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Systems Change

Changing the 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. Previous winners have included journalists and producers from the London Evening Standard, Channel 4, Just Radio for BBC Radio 4 and the Sunday Times, focused on issues such as knife crime, racial inequality in the criminal justice system, restorative justice and the use of imprisonment for women.

Developing on the Media Awards, we recently spoke to journalists, charities, academics and people with lived experience to explore how the media can report on criminal justice in a more nuanced, sensitive and constructive way. Our 2021 report, Behind closed doors: How journalists can better shine a light on criminal justice for a more informed public, draws together these insights and provides a range of ideas and suggestions for journalists, news organisations, policy makers, charities and funders.

Listen to the CJA discuss the report on One Small Thing’s JUSTICE podcast alongside the Evening Standard’s David Cohen and media literacy and solutions-focused journalism expert Jodie Jackson.

Evening Standard journalist David Cohen accepts CJA Media Award