Steven Yoder, a terrific journalist on criminal justice and other issues, takes on the media with a pair of strong essays addressed to reporters who write about sex offenses. This is surely an important topic because what news and entertainment media cover as well as how they cover it has a big impact on public opinion which, in turn, influences lawmakers and judges. Pushing for fair and accurate coverage is critical given the strong emotions that drive public policy resulting in draconian punishments for sex offenses. Yoder’s Life On the List blog (which concerns the experiences of family members of individuals on the sex offense registry) has both essays, have a look! -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire
Life On The List | Aug. 13, 2017
An Open Letter to Local Reporters
By Steven Yoder
Excerpts: Local reporters, you’re a national treasure. You’ve got one of the tougher jobs going—coming up with story ideas, tracking down sources, writing on unforgiving deadlines, working nights. With all that pressure, it’s no wonder stories about people on the sex offender registry make a tempting target.
Registries are in the public domain. Registrants’ photo, address, place of work, school, and make and model of car are usually there for the taking. It’s easy to write a story that looks investigative without doing much work—with everything in the open, you just ask a good question. Public hysteria seems like good copy.
Good reporting means better governance. An issue as important as sexual violence badly requires your objectivity and independent judgment to move our leaders away from policies that waste money or cause needless pain, and toward those that actually work. So here are a few questions to ask when you’re assigned or are considering a story about someone on a sex offender registry. MORE:
Life On The List | July 30, 2017
Why Reporters Should Stop Using “Predator”
By Steven Yoder
Excerpts: So neutral terms aren’t a polite concession when covering sex crime—they’re essential to fact-based reporting. A 2014 study asked a group of study subjects about their support for unsparing punishments for “sex offenders” and “juvenile sex offenders.” Those tested were much more likely to support harsh policies than a matched group exposed to the more neutral terms “people who have committed sexual offenses” and “minor youth who have committed sexual offenses”.
So it’s time for editors to stop letting reporters use “predator” in describing those who’ve committed sexual offenses. Loading up sentences with scare words isn’t reporting—it’s propaganda.
As philosopher David Livingstone-Smith demonstrates convincingly in his book Less Than Human, name-calling has a purpose—to depict the targets as subhuman, making it possible for otherwise normal people to support mistreatment, torture, or murder. “Thinking sets the agenda for action, and thinking of humans as less than human paves the way for atrocity,” writes Livingstone-Smith. MORE:
Our vision for a just future
1. Abolish pre-crime preventative detention laws
2. Free our friends and loved ones from dehumanizing labels
3. Realign our justice system with the values of restoration and reintegration
Just Future Project is a new initiative focused on challenging pre-crime preventative detention laws. We are a people-driven grassroots advocacy campaign dedicated to building a movement of community members demanding an end to indefinite detention regimes.
Why Is This Important?
Pre-crime preventative detention systems are a dangerous departure from the traditional values of our legal system.
We believe in justice, that persons who have caused harm may be held accountable for their actions. But justice also demands proportionality and due process, elements essential to distinguish justice from mere vengeance. The goal of any true system of justice must be restoration and re-integration, not the perpetual containment and incapacitation that have come to define the U.S. criminal legal system.