Perceptions and Reporting

This word cloud is composed of all of the Pall Mall Gazette, (a London newspaper), reporting of the Jack the Ripper saga, from the first Whitechapel murder in early September, 1888 to March of 1903.


The crimes and victims were, of course, a main focus of the reporting, as indicated by the prevalence of the words murder, murdered, murderer, body, deceased, and woman. All of these words indicate the focus on the crime, a central subject of fascination in the 19th century culture of crime fascination. In the same way the broadsides and crime newspapers focused on the violence of the crimes and the stories of the victims, reporting on the Jack the Ripper murders focused on the crimes and victims. Perhaps even more so because of the mystery of the killer’s identity. Without a murderer’s story to focus on the crimes themselves and their victims became even more essential to the saga and the reporting.

Another key feature of the media coverage of the Jack the Ripper story, as revealed by the world cloud, is the centrality of the police and the investigation to the story. Without a killer to detail, the reporting focused more on the figures involved in tracking down the murderer. The word police is the largest and most central feature of the word cloud, showing the centrality of the police in the minds of Londoners, who wanted the Ripper caught. Additionally committed, commissioner, department, inspector, detective, chief, and statement also make appearances in the word cloud. This is also consistent with the 19th century popularity of the detective novel. Methods of detection were a new subject of entertainment and this interest spilled over from the fictional world to the real world in cases of serial murders like those of Jack the Ripper. In a very literal way the story became about the search as the eyes of London and the world were on the hunt for the Ripper. This put the detectives and their methods on display to the public at large.

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