Monday, September 10, 2007

Whose Job Is It To Catch A Predator?

DATELINE NBC's series To Catch a Predator has confronted more than 200 people who arrived at a sting house allegedly hoping to have sex with underage kids.

The series has been controversial from the beginning, but scrutiny heightened last year when a Texas prosecutor killed himself after being caught on tape. Then a Texas judge dismissed charges against 23 men caught in Dateline stings.

ABC's 20/20 did a segment on the controversy over the weekend and the 20/20 reporter later posed this question: "What is the role of the media? Are they agents of the police? The thing I was struck by was how the police and media roles seemed to have merged."

Does the Dateline series go too far? Or do journalists have the responsibility to protect the public?

Only 120 of the busted people were convicted of crimes. Does that change the way the show should handle the footage?

The Dateline videos are available here.

21 comments:

John D. said...

Media is a reflection of society's desires, so if people want to watch online predators get caught in the act then it'll keep being aired.
As for is it right to set people up and publicize their wrongs so much: Since they are preying on children and doing serious wrongs then they are fair game to be rightfully exposed. Plus, don't you think an online predator would think twice before trying to trick that little kid into sex, let alone meeting them in person next time?

Anonymous said...

Sort of ironic when ABC's kickoff edition of 20/20 is dominated by a report on NBC's reporting. In a sense, the media becomes the story! Even though it's easy to judge the slimy internet hound dogs, it offends when they are taunted, paraded, and publicly ridiculed without Due Process to the perverse satisfaction of Chris Hanson and his perverted buddies. The major attraction of viewers is a sort of sick voyeurism, akin to rubber necking at an accident scene. We always prefer judging the sin of others to looking in the mirror at our own!

Kevin M. said...

As to what John D. said, One would think that people would learn from other peoples mistakes, but they don't.
Along with all the good the media did catching these predators it also helped (through the internet)them. With out this age of information and the internet, the predators would still be on a small time scale. a 42 year old man wouldn't be able to explicitly chat with a 16 year old girl hundreds of miles away. The media also provides a forum for these predators to find each other, they are able to see other people who share similar ideas and are accepted into these communities making what they do seem acceptable and are therefore more likely to commit these acts.

Caitlin Deaver said...

I watch the show often, and I'm sort of torn on the issue. Yes, these people are committing serious crimes and deserve to be caught. However, I don't see the necessity in presenting these criminals in front of a national audience. This show is the same as any other, though, in the sense that viewers love to see other people suffer or get in trouble.

But,the more I think about the controversy the more I think that the program is more beneficial than detrimental. The thruth is: these people are criminals, and if they don't want to be on tv then they should stop committing terrible crimes.

Morgan Z. said...

I agree that most of the people busted on this show were committing serious crimes and should definitely be punished for them, but in this country, you're innocent until proven guilty, and that's a good thing. Especially because not all of the so-called "offenders" caught by Dateline have been found guilty, the people on the show should be more careful in how they handle footage. We have websites like the Megan's Law site and the Neighborhood Watch Dog site to warn us of criminals that have actually been convicted and local news to alert us on anything suspicious; I think we could all survive without Dateline shows.

I am by no means advocating for anyone caught on the Dateline show, but isn't this sort of a violation of privacy laws? It's one thing if the cops do it, but Dateline sometimes comes off like it's more about the entertainment than protection of citizens.

James Riggio said...

Out of the 200 that have been confronted, 120 have been charged. I find this to be a pretty good average. Yes, perhaps 80 or so people have been put on TV for something they may not have done or even been charged with(I don't watch the show so don't know how much they put on, or if they only air them after someone has been found guilty).But just think how many people are portrayed as criminals from local news. My guess is that their average isn't as good as this 60%, so is what this show is doing anything different than local news saying so-and-so is wanted in connection with a crime? No one remembers that they aren't charged, they just think of them as a criminal for now on. I hope this makes sense...

Chris said...

John D. said...

Plus, don't you think an online predator would think twice before trying to trick that little kid into sex, let alone meeting them in person next time?


Clearly the answer is no. I'm a huge fan of the show (for entertainment value) and have seen every episode. The guys who get caught will frequently say they thought it was a sting and/or aware of the show. These guys are sick, and what I mean by that is they have a compulsion that overrides common sense and logic. It's the exact same thing as drug addiction. Do I think that makes them any less responsible? No, but it isn't as simple as some people may think.


Caitlin Deaver said...

However, I don't see the necessity in presenting these criminals in front of a national audience.


Public information, voyeurism, sensationalism, controversy, ratings, advertising dollars... Not saying I agree or disagree, but these arguments could easily be used to explain/justify/rationalize why it is aired.



Morgan Z. said...

I agree that most of the people busted on this show were committing serious crimes and should definitely be punished for them, but in this country, you're innocent until proven guilty, and that's a good thing. Especially because not all of the so-called "offenders" caught by Dateline have been found guilty, the people on the show should be more careful in how they handle footage.


Maybe not guilty in a court of law because of technicalities, but would you leave your 4 year old cancer stricken son to sleep over Michael Jackson's house?

Anonymous said...

i think that the show should keep up their notorious work of catching these convicted men. this proves that they feel comfortable enough to show up at some strangers house in the hope to have a sexual encounter. its gross.

-crane

Anonymous said...

I have to say I watch the show and I enjoy watching it. As a journalist, they have an obligation to provide information to protect the public. Its a shame that the prosecutor had to kill himself, but that was his decision. Even if out of all the people busted only 120 were convicted, that may have been enough embarrassment to make them not do it again.

