Tuesday, In the Loop’s Jeff Horwich unearthed an honest-to-goodness media jawdropper:
Evidently there was an attempted child abduction in Edina last week. As a way of advancing…illustrating…dramatizing…the story, our local Fox affiliate KMSP Fox 9 is pursuing a provocative journalistic notion:
Cruise the streets in an unmarked SUV after school lets out, and see if young kids walking down the street will respond to you.
Evidently the KMSP news-cruiser/pedophile-mobile was out this afternoon. Parents and school officials are just a leeettle upset. The parent who called me said he was trying to get a restraining order against KMSP.
Jeff then quoted an Edina schools email similar to one a reader forwarded me last night:
Molly Anderson of the Edina Police Department just informed me that KMSP Fox 9 will be driving around Edina neighborhoods between 2:00-4:30 p.m. today to “ask children for directions.” She indicated that the reporter, Trish Van Pilsim [sic] will be driving a 2004 silver Ford Explorer or Expedition.
The police indicated while there is nothing illegal with this, they do not endorse this activity.
Please remind our children that they are not to speak with strangers. They should walk, and if necessary, run away from a vehicle if they are asked to get into the car, the car follows, them, etc. They should seek out an adult they know, go to a house they are familiar with, etc. Safety first!
We are disappointed that the media would use children in this manner.
Director of Community Education Services
“Disappointed” is far too polite, Doug — this is sensationalist crap even by TV news standards. What’s next, putting a razor blade in a Halloween apple and see if kids take it? Going online and pretending to be a pedophile?
As Horwich astutely notes, “This raises questions a-plenty. As a parent myself, I can understand the anger. Suppose my kid knows just how terrible a prospect it might be to be approached by a stranger in a car. Being the target of the unmarked KMSP SUV could be really traumatic, terrifying.”
In the Strib this morning, Neal Justin provides the station’s explanation:
Fox officials insist that the story never left the planning stages and that if it had gone forward, they would have gotten parental permission before approaching any children.
Perhaps bound by space limitations or the constraints of objective reporting, Justin doesn’t connect the dots, but Horwich does:
In communication with school officials, the station says that they actually only intended to talk with children with their parents’ permission. ??? Gotta say, that doesn’t make any sense.
And indeed, it doesn’t.
You tell the cops —but not the schools directly — that you’re cruising and claim you had a plan to contact parents. And how the hell would Van Pilsum know which random nipper is attached to which mom and dad?
“Hey kid, we’d like to ask you directions but could you give us your parents’ phone number so we can ask permission first?”
I guess this shows Fox9 is not only amoral, but inane. Good work by Horwich.