Criminal profilers and the media: Profiling the Beltway Snipers
Date of this Version
Criminal profilers are regularly enlisted as the pundit of choice by media agencies reporting on developments related to unsolved crimes in the public eye. In fact, a review of the Criminal Profiling Archives (located at http://www.corpus-delicti.com/prof_archives_media.html) shows that rarely has a sensational crime occurred in the past 5 years where a criminal profiler has not been solicited for public comment. Given the profit-oriented nature of the media, it is not difficult to surmise that their demand for criminal profilers must be a function of audience share. In other words, the media knows that the public wants to hear what criminal profilers have to say. The ratings speak for themselves (Neuman, 2002): "The reign of terror is boosting ratings for cable news networks. At the end of last week, Fox News Channel's average daily audience was up 27 percent from the previous month, CNN was up 29 percent, and MSNBC up 24 percent" ...
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the relationship between criminal profilers and the media during the so-called "Beltway Sniper" shootings in October of 2002; examine the nature, value, and implications of their public statements; and discuss what the end result of that relationship has been with an eye to navigating its future.
This document has been peer reviewed.