Serial Killers in the Media
Serial killers are a relatively rare, yet commonly publicized, part of our society. The media portrayal of serial killers skews the opinions and creates a stereotype of murderers for the public. James Knoll, MD states in his article, “Serial Murder: A Forensic Psychiatric Perspective”, that no evidence supports the idea that serial murder is a “growing epidemic” as people believe it is (qtd. in Johnson-Sheehan & Paine, “Writing Today”, pg 332). This misperception of serial killing was exhibited in the way the media portrayed the “Hillside Strangler”, a murderer who was killing women in the Los Angeles area by strangling them and leaving them nude in the hilly areas in 1977. The articles reporting the
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They were simply assuming because of certain characteristics and because of the need for a more intense task force to work on the case. This is a reasonable thing for the police to do. However, it portrays the issue as being more severe than it may be in actuality by making assumptions. When reporting this to the general public, they will likely make the same conclusions that it is definitely connected and ignore the lack of evidence yet. The issue with making these assumptions is the misinterpretation by the public. This helps continue the problem that Knoll was stressing. Rather than the media painting a more accurate picture of serial murders they exaggerate it, which leads to stereotypes and nonfactual ideas, such as serial murders being much more common than they are in reality. The media does this in many ways. However, the articles associated with the “Hillside Strangler” display the characteristics of reporting extreme examples of caution, using very powerful language, and emphasizing the victim profile and readily making conclusions. These techniques help draw in the public to interest them more in learning about the case, which in turn benefits the media, rather than accurately reporting the factual evidence to allow the public to draw their own conclusions.
Associated Press, comp. "Two Women Slain in Los Angeles, One a Possible ‘Strangler’ Victim." The New York Times 24 Dec. 1977: n. pag. Web.
Associated Press, comp.