How media coverage affects judges and juries

by | Apr 4, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

The media is an important factor in the lives of most people. In fact, recent studies indicate that Americans spend an average of 10 hours a day consuming media—whether it’s on the television, a smartphone or a computer screen. The question is, in a world where people have so much access to information and media coverage, how is the legal system affected?

Ultimately, as more people read about companies and accusations online, or follow along in PR campaigns they may be less able to perform their duties as a judge or jury with an entirely objective opinion. After all, the way that we see companies in the media can change how we feel about them overall.

Representing the legal system in media

One of the initial ways that the media can affect jurors and judges is in the way that the legal system appears on movies, television shows and in other channels too. Countless people spend their days streaming or binge-watching stories about legal systems online, and the information that they see in these shows can change the way that people perceive legal experts.

For instance, if someone watches a show in which a legal psychologist is often portrayed as unreliable or trustworthy, then the next time they act as a juror, that person may address psychologists with unconscious bias. Often, people don’t even realize that they’re looking at people with prejudice until they give reasons for their decisions at a later stage.

Learning about the clients in the case

Another way that media coverage changes the way that judges and juries act in the legal system, is by giving them extra information into the case, or the clients behind the case. For instance, in today’s highly-connected social world, the details of a scandal are often posted on social media accounts almost instantly. This often happens even before the company has a chance to make a formal statement.

The fast-paced nature of the media coverage world means that people begin to form opinions faster today than they have in the past. What’s more, a company’s carefully formed PR strategy could help judges and jurors to feel a certain way about a business or individual before they’ve heard the details of the case. This means that from the moment a juror enters the courtroom, they’re already biased in the way they make decisions regarding the case.

Media always affects people

Though the legal system is working to reduce the amount of exposure that juries and judges get to PR campaigns during a case, the truth is that human beings will always feel influence from what they see in the media. This truth is what makes PR campaigns so effective in the first place. Some people are even affected by their exposure to previous cases. For instance, studies have found that learning about similar cases can sway the way a person decides about future issues.

Whether it’s social media coverage or crisis PR, media is constantly changing the way that we think and respond to other people.

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Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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