Object and Arbiter: The Police and the Los Angeles Times, 1996-2006

Stacy K. McGoldrick


This paper examines the treatment of the police in the Los Angles Times between 1996-2006 through content analysis and supplemental interviews of police officers as well as reporters from print, radio and television media. After a brief review of the history of the fortunes of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Times during the years under study, the paper describes patterns of police coverage. The content analysis revealed an increase in international stories, a decrease in stories of local interest and a dearth of articles that applied critical analysis of, or skeptical regard to, police actions. The content analysis and interviews revealed that police departments and the news industry were undergoing opposing shifts: while there was a rise in the tendency of police departments to professionalize their communications (with departments' Public Information Officers increasing dramatically in stories over the years of study), there was also a steep decline in the resources news outlets were devoting to coverage of the police. These opposing tendencies, when correlated with the shifts in police reporting revealed in content analysis of the Times, can help explain why the paper provides its readers with less sophisticated and political police coverage. In effect, police are more often used as “witnesses” of fact rather than objects of analysis. This lack of vigilance over police actions hinders improvement in police/community relations in Los Angeles.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/smc.v2i2.513


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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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