Friday, May 17, 2013

the world is a scary place...isn't it?

What's a news reporter to do when there is too little news to fill his airtime? Make up things to worry about!
 ...Fox 42 News wanted to know if convicted offenders listed on the state registry are living where they're supposed to. 
At random, and with the help of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, I selected 30 names from the registry.  During my investigation, I found just three of the 30 sex offenders I was looking for. 
"We do check up on every single sex offender, but we prioritize as well," said Bilek. 
I dug deeper and found out the Douglas County Sheriff's Office only has two deputies whose full-time job is to make sure registered offenders are staying where they're supposed to. 
"In terms of public safety, is that enough?" I asked Bilek. 
The reporter is worried, you see. Those sex can't be too sure about them because...well, you know.
"...we do a pretty good job with the two investigators," responded Bilek.  "If we felt like we weren't doing a good enough job, then we'd have to add more personnel."
The reporter is still worried. So he asks a registered sex offender if the system works the way it should.
"The big problem is that I'm constantly harassed," said Bill who didn't want to reveal his true identity to us.  "Nobody cares about your side of the story either."
Does the reporter grab this golden opportunity to tell the sex offender's story? Does he ask what kind of harassment Bill experiences? The reporter does not.

He explains that the city doesn't allow registered offenders to live within 500 feet of schools and that the state legislature is trying to expand the residence restrictions.

Gosh. Things must be bad, if sex offenders need to live even farther away from schools. No wonder the reporter worries.

The sheriff breaks into the fear festival with some solid common sense:
"There's nothing we can do about the fact that a sex offender is living in your neighborhood, unless they violate the law," said Bilek.
Another golden opportunity! Does the reporter ask how often registered sex offenders violate the law with another sex offense? Does the reporter talk about the very low recidivism rate for registered sex offenders?  The reporter does not.

"News" stories like this contain no news. The oh-so-earnest reporter wraps all of his non-news in worried tones, suggesting to his audience that they should be afraid. That is the entire message of his report. He does no investigation to find out if there is reason to be afraid; he only wants to reinforce the idea that the world with sex offenders--former sex offenders!--is a scary place.

Sex offenders. Boo!

Does the reporter tell his audience that the sex offender registry is an excellent place to find a list of people unlikely to commit a sex offense? The reporter does not.

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