Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Catch a Predator

I found a lot of interesting information researching To Catch a Predator for this presentation.  I was shocked by much of it, and it changed my whole view on the series as a whole and the methods used. I agree with the controversial methods used to catch child molesters.  After reading the detailed chat logs on the Perverted Justice website I think the questionable methods are a justifiable means to an end.  

The Perverted Justice organization is best known for it's work with Dateline, but they are involved in more than television sting operations.  They train law enforcement with their techniques for the benefit of both parties, moderate an online forum for survivors of sexual abuse, and have an internship program for criminal justice students.  Perverted Justice is dedicated to bringing child molesters to justice and helping victims recover.

Perverted Justice has done an excellent job bringing attention to the child molestation problem.  The 11 To Catch a Predator  episodes resulted in huge ratings for NBC.  Some believe NBC disregards ethical journalism for the sake of ratings.  NBC has reported paying an "undisclosed" amount of money to the organization.  According to newsmax.com NBC paid more than $100,000 for their work on the series.  That sounds like a conflict of interest to me.  It's a lot of money to pay for a story. 

NBC employees have had problems with the ethical lapses including former producer Marsha Bartel.  Bartel believes she was let go due to complaints about ethical journalism, but NBC insists it was downsizing.  NBC defends the methods of the To Catch a Predator series.  According to cbsnews.com, Stone Phillips refutes entrapment accusations on the Dateline blog.  Host Chris Hansen also defends the media's role in the sting.  He says their role is to get the information to the viewer in a complete fashion. 


  1. Keith, I agree with you that the content in these chat rooms is shocking, and there is not doubt that "To Catch A Predator" has exposed some truly sick and dangerous people. But I cannot help feeling that this program, and NBC's support of it, is an entirely unethical journalism practice.
    In my opinion, these types of shows, whether they deal with cheating couples or sexual predators, are not reporting or informing the public of any true news. They are merely exposing people's private lives, legal and moral or not, for other's entertainment. The networks are willing to pay big bucks for the type of content that the public laps up like thirsty dogs, and whether they disclose specific dollar amounts or not, I am positive significant money is changing hands here. I consider this entrapment for public entertainment. The fact that these types of programs could easily lead to a defamation lawsuit is another matter altogether, and I think NBC just got lucky that they didn't deal with such a case.
    Regardless, solid presentation on an interesting, and frightening, topic. Nice job.

  2. I have to agree, although I love catching perverts as much as the next person (?), I can't help but think this resembles reality TV (or what Reality TV should be), not a newscast, as it is currently presented.

    Also, Keith thank you for looking into the Perverted Justice group a little more.

  3. As far as the show goes, I think it would be OK if it were on a different channel and not passed off as news. I think a lot of people watch To Catch a Predator and say that they watch the news. It's absolute entrapment and it's not a journalist's job to be a private investigator.

    On the flip side, what these people do is extremely messed up. They are kind of in the bottom of the barrel in society. If NBC were to REPORT on it, then it would be fine, but they pretty much set up the entire thing.

    Perverted Justice is a good group though. I just wish they weren't involved in the media.

  4. Keith, good work.

    I tend to agree with the methods these guys use, but as most of us have said, this should NOT be labelled as journalism. This makes for trash TV. The criminals dragged in should still be treated with respect and given fair trial BEFORE their stories are broadcast across the nation.

    I guess the 24-hour beast demands to be fed, though, and we're certainly scraping the bottom of the barrel these days.


  5. I feel that in some cases paying for a story that in the end is informing the public of a big issue should be no problem for that news station. Although it is more a reality show than news, it is still in a news format, because Chris Hanson is interviewing the subjects to get the truth of why they do what they do. I also think that if a news program can put together something like this that brings in viewers they are staying on top of the game! I would also like to say I enjoy a marathon of To Catch A Predator!!

  6. I have to admit that I love shows like this one. They may not be considered hard news but I do feel they are valuable and worthwhile. If the show's topic were "To Catch an Illigal Music Downloader" or something more benign I wouldn't care about it. It doesn't really say that it's a news program, just a television program. If it were news, the ethical questions that some have raised might hit me a little harder.

    Nice job on the presentation.