Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Kathleen Wickham

Relational Format



This thesis focused on the media’s extensive coverage of serial killers and, thus, how it could propel them to a state of fame. It discusses that no matter a serial killer’s circumstance, the media typically finds a story. For example, a serial killer can be on a rampage or can be dormant, but in subsequent stories, the media will center a story around the killer’s first and/or recent crimes, his identity, or his possible next move. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times coverage of the Golden State Killer frames the analysis of this manuscript. The purpose was to recognize the connection between extensive coverage and a serial killer’s state of fame while evaluating how journalists draw readers in and keep their attention with the weighted topic of serial murder. Furthermore, the goal was to identify common themes of serial homicide coverage across two news publications and recognize a journalist’s ethical dilemma in focusing on the serial killer rather than the victims. Based on an examination of more than two dozen articles, the research indicates that journalists bait readers with an entertaining aspect about a serial killer or an important fact readers want to know. Once the readers are pulled in, they, unwillingly, begin to identify with the killers. Empathy was found as the overall tone as well as the most common theme in the majority of articles. More often than not, readers never know the names or lives of the victim, but end up knowing everything there is to know about the killer, which puts the killer in a spotlight for years. Yet and still, the media must cover serial crime to keep the public informed or to remind the public of horrific crimes of the past. As media practitioners, journalists must not shrink from revealing the truths of society.

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