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Systems Change

Changing the Media Narrative

Why is sensitive and constructive media reporting on criminal justice important?

The criminal justice system operates largely behind closed doors, and research by the Ministry of Justice and the Sentencing Council has shown that the public lacks understanding of crime and sentencing. The media has a powerful influence in society; it can play a key role in both educating the public about criminal justice and holding policy makers to account. On the other hand, the media can contribute to myths and misperceptions about criminal justice.

Every year, we hold the CJA Media Awards to celebrate journalists, podcasters, bloggers and filmmakers who are challenging perceptions and improving public understanding of criminal justice. The Media Awards are judged by influential journalists, editors and journalism academics. Previous judges have included journalists Danny Shaw and Anushka Asthana and former editor and chair of the NUJ Ethics Council, Chris Frost.

In 2019, we worked with journalists and criminal justice experts to define what good criminal justice reporting looks like:

Relevant content. Shows what works, not just what is broken. Demonstrates originality and relevance, including ‘hidden’ voices and issues.

Challenges perceptions. Challenges myths and avoids stereotypes, clichés, negative terminology and sensationalism.  Encourages dialogue and discussion.

Well-crafted and responsibly sourced. Well-researched, accurate and based on evidence with credible sources.  Engaging, persuasive and appropriate for the audience for which it was intended.

Safe and sensitive. Portrays individuals’ experiences authentically, humanely and sensitively. Sets individuals’ experiences within a wider social policy context.

Reach and impact. Influences and inspires people to think differently, care about the issue and take positive action. Reaches key demographics such as people who are less well informed about criminal justice, people able to make positive change in the system or people affected by the criminal justice system.

Evening Standard journalist David Cohen accepts CJA Media Award