Caught in the Web: Exposing To Catch a Predator Open Access
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The dramatic undercover sting operations depicted on Dateline NBC's hit series To Catch a Predator, have entertained, excited, and captivated audiences by bridging ideas of criminal justice and forms entertainment. This research examines what messages are communicated in each episode and how it is communicated to audiences. Content analysis of four episodes revealed how To Catch a Predator functions to reinforce historical methods of punishment, define boundaries of sexual morality, and provide avenues for social cohesion through collective condemnation of labeled sexual deviants within society. To Catch a Predator's portrayal of justice, through specific methods of undercover surveillance and public punishment through shaming, articulated how partnerships between private and public institutions can function to communicate messages of the state, define moral threats within society, and identity the need for social control on the Internet and within local communities.