Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

60 Federal Communications Law Journal 481 (2008)


Publicity-seeking crimes, including terrorism, almost by definition depend on the media for their effectiveness. Twenty-five years ago, when the bulk of this article was written, critics both within and outside the news industry had begun to voice an awareness, if not a concern, for the ease with which such criminals obtained publicity on both a national and international platform and it looked as if something might be done within the media establishments to thwart this manipulation of the press. Today, it is possible to look back and see that, in fact, nothing has been done and, so, individuals such as Osama Bin Laden and Seung-Hui Cho now use media establishments directly to spread their messages of hate, violence, and intimidation. This Article explores the psychology of terrorism and why it can hardly exist without the media, then turns to the American mass media, and discusses why it needs titillating crimes for its existence. It then identifies and discusses the four main effects or harms of media coverage of publicity-seeking crimes and the media's answers to these harms. Finally, it suggests solutions and the effect the First Amendment to the United States' Constitution has on those solutions.