Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Buzzy bees, paedophiles and lynch mobs.

The press reporting of convicted paedophile, Dennis Ferguson, seems to be going from partisan to hysterical.
Ferguson, who served 14 years for abusing children, has been repeatedly forced to change residences since his release. Mobs of angry neighbours have attracted wide media coverage which has in turn generated more angry pickets.

Today's report in the goes one step further.

Ferguson sold toys to kids
Adam Walters, Amy Dale and Xanthe Kleinig
September 16, 2009 12:00am
AUSTRALIA's most notorious pedophile Dennis Ferguson has plunged to a new low, conning a charity into letting him sell children's toys on Sydney streets.
Ferguson has reportedly been illegally selling merchandise ordered from Diabetes Australia in Kings Cross. Without a mandatory permit and police approval to collect donations in public spaces, the 61-year-old pariah used his middle name of "Ray" to secure box loads of flashing pens, fridge magnets, key rings and a small toy known as a "Buzzy Bee", the charity's mascot.,23836,26079056-952,00.html

You have to ask the following questions about this story.
Did Ferguson actually sell toys to kids as the header suggests? Or did he sell kids' toys?
If so, how many toys did he sell and what were they? Was the "buzzy bee" a toy or a mascot? Did he actually sell any "buzzy bees" or were they part of a job lot of items to be sold to make money for charity?
The lead sentence is the story is emotionally charged, using the words, "plunged to a new low". Was Ferguson's behaviour in this instance really worse then than the crimes for which he was convicted, including the abduction and molestation of children?
And all of these questions hang on the word, "reportedly", which means we don't have any proof, but someone else has made the claim.
This may seem like nit picking but journalists have a responsibility to report the facts. There might even be those that thought Ferguson's attempt to raise money for charity might even be an attempt to do something positive, rather than proof of even more depraved behaviour.
Inaccurate or hysterical reporting can only exacerbate a vexed issue which has already generated threats of vigilantism.