The "temperature" of knife crime headlines

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A key WikiTribune question to London Mayor Sadiq Khan was about knife crime. As he says, “The causes of violent crime are extremely complex” and the solutions, therefore are not easy. A series of articles in the Guardian by Gary Younge shows this complexity in careful detail and his research shows that of the many popular solutions ( such as “lock-em up”, “stop-and-search”, “more bobbies on the beat”, “more youth interventions”, “follow the Scotland example”) some are of little value and others will take the sort of long-term commitment that it is hard for societies to agree to.

It would be easier to reach a consensus if difficult topics were discussed with some degree of cool analysis. It is a commonplace that politicians have to respond to heated demands from the tabloid press. So an interesting question is how heated these demands really are.

Here is one attempt at an analysis. The phrase “knife crime” was entered into LexisNexis, with responses limited to headlines in UK newspapers for the last year. The results were downloaded into Excel, obvious duplicates were removed, leading to 500 headlines. Newspapers were sorted into major groups (so “Mail” contains headlines from the Daily Mail and also the Mail Online) and groups with small numbers of relevant headlines (Star and Sun) were omitted from the analysis.

Headlines were then graded in terms of their “temperature”, from 1 which is ice-cold factual to 5 which contains BLAZING capitals and EMOTIONAL TERMS. The gradings are subjective. The dataset is available on request if others would like to attempt a more objective analysis. An additional piece of data is how often each paper contained a headline containing “knife crime”: Express 93; Mirror 82; Independent 70; Mail 70; Telegraph 66; Guardian 50; Times 27.

The “temperature” of articles is shown per newspaper, colour-coded from icy to flaming. The Guardian has a large % of “icy” articles while the Express chooses “hotter” headlines

Readers can draw their own conclusions about the nature of the knife crime debate within the UK media.


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