issue of racism (Gray,1) 


  We can also argue that the media lead people to believe that the criminal justice system is unethical and corrupted due to the final allegations.  The media will always have its pro’s and con’s depending on how we look at the situation and how we react to it. 


      A second matter where the media played a role in altering the public’s perception is through Police Brutality. Police brutality has caused a lot of problems in our society today. Police brutality is when a police officer uses physical force  to control a situation. It is when a police officer uses physical force or if they use a weapon against an individual when it isn't necessary. A good example of police brutality is the violence that broke out in Baltimore on April 27th, 2015. On April 12th, a coloured man name Freddie Gray was chased down by Baltimore police officers and was then picked up and dragged  by a police officer to their van while the man was screaming in pain which was caught on film by a local resident. Freddie was then in a coma and later died, the cause of his death was because of police brutality. These six Baltimore police officers were then charged for Freddie Gray’s death. The video that was caught on film then went viral spreading through every social media ( Gilmore, 42). What happened in Baltimore is a very good example of how the media constantly exposes police authority in unethical ways. Videos are constantly being exposed through the media revealing how police are using violence to resort a problem. There has been many videos lately that have been exposed on social media with a hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, these videos give the officers a bad name because it comes off as them being racist.  According to Cassandra Chaney “blacks are more likely to be the victims of police brutality” “Blacks are more likely than whites to make complaints regarding police brutality” (Smith and Holmes 2003). Blacks are more likely to be the victims of police brutality because we are constantly seeing pictures and videos in the media of this. Police officers are using physical force only on people who are coloured skin. A twitter account called “Feminist Culture” tweeted the following:


Feminist Culture


A grown man pressing down his knee (and weight) into a teenage girl who did NOTHING. #McKinney #BlackLivesMatter


This is another great example of police brutality; this went viral and was all over the internet. It created a lot of buzz and had 1,659 retweets and 1,448 likes (Noman,1). It showed millions of people how a police officer was being aggressive with a African-American teenager who did absolutely nothing. All of these tweets, pictures and videos had people asking a lot of questions. One african american boy named Jermiah tweeted  “I thought cops only pull their weapons when they are in danger, not out of anger?”. It did not take long for this tweet to get recognition.


In retrospect, I believe that the media’s impact on the context of events in the world play a bigger part than most people see. The media has the ability to alter stories or omit ideas which is the height of unethically. The media can manipulate the way one thinks or acts towards a specific situation. We need to consider that that the material that the media transpires should not play a role in one’s perception. Although the media can sometimes manipulate situations and bend ethics issues, it can also spread awareness and capture information that is hard to retrieve without turning to the media. To conclude, the media constantly faces the dilemma of telling news while remaining ethical throughout, but at the end of the day, it is up to the people to be rational and judge the situation in an unbiased matter.  













Work Cited 




Alvarez, Lizette. "U.S. Won’t File Charges in Trayvon Martin Killing." The New York 


Times. The New York Times, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.



Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray Robertson. "Racism And Police Brutality In America." 

Journal Of African American Studies 17.4 (2013): 480-505. Academic Search 

          Premier. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.



 Gilmore, Scott "Freddie Gray, The Day After The Night." Maclean's 128.18 


(2015): 42. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.



Gray, Madison  Social Media: The Muscle Behind the Trayvon Martin Movement." 


NewsFeed Social Media The Muscle Behind the Trayvon Martin Movement 


Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. 



Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts -" CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 

16 Nov. 2015.



"Trayvon Martin's Mother Sybrina Fulton, Talks Hillary Clinton - LoneWolf Sager(â_â)." 



YouTube. YouTube. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.