Media and crime

Crime is constantly hitting the headlines.

The following sources are a collection of articles about crime from newspapers of past centuries. However,stories about crime did not only feature in the news media. The Newgate Calendar was a popular compilation of broadsheets sold by peddlers at public fairs and executions in the 18th century. The Calendar told lurid stories of the crimes, trials and punishments of notorious criminals held at the Newgate Prison.

Questions about crime...

  • What types of crime were considered 'newsworthy' (interesting or serious enough to warrant mention in the news)?
  • How were criminals and their crimes represented?
  • Which social and cultural ideas might have caused particular crimes to be defined 'criminal'?
  • How were policing and evidence gathering presented?

Think about entertainment, truth and fairness in relation to crime in the media.

Choose a selection of recent articles about crime to compare with the reports from the past.

  • Are today's newspapers more or less interested in crime? What about punishment?
  • Are descriptions of crime and punishment in the news today more or less sensitive, or more or less sensationalist?
  • Are stories are told in a balanced way, with all points of view represented?
  • Are you presented with fact, opinion or speculation about crime?

Where else do stories about crime feature today? Think about documentary film, 'true crime' and autobiography in relation to crime reporting from the past.

Chose a topic from one of the historical sources presented here (murder, robbery, youth crime, political militancy etc.) and search recent news for articles about the same type of crime. Compare the ways that the stories are told. What can you learn about crime, its policing and punishment, and the way that it is explained and understood?

The Newgate Calendar

Crime in the newspapers