The Social Construction of Serial Murderer Victims: A Content Analysis of Newspaper Coverage
The social construction of serial murder by the media has received a great deal of attention in the past. However, an exploration of how the victims of serial murderers fit within the social construction of serial murder as a moral panic has been largely ignored. To address this, our project examined how the victims of serial murder are portrayed by newspapers. We found that heterosexuals, women, students, younger victims, sex workers, persons with an arrest history and the poor received more sympathetic coverage than men, older individuals, the unemployed and homosexuals. Another key finding was that victims were portrayed in a systematic pattern secondary to the status of the murder case at a given point. When the murder was a single homicide, coverage of victims was more unsympathetic. Once the case was classified as a serial homicide, the coverage was more sympathetic. Finally, once a serial murderer’s identity became known, victims were relegated to the background of the story.
Janelle Eliasson-Nannini, Christopher Bradley, Deirdre Sommerlad-Rogers, and Benjamin Perason-Nelson (2010).
The Social Construction of Serial Murderer Victims: A Content Analysis of Newspaper Coverage. Sociological Imagination.46 (1), 44-64.