High profile capital punishment cases: The media and public opinion from the 1970s until 2002

Christopher Kudlac, Fordham University

Abstract

Why do some death row cases receive large amounts of media coverage while the vast go unnoticed? This dissertation asserts that while traditional media criteria are useful in looking at story selection, they only offer us a starting point. It is necessary to also look at both the social context (i.e. race, class and gender characteristics) of the case along with public sentiment to understand why one case becomes high profile and others do not. After locating the cases that received the most mainstream newspaper attention over the past 25 years, it became apparent that they fell into distinct categories: serial killer/mass murderers and protest cases. It was further discovered that all of the similar cases occurred during the same time frame. Content analysis of newspaper articles and interviews with the reporters and editors who covered the cases were done. The analysis suggests that an interplay exists between public sentiment and the types of cases that were seen as newsworthy at different time periods. Thus, the criteria for newsworthiness are not static; rather they are dynamic changing with pubic sentiment. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Criminology and Penology|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Christopher Kudlac, "High profile capital punishment cases: The media and public opinion from the 1970s until 2002" (January 1, 2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3125017.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3125017

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