“The Craigslist Killer” Moniker: “Journalistic” Jingoism and the Growing P.R. Problem at Craigslist

It turns on  alliteration sharper than a sword, besides plumbing the association of murder most foul  with the can-do-goodism of a people’s advertising daily named Craigslist – the internet upstart that  has, since 1995,   upended  the advertising model of the  old media; the same media that is now  blithely tarring the internet upstart  with the “killer” moniker.

What gives? The logic behind the knee-jerk association rarely stands up to scrutiny …. or  reason. Take the then most recent case in this  saga: The tragic killing of Garret Berki,  an 18 year old college student, following  a meeting in San Diego  at which the student was hoping to buy a MacBook Pro he had seen in the  Craigslist classifieds. The meet-up turned into a robbery which ended tragically  when the student who had been robbed of $600 and a couple of cell-phones,  cornered the  perpetrators in a residential cul-de-sac. One of them shot Garrett who died about an hour later from a wound to the chest. A  sad, tragic story if ever there was one, but the representation of it across printed and electronic media raises  questions about how old media operatives, who should know better,  have been labeling this story. Coincidence or collusion? You be the judge.

Google the name “Garrett Berki”  and  see what comes up.  Forget the sensationalist blogs and concentrate on the older media, which includes  newspapers and corporatized-cum-Ancien Régime news agencies like Associated Press. The latter’s connections with more than one news outlet poisons the pool and magnifies the  perceptual warp.

Dated Samples:

  • “3 teens held in Calif. Craigslist robbery-killing”  Associated Press, May 12, 2011, Miami Herald.
  • “Teens plead not guilty in Craigslist killing”  Union Tribune,  May 13, 2011
  • Craigslist killing suspects plead not guilty in the death of LaJolla High grad, LaJolla Patch, May 13, 2011.
  • “3 teens charged in Craigslist robbery and killing in San Diego” St. Petersburg Times, (Times Wires) May 14, 2011
  • “3 Teens Plead in Craigslist Killing” Michael Gehlen, NBC San Diego May 14, 2011

Now would it have as big and resonant a story if Craigslist had not been implicated by way of thrusting it front and center of this tragedy? Probably not. Had this been San Diego Backpage or eBay Classifieds (formerly Kijiji) or any of the local ad rags,  this story would not have had the resonance of the current output bearing the “Craigslist killing” moniker. Is the  old media is indulging in a bit of bottom-feeding spiked with schadernfraude here? (Question rhetorical). Are its  motives as unimpeachable at they would have been  had it exercised common sense seasoned with journalistic restraint? Can you say tabloidry with a  white collar and a tie? Can you say knee-jerk jingoism? We at Cyberaxis can.

3 San Diego Teens Charged in Garrett Berki Murder

Teen suspects are charged in the murder of Garret Berki in San Diego. Are they destined to becoming poster children  for “Craigslist Killer” infamy? The question may very well be rhetorical.

The “Craigslist Killer” moniker is  arguably the megaphone through which some of these  old media hacks are trumpeting what would otherwise have been a humdrum robbery-and-murder story for the masses.

The writers and or their editors never stopped  to think of other angles that, while not sensationally memorable, may have hewed closer to the truth, namely the interplay of one’s sense of safety versus de rigeur precautions  when dealing with strangers in public, to wit, those who may not have one’s best interests at heart.

Could something beyond Corporate Schadenfreude be going on here. It is difficult  to call it otherwise. Whether this remains sensationalism gone awry,  under the table vindictiveness or sheer mental sloppiness (or all of the above) the topic certainly deserves serious scrutiny in the interest of getting closer to “the truth,” whatever that is.

“Associated Press’ connection with more than one news vendor poisons the pool and magnifies the  perceptual warp.” (Cyberaxis)

By way of retrospect, the Julissa Brisman murder at the hands of Philip Markoff  in April of 2009 was a game-changer for the the San Francisco classifieds upstart, and one that highlighted what Craigslist should have done proactively to  address the substantive issues on both sides of the “prostitution, safety and censorship debates.”  Craigslist was caught flat-footed both by the tragic event of the Brisman tragedy and the P.R./legal firestorm it unleashed.  By the time Craigslist opted under obvious duress to act, it was way too late to address the issue adequately and equitably, hence the incongruities that still remain in the wake of shuttering  its “Erotic Services” section – incongruities  like Backpage that is still publishing blatant  erotic service style ads without the commensurate  ire of the George Blumenthals of the world.

The facile association of Craigslist with every homicidal act in which the website is tangentially linked has clearly gone beyond the pail. The San Diego shooting story is a piquant case in point.

In The Beginning Craig Newmark Created ….. Things were much simpler when Craig started his little website  in 1995. The community then was a rag-tag collectivity of San Francisco friends, acquaintances and fellow geeks  that he cobbled into a social network through a humble e-mail list.  The list  advertised local events,  shindigs and various forms of entertainment. That was long before the e-mail  list morphed into a burgeoning website plugging anything from computers to companionship.  And that  was about a decade and half before a med student named Philip Markoff would instantly be dubbed the Craigslist Killer,  for (then) allegedly killing an escort he found through the  Boston metro Craigslist. The name stuck like crazy glue while a coterie of lawmen from Massachussetts to South Carolina started circling the San Francisco upstart like famished great whites.”  (Cyberaxis,    “Philip Markoff, Julissa Brisman and Craig Newmark’s Annus Horribilis” )

copyright© 2011 cyberaxis.wordpress.com


California man arrested in rape of Craigslist maid  (Reuters, Yahoo News)

Philip Markoff, Julissa Brisman and Craig Newmark’s Annus Horribilis (Cyberaxis)

Woman in Edgewood Craigslist Murder to be Sentenced   (Kirotv.com, Tacoma, WA)

3 teens held in Calif. Craigslist robbery-killing (Elliot Spagat, Associated Press)

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