This paper focuses on an ongoing debate in La Crosse, Wisconsin, over recent river drowning incidents involving college-aged men. While some in the community contend the deaths were tragic but unrelated, other citizens argue that the collective set of circumstances points to a series of mysterious murders – perhaps committed by a “River Killer” that local authorities are unable or unwilling to bring to justice. An examination of local newspaper narratives and claims from a televised town meeting shows the narratives resulted in establishment of two contrasting frames. Each offers a different explanation and has a different perspective of responsibility for the tragedies. The contradictory frames complicate the efforts of community leaders who missed a prime opportunity to build a consensus of opinion that could have lead to much-needed resolutions.


Journalism Studies

Number of Pages


Publisher statement

Western Social Science Association.



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/jour_fac/11