Headlines in Crisis: The D.C. Sniper and Other Cases of Localized Terrorism

Open Access
Orner, Lauren Michelle
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kathleen E Kennedy, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kathleen E Kennedy, Honors Advisor
  • Myra Margaret Goldschmidt, Faculty Reader
  • Headlines
  • Newspapers
  • Terrorism
  • Media
  • D.C. Sniper
Headlines from cases of localized terrorism, such as the D.C. Sniper case, the Columbus Sniper case, and the Anthrax attacks, tell the story of the crimes, and they can send powerful messages to readers; therefore, they should be analyzed, monitored, and crafted with care. Case studies were performed to better understand the headline’s role in cases of localized terrorism. For the D.C. Sniper case study, a sampling of headlines from the Washington D.C. publication the Washington Post was compared to a sampling of headlines from various reputable publications from across the United States. The headlines were evaluated for their underlying messages and emotional implications, their content, their intentions, their level of sensationalism, and their general treatment of the events. Similar evaluations were done using local and national headlines from the Anthrax case and the Columbus Sniper case. All of these evaluations uncovered the narratives that were created around these cases during those fear-provoking times. The analysis gave insight into how the media depicts acts of localized terrorism and how Americans respond to the events and the media’s depiction of them. The analysis also shows how headlines can cause fear and negative consequences that need to be avoided, but it will also show how that negativity can be prevented.