Columbia Journalism Review editor Douglas McCollam takes a hard look at NBC's "To Catch a Predator" Dateline series in this latest issue of the magazine.
That is the series that has set up stings and helped round up men soliciting sex from what they think are underage boys and girls.
The story focuses on the suicide of one of the "predators", Terrell, Tex. county prosecutor Louis Conradt, who shot himself as police, and camera crews, were closing in on him.
McCollam suggests that American's fascination with public humiliation is driving the ratings success of the series, saying it is in the DNA of entertainment from Judge Judy to Borat.
He calls the sting "undeniably compelling television," but he raises issues of paycheck journalism, fairness to the so-called "predators," the degree to which the rise of reality TV has prompted news mags to follow that trend, and crossing the line from reporting to creating the news for the sake of a ratings-grabber.
Good questions in a piece well worth reading.
By John Eggerton
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