Sunday, July 8, 2007

Yellow Journalism, Blue World

"Police in the Dutch city of Eindhoven have arrested a man suspected of attempting to defraud the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann.
The 39-year-old man, whose name was not released, allegedly pretended to know that Madeleine had been kidnapped and to know the whereabouts of her and her abductors. He demanded a payment of US$2.7 million in return for the information, a prosecution statement said.
After his arrest on Wednesday, the man confessed to making the whole story up, and there is no evidence he was involved in her abduction or has any actual information about her whereabouts, prosecutors said."

-Associated Press

This is one of the less pleasant parts of my job.

We the media have a role to play in helping get the word out when, say, a dangerous criminal is on the loose, or, as in this case, when a little girl has been kidnapped.

And no one would say that the McCann family doesn't have the right to attempt to do everything they can to keep their daughter's case in the public eye.

But in the absence of any news in the case, there's an amazing amount of pressure for us to write up any kind of incremental development, even when it doesn't add anything to 'what we know' that might help locate the girl.

This helps paint a more complete, if dreary picture of our world: an unemployed guy in Eindhoven is willing to try to defraud desperate parents. Are we surprised? Disappointed? You (I) wonder how that guy can look at himself in the mirror _ but of course, you (I) have no idea what his story is, so we're not sitting in judgment. Or are we?


On a lighter note, I was contacted by a British tabloid (NOT the one in the story link) that was trying to find a freelance gumshoe willing to go out and find out the scammer's name and story. You know, go fishing around the unemployment office to find out more about him, maybe knock on his parents' door to ask for a picture.

That's the kind of bottom feeding attitude that I love (no sarcasm here) about the British press.

Did anybody hear the story about how they set up the country's national soccer coach to believe he was being offered $billions$ to coach a Saudi soccer team? Flew him in a private jet, champagne and caviar, etc. _ all just to get him to divulge any little gossip about his players?

*That's* dedication...

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