Thursday, September 25, 2008

Headline: The 'Grim Sleeper'
$500,000 reward for Los Angeles serial killer
by Adam Housley, reporter for The Los Angeles Bureau
This article was posted on as part of their On the Scene segment.

This article caught my attention immediately with the headline. What could be more newsworthy than learning about a pending investigation to track down a serial killer? Granted, the 'grim sleeper' is located in Los Angeles, but with having close family only about 10 minutes from LA, the topic hit home for me. 

Being a journalism major, what I expected to learn from Housley was firstly, why is this man referred to as the 'grim sleeper'? What makes him different from other serial killers? According to police and their records, when was he last active in the area? 

Unfortunately, what I got was a small percentage of facts, along with slanted coverage toward the LAPD's ongoing investigation and bias in Housley's personal opinions. Housley covered this story as if he was glorifying the public's presumed interest and intrigue in examining serial killers, because they are so rare. This was an opinion, irrelevant to the story and an overall assumption. 

Housley uses phrases like "before he strikes again" which felt out of place. While I was reading through the article I felt like I was reading a film review or the plot of a new horror flick.

The only information I was able to sift out about the 'grim sleeper' was that he is a man, he has been active in LA, he targets young, black female prostitutes and the rounded out dates of when murders have occurred. 

"People always seem to be fascinated with serial killers. From the times of 'Jack the Ripper' across the pond, to the Zodiac to the 'Green River Killer', movies/books/articles have all repeated and investigated the horrific accounts of multiple murder. One reason for the interest might be the thought that these brutal murderers are few and far between."

"That thought may be changing right in front of us, as DNA begins to link more murders together. Such is the case here in Los Angeles, where murders from the late 1980's have now been tied to murders in the late 1990's and even up to January 1st 2007."

I had to question how the LAPD knows the murders are linked. What proof do they have? What is the connection? How is DNA  helping to link more murders together? What advancements in technology, if this applies, is aiding in the investigation? And lastly, if the 'grim sleeper's' last known activity was back in January 2007, why is it important that the public be notified of this murderer again at this time? What makes it timely and newsworthy? 

Housley uses a few quotes from LAPD Chief of Detectives Charley Beck and LA City Councilman Bernard Parks, who is the former LAPD Chief, which strengthens his article, but still no relevant information is given to readers. 

"The LAPD has 7 detectives assigned to this case full-time and so far all they have to go on is a vague description by a survivor from the late 1980's . The FBI has also offered to help, but right now they may need a little luck and hope that this guy slips up."

That statement instills a lot of confidence. Housley gives a positive slant toward the officers who are working on this case, but also places them in the "what else can they possibly work on with the little information they have" safety position. In a way he seems to be letting them off the hook and giving an excuse for the stagnant pace of the case. 

I can't figure out whether Housley wrote this article in 15 minutes before deadline or he just wanted to dig up a case and talk about serial killers. Either way, I was shocked by the unprofessional layout and obvious careless reporting in a matter that should have been given much more concern and attention to detail. 

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