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Module SXY-2004:
Crime & the Media

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Stefan Machura

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To introduce students to the crime and media nexus.
  2. To provide a framework for interpreting and evaluating the information-value, symbolic meaning and entertainment-value of various media products.
  3. To explore media-narrated stories of crime and law.
  4. To explore any relationships between the media and deviant/criminal behaviour.
  5. To cultivate an awareness of the importance of interdisciplinary research and thinking.
  6. To cultivate an appreciation of the significance of media narratives for different audiences.

Course content

Media portrayals of crime and law are numerous. They form an object of inexhaustible interest to audiences. Many people learn about crime and law from the media, especially from newspapers, books and films. Media portrayals often contributed decisively to changes in public opinion and politics. Also, deviant behaviour can be influenced by media. Media construct deviance (e.g. by identifying ‘folk devils‘), but media also offer cultural templates for people involved in deviant activities. Media stand accused of causing or informing crime. The module deals with the cultural and political significance of media and crime. The difference between the “real” and the “fiction” will be only one topic. Also, students learn about historic, political, legal and other backgrounds of media stories. Major crime narratives employed by media will be identified. The standard patterns of telling and other technical means of media are analysed. The audience’s reaction to media and its use of media also form a topic of the class.

Assessment Criteria


40-49% Understand the basic relation of media and crime. Knowledge of typical narratives in the media on crime and law. Ability to analyse media portrayals of crime and to assess their message for the audience. Knowledge about the media portrayal's relation to law, economy and politics. Basic understanding of transdisciplinary media analyses. Ability to employ different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. Basic knowledge on the significance of media narratives for different audiences. Demonstrate an attempt to avoid major weaknesses in presentation and accuracy.



A sound knowledge of media and crime and of its relation to law, economy and politics. Critical analysis of media and their message. Knowledge of a variety of media narratives on crime and law. A good understanding of the nature of transdisciplinary media analysis. Employs several disciplinary and theoretical approaches to the analysis of media and crime. Detailed knowledge of the uses and effects of media stories by different actors and audiences. Good presentation and structure and only very few factual errors.

C- to C+


In addition to the above: Demonstrate knowledge of key areas of Crime and the Media. Have some, if only limited, evidence of background study into the relation of Crime and the Media. Be focussed on the question/task with only some irrelevant material and weaknesses in structure. Attempt to present relevant and logical arguments while not producing a large number of factual errors. Describe some major links between the topics discussed. Attempt to analyse and/or explain problems. Be free of major weaknesses in presentation and accuracy.


70% +

As before, but also able to identify alternative narratives which do not appear regularly in media stories on law and crime. Ability to relate the chosen methods of telling to different methods for newspaper articles, novels, songs and films of crime and law. Explains the relevance of these portrayals for law, crime, the media, economy and politics drawing from good knowledge about these systems. Free of factual errors.

Learning outcomes

  1. Know how the media influence deviant behaviour and political responses.

  2. Be familiar with the concepts of popular legal culture, media panics, typical narratives and modes of telling in media on crime and law.

  3. Understand the relation of media and crime and the repercussions on law and politics.

  4. Comprehend the economic, legal, political and other socio-cultural phenomena which are typically related to media and crime.

  5. Be able to interpret and evaluate media products and to assess their function as sources of information and entertainment for the audience.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Presentation (followed by Q&A) 40
Essay 3,000 words (s2) 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 152

Seminars will be taught in blocks of 4 hours every week for 12 weeks.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • The ability to identify criminological problems, formulate questions and investigate them
  • Competence in using criminological theory and concepts to understand crime, victimisation, responses to crime and deviance; and representations of crime, victimisation, and responses to these, as presented in the traditional and new media and official reports
  • The capacity to analyse, assess and communicate empirical information about crime, victimisation, responses to crime and deviance, and representations of crime
  • Understand the value of and apply comparative analysis within criminology and criminal justice.


Talis Reading list

Reading list

Essential reading: Asimow, Michael, and Mader, Shannon (2004), Law and Popular Culture. New York: Lang (2nd edition, 2013). Machura, Stefan (2007). An Analysis Scheme for Law Films. Baltimore Law Review, 36:329-345. Rafter, Nicole (2006), Shots in the Mirror. Crime Films and Society. 2nd ed., New York: Oxford University Press. (The first edition is available as e-book from the Bangor University Library Website).

Other sources: Asimow, Michael (ed., 2009), Lawyers in Your Living Room. Chicago: ABA Press. Bergman, Paul, and Asimow, Michael (1996), Reel Justice. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel (2nd edition. 2006). Carrabine, Eamonn (2008), Crime, Culture and the Media. Cambridge: Polity. Cohen, Stanley (1972), Folk Devils and Moral Panics. Oxford: Blackwell. Gies, Lieve (2008), Law and the Media: the Future of an Uneasy Relationship, New York: Routledge-Cavendish. Greenfield, Steve, Osborn, Guy and Robson, Peter (2010), Film and the Law. 2nd edition. Oxford, Hart Publishing. First edition: London: Cavendish 2001. Kafatou-Haeusermann, Maria (2007), The Media-Crime Nexus Revisited. On the Re-Construction of Crime and Law-and-Order in Crime-Appeal Programming. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. Lenz, Timothy O. (2003), Changing Images of Law in Film and Television Crime Stories. New York: Lang. Luhmann, Niklas (2000), The Reality of the Mass Media. Cambridge: Polity-Press. Machura, Stefan (2009). German Judge Shows: Migrating from the Courtroom to the TV Studio. In Michael Asimow (ed.), Lawyers in Your Living Room! Law on Television, Chicago: ABA Press, pp. 321-332. Machura, Stefan (2011). Media Influence on the Perception of the Legal System. In: Knut Papendorf, Stefan Machura, and Kristian Andenæs (eds.), Understanding Law in Society, Zürich/Berlin: Lit, pp. 239-283. Machura, Stefan, and Davies, Llewellyn (2013). “Law is an Odd Thing” – Liberalism and Law in the TV-series “The Good Wife”. Kriminologisches Journal, 45:279–294. Machura, Stefan, and Robson, Peter (eds., 2001), Law and Film. Oxford: Blackwell. Moore, Sarah E. H. (2014), Crime and the Media. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Rafter, Nicole, and Brown, Michelle (2011), Criminology Goes to the Movies: Crime Theory and Popular Culture. New York: New York University Press. Rapping, Elayne (2003), Law and Justice as Seen on TV. New York: New York University Press. Sarat, Austin, and Ogletree, Charles J. (eds., 2015). Punishment in Popular Culture, New York: New York University Press. Strickland, Rennard et al. (2006), Screening Justice – The Cinema of Law. Buffalo, N.Y.: Hein.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: