Friday, February 13, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Calling People Out

by Josh Mei

So I’m sure everyone has heard about the couple of articles that were published in The Post, The Athens Messenger and the Athens News in the past week or so. You know, the ones about sex offenders living too close to schools and thus are being forced to move, and so on, and so on. Yes, that was the story Nicole DeChant and I had to cover over the weekend. You can read my web story about it here.

After going over the articles in the newspaper and getting our assignment, we decided to go to Nelsonville on Saturday to try to get some interviews and talk to officials to get any information they might have--supposedly more than half of the sex offenders living close to a school were in Nelsonville. We called up the Nelsonville Police Department, and it turns out, they knew about as much as we did. Apparently they hadn’t gotten any information from the county sheriff's department or county prosecutor's office yet, so all the information they had was from the newspaper.

On Saturday, we drove out to Nelsonville in search of these sex offenders (well, their addresses), and were pretty surprised at what we saw. In all honesty, it reminded me of areas in Morgantown (my home town in West Virginia – home of West Virginia University – go Mountaineers) where many students reside. The only difference was that in Morgantown, beer cans litter the lawns and side streets, whereas in Nelsonville, there were fewer beer cans. But I digress.

I always get off subject when I’m writing; ADHD causes my mind to wander way too much. Sometimes I can’t even find it and I’m forced to use whatever brain power I’ve subconsciously saved for a rainy day. Just my luck, it was cloudy on Saturday.

But as I merge back into this blogosphere from the highway of nonsense I was previously on, none of these sex offenders were home. None of their neighbors really wanted to talk to us either. We did knock on a couple doors, and ended up talking to some people, who still didn’t want to be on camera. After visiting a few streets, we went to our last location and got some video. We knocked on a neighbor’s door, and she told us that the “registered sex offender” who was supposedly living across the street, had a wife and kid also at the residency. We showed her a copy of The Post from last week with all the offenders’ pictures, and she said that the person listed wasn’t even him. They had the same last name, but that seemed to be the only thing the two had in common. Interesting.

So on Monday, The Post has another article retracting ALL the names of the men from Nelsonville, because apparently, the area where they lived near is no longer considered public school property. Yes! That Nelsonville trip was so worth it.

Just kidding, it wasn’t. Turns out we could have stayed in Athens because it was County Prosecutor C. David Warren that we actually should have talked to. But the trip wasn’t an entire waste because we did get some good additional info that we otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Anyways, why is my blog titled “Calling People Out?” Because that’s exactly what happened, these guys got called out in the most unimaginable way. Pictures of their faces were spread out across the front page of the newspapers…SPLAT. Just like that, your life is under a microscope once again even after you’re released from jail. Now I’m not saying I feel for them, because I obviously don’t know what it feels like to be a registered sex offender, but I can imagine it wouldn’t be too great.

All I know is that I wouldn’t want my face to be plastered all over the newspaper for something that happened a decade ago. Now, don’t look at me like that (I know many are probably staring at their monitors thinking “how can you take their side??”) I’m not taking any sides here. As a matter of fact, I’d be the last one to take a particular stance on the subject, because first, I feel pretty strongly against sex crimes, and second, I’m a reporter so technically I’m not even allowed to take sides. But as a reporter I think it's important to note that ten faces were shown in the newspaper and only four actually turned out to be living near schools.

Anyways, that’s my rant for the week. Tune in sometime next week to read more sarcastic comments and witty ranting by yours truly…(did you catch the slight sarcasm there?).

Peace out people.

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