Defund the crime beat

Let’s be honest: Crime coverage is terrible.

It’s racist, classist, fear-based clickbait masking as journalism. It creates lasting harm for the communities that newsrooms are supposed to serve. And because it so rarely meets the public’s needs, it’s almost never newsworthy, despite what Grizzled Gary in his coffee-stained shirt says from his perch at the copy desk.

This should be the year where we finally abolish the crime beat. Study after study shows how the media’s overemphasis on crime makes people feel less safe than they really are and negatively shapes public policy around the criminal–legal system. And study after study shows that it’s racist and inhumane.

While crime coverage fails to serve the public, it does serve three powerful constituencies: white supremacy, law enforcement, and newsrooms — specifically a newsroom’s bottom line.