Mike Mastrangelo

Michel'Le Daughtry said...

I have never actually watched the show but the name speaks for itself. I think it's kinda sick that people watch it. Americans are definitely morbid. I don't think we are helping the police, if anything it's probably making it harder for them. Do people think predators don't watch tv. They're just gonna get more discrete and better at what they do.

Anonymous said...

"to catch a predator" is pure voyerism. The first night I moved into my dorm room I had some friends stay over and we must have watched four or five episodes. There is no noble cause behind MSNBC, they know this show could be a ratings giant while simultaneously appearing as upholding justice. Chris Hansen is a host who can throw his weight around and pull in more viewers.
concidering this show is a form of media the defenition of "to catch a predator" changes from an entertainment program to a leader in the path towards furthering journalists. Undercover reports can and will now become common place and supposedly upstanding citizens will be hanging themselves in shame down in their basement.
greg adomaitis

Victoria H. said...

I'm not sure if they should change the footage, because Dateline may claim they are trying to shed light on this subject, but it's a show bringing in good ratings and the viewers want to see these perverts get caught. It is entertainment, but I would look at the show differently if the charges continued to be dropped, because it would just be a revolving door for those pervs. The suicides, sadly might be a wake-up-call for these men that want to take their underage sex fantasies face-to-face, because they may see how savagely their life can change when it get's publicized.

Charlie C said...

They know what they're getting themselves into! Let Chris Hansen do what he does best. The government should leave him alone.

Anonymous said...

I find this topic to be EXTREMELY controversial. In one aspect, it seems as if the

Anonymous said...

I find this subject to be extremely controversial. In one aspect, it seems like they're being enticed to go to the teenagers house. However, it clearly states that conversation is initiated by the older male. Though they didn't carry out the act, they intended to, and I guess that's enough cause for conviction. Nonetheless, I empathize with them. Yes, they are wrong, but I'm sure the embarassament that comes with the experience is enough to make them think twice about contacting anymore under age citizens without a proper and justifiable cause. I don't necessarily feel like imprisonment is required.
-Brandi Hargette

Anonymous said...

I think that anything protecting children should be continued. These men who are in chat rooms trying to have sex with kids should be embarassed on national televison. Anyone that claims they went to the house to "just make friends" is a filthy fucking liar.

Anonymous said...

I recently became aware that such a show existed and as it does embarrass the 'predators' for entertainment purposes, I think this show deserves to be on air, and continue to run. As a second year college student, and both possessing youthful facial features and being very petite, I know first hand how many 'predators' are walking about attempting wrongs on children, or individuals they think are children.

There are a handful of media outlets, if any that are just on air to inform. The desire to entertain the public and catch eyes is what keeps shows on air, get money, and continuous attention.

The media is supposed to inform the public, correct? So ignoring the fact that these men are indeed ridiculed, "To Catch A Predator" is informing the public. Bringing attention to parents to continue to monitor computer activities of their children, making children aware of the dangers of talking to strangers over the 'net and so on.

I don't think they are acting as police either, I just think that they are trying to make sure that police/ public do not think child predators are not out in the world committing crimes. There are so many problems our society is going through, and some issues get more attention than others, leaving room for those crimes to occur.

Dateline should reconsider how they portray or even speak to these 'predators' because they are still human and are flawed just like that police officer arresting them, or even the host.

-Myriam Wilson

Anonymous said...

I think that it should not be a question of whether or not journalists have the responsibility to protect the public. After almost every news broadcast it says if you see crime in you area contact us at ___. Well just as we can call in a crime journalist can do the same. It is not a Set-up. It is an option for these guys to try and meet up with these young children. They are not being forced to meet them at the house nor are they being forced to talk to them. They should get caught and charges should be made. It is ridiculous that a grown man should act in this manner. I think the footage should show the men and a close up of their faces- if they are man enough to show up to a young persons house then they should be man enough to face whatever the outcome. I would want to get a good look at these men so that I can protect the young ones in my family.
-Brittany Leopanto

Anonymous said...

The show should be kept on air for many reasons, the most important being chilren safety. Just watching this show is not going to protcect children, but the fact that parents can watch this show makes them more knowledgeable to the fact of how a predators mind works. The second reason is the show does bring in decent ratings. I personally do not watch the show, but I hear about it all the time and know lots of people who watch it. As for the only "harm" in this show being the embarrassment of the predators, it's their own damn fault! This show should not stop being aired because of that! It should not stop being aired at all.

Ashley Huber

Thomas Mates said...

This show reminds me of the old practice of public executions. The theory was that if the populus were able to watch the violent excution of criminals then it would act as a deterent. However, when crowds would gather to view these executions, pick-pockets would work the crowd. It's not a deterent and they know it. Hell, they're counting on it.
The only thing that NBC is doing here is uping their ratings. They are doing it under the guise of protecting children. In actuallity if a child were abducted by an internet predator they would be jumping for joy because covering that story would be an even bigger boon for them.

Anonymous said...

I don't think they go to far at all. If these people intended to have sex with children, they should be exposed. I don't care what kind of status they have in society, and this may be heartless, but I also don't care if they kill themself from embarrassment afterwards. Think before you act, think of yourself, think of your family and friends. Anyone who does this is selfish, and the guy who killed himself was especially selfish. Wrong is wrong.