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Sometimes, a journalist’s role is to slow the torches and pitchforks

Gutsy, substantial post from MPR’s Bob Collins on the Strib’s sex offender TV stories.

Collins’ “News Cut” blog has long been a favorite of mine, in large part because he’s pretty astute (and fast, and professional) at questioning orthodoxy. Even if his posts don’t always change your mind, and do sometimes piss you off, we need more like him.

Bookmark it, Dano.

[Update, elevated from the comments: Ex-Stribber Eric Wieffering reminds us of Larry Oakes’ awesome 2008 Moose Lake expose, which discussed the “treatment” aspect of sexual offender treatment. You can find the series here.]

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Annalise Cudahy on 10/20/2009 - 04:11 pm.

    Bob is both very professional but, more importantly, very human. He’s usually got good stuff for the head, but knows when to go for the guts. My vote for the best in the Twin Cities, by far.

    (sorry, but you do come in second, Brauer!)

    This is a good example of Bob at his best, for sure.

  2. Submitted by Adam Platt on 10/20/2009 - 05:37 pm.

    This reminds me of one of those cheap FOX9 “investigators” stories. It’s not exactly useless, but it’s not the kind of thing that gets your blood boiling or impresses journalism awards committees.

    The issue with the ST story is less its legitimacy as lack of context. It’s an easy gotcha about an unsympathetic (to most) segment of our population. There is clearly waste involved and providing communal TVs to the offenders could surely have been done more cheaply and inevitably the therapeutic benefit is impossible to quantify.

    But the aggregate add’l cost is how in the context of overall state or prison spending? How much does this facility spend on desserts a year? Do these offenders need desserts? Maybe that’s part 2.

    To present this as some sort of investigative coup and splash it across the front page is to overstate the magnitude of the imprudence and the importance of the story.

  3. Submitted by Eric Wieffering on 10/20/2009 - 09:30 pm.

    If you want context about sex offender treatment in MN, then look back at the very fine three-day series that Larry Oakes and the paper produced in 2008, called Locked in Limbo. Here’s how it starts:

    MOOSE LAKE — In the 14 years since Minnesota’s Sexually Dangerous Persons Act cleared the way for the state to detain hundreds of paroled sex offenders in prison-like treatment centers, just 24 men have met what has proved to be the only acceptable standard for release.

    They died.

  4. Submitted by John O'Sullivan on 10/21/2009 - 11:03 am.

    Thank you, Adam, for articulating what I’ve had so much trouble saying since that story came out. I’m going to direct the people I’m discussing this story with to your comment.

    Additionally, I find the media’s language when dealing with people who are sex offenders troublesome, in this case boiling down the issue to “TVs for sex offenders” (that phrase taken from the headline) is dehumanizing to the people who are locked up. I realize it’s not going to be a popular position to defend people who have committed sex crimes, but they’re still humans, and they deserve the courtesy of being referred to as such, not just “sex offenders.”

  5. Submitted by Pat Backen on 10/21/2009 - 12:22 pm.

    This is a bit off topic – but talking about ridiculous sex offender rules reminded me of the story last week about streakers in St. Francis.

    From the Strib article:
    But one teen accused of streaking could be charged with fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct for exposing himself to a minor under the age of 16. If convicted, he’d have to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

    Please. Talk about over reaching. Isn’t the system already over-burdened with people that have committed actual sex crimes (as opposed to running across a football field sans clothing)?

    If you want to stop streaking, just keep ratcheting up the fines. Teens will get the message.

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