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On the Trail of the D.C. Sniper: Fear and the Media

By Colleen Kearney Rich on November 2, 2010


On the Trail of the D.C. Sniper: Fear and the Media

Jack Censer, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences

In On the Trail of the D.C. Sniper: Fear and the Media (University of Virginia Press, April 2010), Jack Censer uses the October 2002 Washington, D.C., sniper attacks to explore the shifting character of journalism and question how the change in the way news is gathered and reported affected the events it covered. With the rise of cable network news and its continuous coverage on television, when a major development wasn’t available, lesser incidents were sometimes played up to maintain the sense of an always unfolding story. Censer looks at the atmosphere of heightened anxiety in which this killing spree occurred—coming only a year after the 9/11 attacks—and asks whether the press, by intensifying its focus, also intensified the sense of fear.


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