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 murders helped to cause fear in citizens by reporting extreme measures being taken by others, using strong language, and stressing the idea of a victim profile, all of which help the media excite or incite fear in the readers, rather than reporting the straight facts.
An article published in The New York Times after the 10th victim was found emphasized the precautions that local L.A. people were taking because of the killer. This article entitled “Fear of the ‘Hillside Strangler’ Pervades in Los Angeles Area” specifically addressed the concerns of prostitutes and one crossing guard (Lindsey). Both groups felt at risk because the victims had all been women by themselves. In response, the prostitutes began to travel in pairs or even large groups and take extreme measures like writing the license numbers down. These women were already being scared by the media coverage of the killings and were in turn adding to the fear. Articles such as this one illustrate the scene to be one of mass terror and panic, which it likely was. However, it is exaggerated to perpetuate just how terrified everyone was. Prostitutes and working women only represent one group of the vast population in the region, so it is unfair for the media to imply that fear...
Cited: 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. "Woman Found in Los Angeles Lot, 11th Apparent Victim of Strangling." The New York Times 14 Dec. 1977: n. pag. Web.
Knoll, James. “Serial Murder: A Forensic Psychiatric Perspective”. Writing Today, 2nd ed. Ed. Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine. Pearson; (Boston, 2013), 332-338. Print.
Lindsey, Robert. "Fear of the ‘Hillside Strangler’ Pervades in Los Angeles Area." The New York Times 21 Dec. 1977: n. pag. Web.
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