i expected better

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Nashville’s major daily newspaper uncharacteristically hyped a minor story on its website today.  What made it even worse was that it hyped a story that is only a story because of its prurient appeal, complete with multiple pictures.

The story centers around an alleged probation violation by a Middle Tennessee teacher found guilty of having sex with her thirteen year-old male student.  Apparently the teacher recently started a myspace blog site where she has sent coded messages to her illicit love interest. 

The usual routine for the Tennessean is to post links to stories that break after the print edition was released.  They put those “latest news” links at the top of the home page.  Well, not actually at the top.  More like at the top except for the masthead and the banner advertising, but you get the idea.  At the end of a typical day there will be anywhere from five to ten links–each of which is just a short headline.  Here are Wednesday’s links, for example:

• Rutherford deputies kill armed man during traffic stop (11:35am)
• Two Fort Campbell soldiers killed in Iraq (09:55am)
• Spring Hill proposes doubling impact fees (10:46am)
• CMA announces "Keep the Music Playing" charitable program (11:32am)
• Local students picked for honors program (11:45am)
• Franklin approves Seward Hall overlay (03:15pm)
• Kurita withdraws from U.S. Senate race (03:02pm)
• Crime down in Nashville during first three months of 2006 (02:18pm)
• Nissan unveils next generation of Altima, Maxima sedans in New York (12:31pm)
• Franklin board won't support economic development board (12:29pm)

Today, however, the Tennessean considered a parole violation to be such big news that it warranted a picture, two paragraphs, six links, four sidebar stories, and a red banner—all at the top of the paper’s home page–above even the "latest news" links.  The story page itself contained another four screenshots from her myspace page, and included a link to an additional 28 screenshots from the former teacher’s website.

So why the attention to a relatively minor story?  And especially, why the links to more than 30 pages and scores of pictures from the convicted child molester’s blog? 

They say that it’s not wise for a political figure to criticize those who buy their ink by the barrel.  However, this editorial decision is worthy of criticism.  The Tennessean today used sex—not just sex, but sex with a minor—to drive traffic to its website.  Over the last couple years my appreciation for the Tennessean has grown to the point where I'm surprised by this decision.

Surprised and disappointed.

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9 Responses to “i expected better”

  1. Joseph A Nagy Jr Says:

    Personally I think these arbitrary age limits do more harm to our youth then any good, as do the puritanical drive to keep people from having sex. Let each individuals maturity (which isn’t determined by age) decide when they are ready for life’s experiences. Yes, they will make bad choices but guess what, we all do. We are just human, after all.

  2. Katherine Coble Says:

    Unfortunately, Mr. Nagy, your utopian ideas about sexual (and emotional) maturity aren’t borne out in the data, or in our present sociological structures. When an 11 year old makes a sexual “mistake” s/he lacks the financial and emotional resources to cope with that mistake. It’s hard to raise a baby with your allowance money.

  3. Blake Says:

    Sex sells…especially if it involves a hot, blonde school teacher. It’s morbidly interesting, and they know people will read it and want as much information about it as possible.

  4. Volunteer Voters Says:

    Me, Not So Much…

    Bob Krumm remarks on the sensationalized coverage of the Pamela Rodgers case by our daily fish wrap: Today, however, the Tennessean considered a parole violation to be such big news that it warranted a picture, two paragraphs, six links, four……

  5. Terry Says:

    I have to disagree with Bob this time. I think it is a big story–a huge story.

    It’s big because we need to deal with what to do with sick people like this woman. It’s not just about the sex either. When you send your child off to school, you would hope that the adult you entrust to educate your child isn’t going to be trying to “hook up” with your child instead.

    A big story like this makes everyone around the water cooler ask questions and develop opinions. And because this was a Warren County case, we’re really forced to examine the subject. We can’t say it’s off in California or New York. It’s here—at home.

    Me, I’m for mandatory sentencing. Senator Bill Frist was on a national talk show last week talking about this very issue.

    Just a difference of opinion Bob–I mean no offense to you.

  6. bob Says:

    Terry,
    That story, which arguably needed to be told, did not need to be told complete with link after link to Tennessean-hosted screenshots of 32 pages of the woman’s sordid website. The pictures made it prurient.

  7. Bob Krumm » how does the old media sell news when no one wants to buy? Says:

    [...] The media overhypes minor stories every day, like predictions of snow 48 hours in advance (Note to Editors: “Up to 2 inches” of snow in January is NOT news.), or by plastering pictures of a hot blonde teacher all over their website if Pamela Rogers so much as passes gas that day. [...]

  8. Bob Krumm » gobbling up the news Says:

    [...] The Tennessean long ago made its decision. That’s why it gives breathless breaking news coverage to any hot young teacher caught with an underage student. Meanwhile, while a real local story was breaking the major Nashville daily sat on it. Why? Well, Anne Paine, the Tennessean reporter originally assigned to the Gore news, tells us why. “We weren’t in a great rush because we figured no one else had it,” said Paine. So not only has the Tennessean opted for fark over news, when it has had real news it apparently hasn’t felt enough competitive pressure to explore it. Which means, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out last week, that it is “left to think tanks and bloggers to investigate and expose all this.” [...]

  9. Bob Krumm » John Ford: day 3 Says:

    [...] I bet the Tennessean regrets not sending a reporter to Memphis now. They missed the opportunity to talk about sex while they splash pictures of a very attractive blonde all over their pages. (They’d never do that, would they?) [...]