Should man jailed for felony child abuse history in Scouts be mentioned?

05/11/2014 9:35 PM

05/11/2014 9:35 PM

Emailer Don Shapley took great exception to a wire story that ran last week on KansasCity.com with the headline, “Former Missouri Boy Scout volunteer gets 5-years on sex charge.”

The 51-year-old Missouri man was convicted for using Craigslist to communicate with an undercover FBI officer posing as a 14-year-old boy.

Shapley felt the man’s past status as a volunteer with the Scouts isn’t germane to the case and should not have been mentioned. His email, in part:

This issue has nothing to do with the Boy Scouts. Why not a headline (reading) “former plumber,”or “former high school student,” or whatever? What does any former status have to do with this?

You are diminishing the significance of the horrible action. You have placed a higher emphasis on the “former Boy Scout” issue than the action itself. That is unfair to any actual or potential victim(s).

Boy Scouts of America is the nation’s largest youth organization and has instilled character in millions of young men. Is there a reason you want to attack it and the many of us in the community (your readers) who work diligently to assure that young men have these opportunities?

I perceive this to be an attention grabber and cheap shot. Can you explain why you believe this additional information is useful and necessary?

I have heard similar concerns from other readers through the years, and believe me: I understand why supporters of the Scouts find news coverage that mentions details such as this hurtful or troubling.

None of us likes to see bad news about any institution that we support. And of course cases such as this one are exceptionally rare.

At the same time, one can argue that the suspect’s past involvement with the Scouts is what makes this case particularly unusual. It’s painful to acknowledge that crimes such as this are actually quite common. But the fact that this one involved a man who had involved himself in an organization that put him into direct content with youths does seem directly germane to me.

Shapley’s rejoinder: “I don't feel that it is germane to the headline.” That’s a perfectly fair point. Maybe he’s right.

Correct one in 24?

I heard positive feedback about a story on the cover of the May 7 Sports Daily about boxer Franchesca Alcanter and her campaign to fight bullies and raise awareness for domestic violence and missing children.

As in many profiles, Alcanter’s name appeared frequently in the piece — 25 times, in fact.

Unfortunately, it was misspelled one of those times as “Alcantar.” Worse, it was the first mention in the body text. It was correct in the sub-headline and photo caption.

At the afternoon news meeting that day, I conferred with two senior editors about whether this mistake rose to the level of requiring a correction on Page A2 the next day.

As I’ve written in the past, The Kansas City Star’s corrections policy is pretty simple: Errors of fact are corrected.

Here, though, we ultimately decided this was too fine a point to require a correction.

If it had been one out of two times, or had been in a headline, I think we may have felt (based on nothing but subjectivity) that it was more grave an error.

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