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In the last decade, there is an ongoing trend in television

news broadcasting to host a version of their own investigative

news, which give its’ viewers a “feel and look” as those similar

to investigative journalism, but fails to deliver the same high

quality and trustable contexts as investigative journalism did.

ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes, Fox’s longest running TV show

America’s Most Wanted or NBC’s Dateline, all promised to deliver

deep investigative report on political, economy, and social issues

to the public, and prevent crimes by raising awareness. As

described by John Pilger in his book titled “Tell Me No Lies”,

investigative journalism is brave reporting without fear of

telling the truth, exposing injustice, and is the highest form of

journalism and the reason journalists existed (Intro xv).

Journalists who had earned the credential title are those who are

committed to serve the public interest without manipulating or

implanting ideas to its viewer, or any other self serving

purposes. Wilfred Burchett's remarkable dispatch on the atomic

plague in Hiroshima or Robert Fisk on the savage and excessive

killing cause by the invasion of Iraq is among the works

recognized as investigative journalism by John Pilger. When news

broadcaster mimics the style that investigative journalist used

when reporting news to compete for viewers and to make themselves

stand out in a crowded marketplace, it can misled the public and

caused unnecessary fears or moral panic, a sociological term

describing a social reaction to a false or exaggerated treat to

social values by moral deviants(). As the sociologist David

Altheide has argued, fear does not happen overnight; it is

constructed and then manipulated by those who seek to benefit(29).

When fears are projected into a society, it can damage its health

and create long term negative effects on the society itself.

Medias who pledged to inform the public about ongoing crimes can

actually caused more harm than the crimes itself if ethical

standard is not closely practiced during the process in gathering,

reporting and interpreting information.

Posted on the home page of Crimes Against Children Research

Center web site, increased numbers of arrests do not suggest that

internet is facilitating an epidemic of sex crimes against youth.

Most of the arrests are from sting operations. The numbers

probably reflected from increased numbers of children using

internet and the growth of law enforcement activity against online

crimes. In addition, there is no evidence that online predators

were stalking or abducting victims based on information at social

networking sites and online predators in 2006 constituted about 1

percent of all arrests for sex crimes committed against children

and youth. Shouldn’t we address our attention and resources to

where 99 percent of committed crime came from? Media should know

better, when they are trying to mislead the public with false

information about online risks, it will divert attention away from

real risks. Many professionals had researched and concluded that

the issue on internet child molester is inaccurate and overrated,

but media continues to run shows to warn and scare the public.

Mass media interpreted the issue on pedophile and declared “online

sex predators” as a fastest growing crime in America is an example

of “when good media gone bad”. For the self purpose of grasping

the viewer’s attention and to increase rating, almost all form of

mass media have a catchy headline that go with their false

assumption on pedophiles. As stated by Newsweek in an article in

2001, there is shocking increase in the sexual exploitation of

children, on May 2, 2006 ABC News report claimed that one in five

children is now approached by online predators, and CBS Evening

News broadcast also came up with its own fuel for misdirection by

making an assertion that when a child is missing, chances are high

it was from a convicted sex offender. These newscasters are well

respected by many and view as a dependable source for significant

information, alas, betrayed citizen with distorted statistics and

numbers, and taking away the resources needed to address real

problems. What first presented assertively as solid facts is a

hasty judgment for not analyzing the statistic provided by the

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children thoroughly. One

in five minors who received an unwanted sexual solicitation

included request from anyone, marking no difference whether it is

from an adult or minor. That leads to another count of sexual

assaults although it is from a casual sex chat between two teens.

Another false factor that influences the statistic of this study

is people who pretend as minor to lure another adult into a sex

chat is also counted as one. Sting operation ran by Dateline and

America Most Wanted with the genuine help from Miss America

greatly contribute not to prevent crimes but adding up to the

total case number of minors who received unwanted online sex

solicitation. Chris Hansen, the reporter from Dateline series “To

Catch a Predator” claimed that web predators are a national

epidemic and aware of his duty as a reporter to inform the public

of this horrible crime and to bring justice to those caught during

the sting. Two men committed suicide and lost their life to this

stink operation. Who gives media the right to judge, the

permission to implant ideas to the public and further awarded with

2006 Gracie Awards as the most outstanding short documentary show.

“Minimize Harm” is one of the Code of Ethics in Professional

Journalism. If gathering and reporting information may cause harm

to others and pursuit of the news is guided by own conscience and

treat suspects as human beings deserving respect. These principles

are ignored by MSNBC. Although producers of Dateline claims that

they are motivated by a genuine journalistic concern, no story is

worth going after if it includes risking any life, whether the

life of a citizen or a criminal.

Media coverage on online predator have generated an epidemic

of sex crime committed through a new medium which is the internet.

Needless to say, these reports have raised fears and increased

worry among parents. Dateline senior producer Allan Maraynes stood

by the program's work. "We've raised the public's consciousness of

a very serious issue. We think we've created a model [for

reporting on Internet pedophilia] that accurately reflects what

happens in real life," he told the Daily Post. No doubt,

preventing children from online predator is important, but media

do not have the right to run its own sting operation and make

judgments on the suspect. In fact, what claimed as genuine

journalistic concern is actually a battlefield competing for

rating and profits and the victim are not only children but the

whole public.

Today, we live in an “information age”, but it is more

accurate to say we are living in a “media age” instead. The media

had evolved from keeping us inform with the latest news and events

from around the world to a powerful central where stories and

information are being manipulated to sell viewers products, ideas

or to promote candidates. It is extremely difficult to question

Dateline on ethics when dealing with a topic that will expose

predators and prevent children from online sexual abused. However,

it doesn’t seem morally correct when undercover and sting

operation is used to gather information. As stated in the

Professional Journalism Code of Ethics, gathering information by

mean of undercover or other surreptitious methods should be

avoided. Another, more important question arises from the series

is the media’s role in dealing with so-called potential criminals.

Chris Hansen questioned these suspects without much respect,

identifying them on national television as child molester, posting

embarrassing and humiliating video clips online and destroying the

lives of these suspects who have the rights for a fair trial and

remain innocent until it is proven guilty by law. It should left

to the lawmaker to decide how the suspect should be dealt with.

Many agreed that these suspect do not deserve sympathy from

the public or media. They should be swept out from society, but

the question is will the government keep them in the jail for the

rest of their lives? Probably not. These criminals will someday be

a part of the society again, and since they are not given any

chance to repent and to earn a living, what else can these

criminals do but to commit more crime to survive. An article from

American Psychologist found out that most offenders caught at the

sting operation do not have any previous history of crimes and

majority is from middle class family with a profession. These

offenders are also provider to a family. The harms are not limit

to the sex offender but extend to member of their families. There

are children who depend on these potential sex offenders for

education and food.

Why the media ignored facts from sturdy research and

continue to mislead the public with false assumption? The answer

is self fulfillments. This is the essential fear we need to worry.

Mass media, a sweeping national outbreak that deceived us with

false opinion or belief, supplied public with hysterics news. The

issue is not whether children are being attacked by online

predator, but more harm is done to children and the society.

First, misleading news influence lawmaker, in turn react with new

rules. The recent formation of Internet Crimes Against Children

(ICAC) Task Force is an absolute example showing media effect on

the society. Secondly, worried parents will prevent youth from

exploring the world. Children needs freedom to grow up to become a

healthy adults.