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On the Trail of the D.C. Sniper

Fear and the Media

Jack R. Censer, William Miller

Publication Year: 2010

Award-winning media historian Jack Censer's exhaustive account of media coverage of the DC Sniper episode creates a more complex picture of the whole range of news media than accounts emphasizing political bias or commercial gain. The sniper episode has particular lessons about the media's role in generating or moderating public fear. Censer concludes that neither commercial gain nor political bias are adequate to explain media reaction: professional motivations of reporters, which differ for different media, are more important. Looks at public schools, that had a very moderate response.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

Following the reporting of the Washington D.C. area sniper, first as a resident and then as a scholar, has been as engrossing as any of my other scholarly projects. The event, which occurred in October 2002, rattled the region and set off reverberations far beyond it. This drew me to the story, ...

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pp. xi-xx

The murder of James D. Martin in the late afternoon of October 2, 2002, at a grocery story parking lot in Montgomery County, Maryland, and an errant shot through the window of a neighboring store minutes earlier, went largely unremarked in the media. However, the gunning down nearby of four more people the following morning ...

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pp. 1-20

It was Wednesday, October 2, 2002, just after 6 p.m., and James D. Martin was on his way home from his job with the federal government. He worked as a program analyst at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and lived in Wheaton, ...

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Chapter 1: The Washington Post and the Sniper

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pp. 21-43

On October 25, 2002, on the day after the arrests of John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, Washington Post columnist Marjorie Williams1 began her op-ed piece with these words: ‘‘Now that two solid suspects are in custody for the killings that have dominated the region for the past three weeks, ...

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Chapter 2: Continuous Coverage

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pp. 44-92

At the height of the events related to the snipers, there seemingly were more journalists reporting on the events than there were police personnel investigating them. And the reporters, their editors, and their photographers turned out an inexhaustible supply of words, images, and sounds ...

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Chapter 3: The Nation and the World

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pp. 93-135

Despite the prominence of the Washington Post and television wall-to-wall broadcasts, numerous other purveyors of information interested themselves in Washington’s sniper events. In fact, although numbers remain uncertain, there likely were more journalists ...

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Chapter 4 : The Journalists’ Ordeal

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pp. 136-177

About 6 o’clock on the morning of October 24, 2002, Washington Post reporter Jamie Stockwell received a call at home from her editor. She had left the police task force headquarters only four hours earlier with information that included the names of two suspects. ...

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Chapter 5: The Schools and the Sniper

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pp. 178-204

Other than law enforcement and the media, no institution within the affected area had to deal more with the impact of the snipers than did the public school systems. Because schools are entrusted with the safety and security of students, the officials who manage them had to, in these circumstances, ...

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pp. 205-220

A small army of journalists narrated the police chase and public response over that long October of 2002 These scribes produced millions of words that were avidly consumed by many millions of people. The citizens of the Washington region, unlike the politicians who usually dominate, ...

Primary Sources

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pp. 221-224

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Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 225-230

The introduction to this book explains the approach, commonly labeled ‘‘framing,’’ adopted in this study. Framing is designed to examine the assumptions in the press in a much broader perspective than that of politics. In this essay, I add to this work by providing a retrospective review of those studies, ...


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pp. 231-243

E-ISBN-13: 9780813928999
E-ISBN-10: 0813928990
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928944
Print-ISBN-10: 081392894X

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus., 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 753978373
MUSE Marc Record: Download for On the Trail of the D.C. Sniper

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Crime and the press -- Washington Metropolitan Area.
  • Serial murder investigation -- Washington Metropolitan Area.
  • Criminal snipers -- Washington Metropolitan Area.
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