TV Station: Check With Detective For Facts on Pedophile Story

Illustration for article titled TV Station: Check With Detective For Facts on Pedophile Story

Earlier today we posted about an Orlando television station that posted a fact-less story under the headline: 'Video-Gaming' Child Predators Offering Points For Nude Photos.

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The story itself has only one quote that touches on this bizarre, and overly-general statement from a Detective Lt. David Maurer who allegedly told the television station: "Kids are playing games, and they are being asked to take photos of themselves naked in order to get game points. There is not only the chatting version of the games but also a webcam involved."

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I emailed the station to see if they could explain their story. Maybe tell us which game does this or when this happened, or if this happened. And what about those "points"? What is that about? No response. But intrepid reader Rastaman4200 got a response to his emailed questions:

The Agent in charge of the Cybercrime unit for the State Attorney of Florida is quoted as saying ""kids are playing the games and they are being asked to take photos of themselves naked in order to get game points." I believe he was referring to some of the fantasy games where players go on quests to be awarded points and different levels.
I personally am not a "gamer" so I have not encountered such a problem. But feel free to call the cybercrimes unit of the state attorney's office in Tallahassee and I'm sure they could fill you in.
Thanks for your questions and concerns.
Regards,

Donald Forbes
Broadcast Journalist
WKMG-TV
4466 N. John Young Pkwy.
Orlando, FL. 32804
dforbes@wkmg.com

Hmm, maybe Forbes should change his title to something closer to reality, like guy who isn't actually a journalist, but passes the buck on finding facts to his readers. Hmmm, probably wouldn't fit on a business card.

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DISCUSSION

I'm not making a judgment on this particular case (in part because I didn't even read anything beyond what was posted here).

But generally speaking, checking facts requires verification with reliable sources. How else do you check facts? And a police detective is generally considered to be a reliable source.

If the police are telling a reporter about something that involves, you know, police work, then I don't know in what other way you expect that reporter to "check his facts". Does he need to become an expert on both video games and pedophilia before he's qualified to report on a story like this?

Short of that, it is the source's fault if the facts are wrong.

People expect reporters to be experts in absolutely everything these days. Brain surgery, aviation, guitar collecting, policing, whatever. If they get one little detail of some complex system or subculture wrong, as judged by the so-called "experts" on the internet, then they're "not doing their job". It's just not possible to have such depth of knowledge in so many things, and it's never been a requirement for reporting. A reporter is just that, a reporter - he reports what his sources tell him, and that is what he or she is required to know how to do. Reporting is about providing verifiable information. That's what this guy did. You can go and check the veracity of this story yourself if you want, and if it's not true, well, presumably this detective is answerable to somebody. (He would not be doing his job if, for example, he cited just one anonymous source that was unverifiable.)

He's not a researcher, and he's not even claiming to be an "investigative" journalist - he got some info from a police detective and he reported it. That's his job.

Just playing devil's advocate here.