Glimpses of Gotham
At the heart of crime reporting lies a massive irony: Although crime news usually means fast-breaking daily stories, the practices, purposes and postures of American crime reporters have remained largely unchanged for more than 150 years. The very characteristics that make the crime story compelling—immediacy and drama—give it a short shelf life. If the problems of crime reporting in American newspapers are clear, how and why they exist, and what to do about them, are harder to determine. Crime reporting has been done largely—although not exclusively—by men. Yet it is profoundly concerned with men and women—and sex. In the 19th century, when most Americans saw women as the caretakers of morality, crime reporters spilled much ink over prostitution. In the 20th, when women are less likely to be seen as guardians of social purity, crime reporting involving women has become more blatantly sensational—and less avowedly moralistic.