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The journalist, folk devil

posted on 2023-06-08, 23:00 authored by Paul Lashmar
The media are central to the moral panic. In its’ conceptual genesis Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972) Stanley Cohen states: ‘….much of this study will be devoted to understanding the role of the mass media….’ The media deliver key criteria defining the moral panic and are primarily responsible for the most important criteria: disproportionate reaction to the perceived threat. With a substantial literature over four decades on moral panic it’s surprising so few media practitioners have been consulted by theorists or little research undertaken in the newsroom processes that created stories that are identified as moral panics. The author has been a journalist in the national media for three decades and has reported on several stories that have subsequently become defined as moral panics. In this paper he discusses how reporters perceive stories that are subsequently identified as moral panics. In this paper he asks: • who measures disproportionality? • whether the lack of engagement with journalists has resulted in a flawed vision of the moral panic process? • whether the phrase moral panic has evolved into lazy shorthand for disparaging reporting in the media where the writer has an unstated ideological or other agenda? • do theorists understand the media are diverse and not mass? • Do some moral panic theorists misunderstand the two –way relationship between the media outlet and its audience? The author argues that the moral panic theory needs a much clearer framework if it is to remain an academically useful concept.


Publication status

  • Published


Bloomsbury Academic



Event name

awaiting publisher

Book title

Moral panics in the contemporary world



Department affiliated with

  • Media and Film Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes


Chas Critcher, Amanda Rohloff, Julian Petley, Jason Hughes

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