Serial Murder And Media Circuses

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The Axman of New Orleans specialized in killing grocers of Italian descent in the 1910s, apparently to promote jazz music. Dorothea Puente was a little old landlady who murdered her tenants, but kept cashing their government checks. The Manson Family terrorized California in the 1960s, as did the Hillside Stranglers a decade later. Twelve serial murder cases, occurring in eight decades between the 1890s and 1990s, had one thing in common: significant presence of the mass media. This book examines these specific cases of serial murder, and the way the media became involved in the investigations and trials of each.

Gibson argues that the American media plays a multidimensional and integral role in serial killings and their investigation—and that this role is not generally a positive one. Serial murder cases motivate the media in unfortunate ways, and the result is that even typically respectable media organizations can be involved in such things as document theft, or in interfering with the capture of serial murderers on the run. This link between multiple murderers and mass communication is not accidental or coincidental; rather, the relationship between the press and serial killers is one of extraordinary importance to both parties. Gibson examines the role of the media in serial murder cases; the body of knowledge on serial murder as seen through the lens of mass communication; the effectiveness of law enforcement responses to serial murderers and how they might be improved if the mass communication influence was better understood; the magnitude of the serial murder problem; and the interaction between the media, the killers, and serial murder investigations. Specific examples and numerous quotes are provided throughout to illustrate this strange and detrimental relationship between media and serial murderers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gibson examines 12 cases of serial murder between the 1890s and 1990s that were heavily covered by the mass media. He argues that there is a complex and deep-seated inter-relationship between the two in contemporary American life, and that the American media plays a multi-dimensional and integral role in serial killings and the investigation into them."


Reference & Research Book News

"Gibson organizes his book one case at a time, describing the criminals, crimes, victims, investigations, community reactions, and the role of communication, including rhetoric, journalism, and public relations, in all aspects of these events. The book is clearly written and efficiently organized so that anyone interested just in public relations techniques, for example, can find that information quickly. Taken together, his case studies point to the troubling downside of mass press coverage of these horrific crimes, Media circuses, he argues, have hindered investigations, harmed victims families, and created panic….[G]ibson's case studies and in particular, his conclusions and recommendations could inspire a lively debate among both journalism and public relations students about the role of media in these high-profile crimes and investigations."


Journalism History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275990640
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,087,987
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

DIRK C. GIBSON is Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico. He has published numerous articles on a variety of topics in such journals as Public Relations Quarterly, Public Relations Review, and Southern Communication Journal. He has also published several book chapters and two books, The Role of Communication in the Practice of Law (1991) and Clues from Killers (Praeger, 2004).

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Table of Contents

1 Henri Desire Landru 1
2 The axeman of New Orleans 15
3 Earle Nelson 29
4 The Manson family 43
5 Ian Brady and Myra Hindley 59
6 Angelo Buono, Jr. and Kenneth Bianchi 73
7 Jeffrey Dahmer 91
8 Dorothea Puente 105
9 Gary Ridgway 117
10 Andrew Cunanan 129
11 Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka 143
12 Westley Allan Dodd 159
13 Conclusion 175
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