A St. Petersburg, Fl., city councilman resigned today amid reports that the police are investigating him for allegedly molesting three of his children. The media outlet that broke the story, Tampa Bay's FOX TV affiliate, described it in this manner:

City Councilman John Bryan abruptly resigned his post Friday amid accusations he had a sexual relationships with three of his adopted children.

The media has a bad habit of using the terms "sexual relationship" or "affair" in cases like this, as if the only thing wrong about the situation was the age of one party. Here's another egregious example from a FOX station in Arizona:

An ongoing sexual affair with a 9-year-old girl has landed a school bus driver in jail tonight. He now faces charges of child molestation.

The bus driver's a 63-year-old man. Child molestation is not an affair or a relationship. It's a crime. The media should stop couching such atrocities in language that implies the victims consented to sex

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

What is it with these both being FOX affiliates? I don't want to sound accusatory but given Rupert's longstanding gripe that CNN et al have a liberal bias, set from the top according to him (as if Ted Turner didn't have other things to do?), does this mean that Rupert is making these editorial decisions?


 

I think it's coincidence. A lot of media refer to these crimes as affairs or relationships, especially when the perpetrator and victim are both adults by the time it comes to light. This was particularly true when Neil Goldschmidt, a respected politician in Oregon or Washington, was accused of abuse several decades earlier.


 

Child abuse is NOT a "sexual affair".

Uh-huh.

This is news to some in the MSM? A-ha! Spud sees.

When they play Captain Oblivious it's time fer Captain Obvious to leap into action.

Just a "coincidence" yer two examples were on Fox stations?

Now yer just being generous to a fault.

Be Well.


 

It's a crime whether the "victim" consented to the sex or not. The case of Mary K LeTourneau provides an example, given that she and the boy she was sent to jail for having sex with married after she was released. Your assumptions that the words "affair" or "relationship" imply consent, and that the relationship was necessarily non-consensual seem to me to be both unfounded.

Rather than editorializing by labeling behavior abusive, I would encourage news media to simply report the facts: that a sexual relationship has been alleged, and that such a relationship would be criminal if the allegations were true.


 

The definition of relationship:

"an emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students. ... a sexual involvement; affair"

The definition of affair:

"an intense amorous relationship, usually of short duration"

I don't see how either of these terms is accurate when describing a 63-year-old bus driver abusing a 9-year-old girl or Mary Kay Letourneau, 34, abusing her sixth grade student. These acts are crimes. They should use the names of those crimes when describing them.


 

Letourneau and her Villi Fualaau obviously had a sexual involvement, and later events suggest they had an emotional connection as well. It would seem that particular case fits the definition of relationship quite well.

But if you need your news reports to express your outrage as well as inform you of events, by all means insist that coverage of alleged crimes include subjective descriptions of the nature of the interactions between the subjects of the stories. Some of us are capable of of summoning disapproval of obviously abusive relationships--can I use the word relationship here?--without rhetorical assistance from journalistic accounts.


 

Calling these crimes by their statutory names is not an expression of outrage. It's the most accurate way to describe what allegedly happened.

Your description of the Letourneau case demonstrates why the media should take more care in these stories. Putting the word "victim" in quotes, emphasizing that they married when he was an adult and had an "emotional connection" ... all of that language is sympathetic to her actions. If the media were to describe it as you did, they'd be suggesting that there are mitigating circumstances when a 34-year-old teacher commits statutory rape against a sixth grade student entrusted to her care.


 

I think it's coincidence.

Oh Rogers, you're just putty in Karl Rove's hands. Obviously, Bush lied, people molested kids. Or is it, Murdoch bought stations, people did molestations?


 

"Calling these crimes by their statutory names is ... the most accurate way to describe what allegedly happened."

This depends on how knowledgeable the particular reader is about the definition of legal terms. Most people aren't.

Statutory rape includes the word rape, which most people imagine as being a violent crime against a stranger. But rape has become a "spectrum" crime with "mission creep," where a 21-year-and-one-day-old guy can be charged with rape of his 16-year-and-364-day-old girlfriend under the UCC, or situations where the whole crime depends on subtle fact situations involving consent that can only be sorted out by jurors deliberating over gray-area evidence. It's not that these shouldn't be crimes; it's just that the single word now covers quite a broad territory.

Assault is another term most people don't understand. Yelling at someone on the street can legally be assault. Battery can mean you touched someone's clothing lightly with your fingertip.

Your post has the slightly unhinged smell of a "daddy post," the sort of thing that comes out of a parent interpreting everything in the news to his own family. What's next? Will you get a dog and start posting that people who kick animals should get the death penalty?


 

Journalists/media must be extremely careful in reporting incidents like this one, or similarly sensational stories, because their commentary might prejudice the trial, specially in selection of jury.

If the media expressed the outrage you, among the vast majority, feel in cases like this -- no one would ever receive a fair trial who might become accused of it. Conversly, some perverted miscreant might possibly go free because of the weight of negative publicity presented to an ideologically LIBERAL judge ...

The words used, and which you reference in part, are the least pejorative and prejudicial ... and you being a journalist should know this ... or ask your wife!


 

Your post has the slightly unhinged smell of a "daddy post," the sort of thing that comes out of a parent interpreting everything in the news to his own family.

I don't know why people keep making this personal. I've laid out the reasons why I think "sexual relationship" and "sexual affair" are completely out of place in news coverage of these cases. It's the same position I took when former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt was accused of a "one-year affair" with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his mid-30s.


 

Rogers observes, "I don't know why people keep making this personal. I've laid out the reasons why I think "sexual relationship" and "sexual affair" are completely out of place in news coverage of these cases. It's the same position I took when former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt was accused of a "one-year affair" with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his mid-30s."

I'm embarrassed for you, and Mikey. You are attempting to justify what would otherwise be considered a "conservative" view of the process of justice, and advancing the idea that prejudicial media coverage is justified under US Constitutional law if the accused is called a "pervert, a pedophile" in the press/media.

Maybe I'm the one confused about your principles/morals.


 

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