Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology 3:1 (April 2015), pp 1-30.


Copyright 2015 Lisa A. Kort-Butler & Michael Killingsworth. Sponsored by: Southwestern Association of Criminal Justice & Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice.


The degree to which criminological scholarship on the mediacrime relationship has been subject to the tides of moral panics is not well-understood, although there are theoretical reasons to hypothesize about the role of scientists in moral panics. Textbooks are one location in which a discipline chronicles its scholarly history and speaks to the public, making texts an important site for understanding how scholars interpret the media-crime relationship. A content analysis of over 200 criminology texts, ranging in publication dates from 1880 to 2012, was conducted. Almost half the texts covered the media-crime relationship. These texts often appeared to be responding to and concurring with public debates brought on by moral panics. Textbooks most frequently took a negative stance on the media-crime relationship, as opposed to a more neutral stance or balanced approach. Proportionally, the media-crime relationship received the most coverage in the 1950s, 1990s, and 2000s, decades that correspond to surges of public debates about comics and video games. The decision of many authors to take a negative position in texts, while others cited contrary evidence, may reflect scholarly authors’ participation, intentionally or not, in the panic process.