Jack McClellan is one twisted dude. He’s the sicko who posts photos of children on his website, where he chronicles the best public places to stake out little girls, or “LGs.” While McLellan emphatically claims he’s never inappropriately touched a child, his obsessive public fantasizing certainly pushes the limits of the First Amendment, and demands extraordinarily close scrutiny from law enforcement officials.
McClellan is under a restraining order prohibiting him from loitering within 30 feet of minors, and as a father of an LG, news of McClellan’s arrest yesterday outside a UCLA child development center elicited no empathy from me. Yet I couldn’t help but notice the curious way the AP wire story was reported.
As of 9AM PST this morning, a quick Google News search found over 200 published articles on McClellan’s arrest, and in nearly every single one the headline refers to him as a “pedophile” or “admitted pedophile” or “self-described pedophile” as in the Los Angeles Times headline, “Pedophile arrested outside UCLA child development building.”
That is, every single headline except that in the Seattle Times, which had its own unique take on McClellan’s dangerous perversion: “Controversial blogger is arrested near children.”
“Oh no, a controversial blogger?” I thought, reading the headline, “Which of my trusted colleagues turned out to be a disgusting pervert? Hmm… Postman is down in California for a few days, perhaps it’s him?” But no, it turned out to be not a blogger at all, but rather a “self-proclaimed pedophile.”
Over two hundred other papers saw this wire story and described the perp as a pedophile, but to the fearful headline writers at the Seattle Times, McClellan’s most disturbing biographical detail is that he blogs. How many readers clicked on this misleading headline, expecting the juicy details of a well-known blogger brought down by scandal? I sure did. And how many righties turned away disappointed to learn the “blogger” in question wasn’t an evil netroots leader like Markos or Atrios or even a lesser local blogger like me?
To primarily describe McClellan as a “controversial blogger” would be like introducing Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen as a “dog shooter.” In fact it’s worse, since blogging on its own is a neutral activity, whereas shooting your neighbor’s dog is both a heinous and criminal act.
That the Seattle Times would imply that McClellan’s infamy stems from his blogging rather than his pedophilia says something about the paper’s own fearful approach to new media competition. But it also provides a warning to which the blogging community should take heed: if the old media is willing to spin the arrest of pedophile into a headline about a fallen blogger, just imagine what they’ll do given the whiff of a real netroots scandal. No doubt there are some amongst the broader netroots community with skeletons in their closets or ethical and/or legal lapses in their future. As we gain readers and influence the media and political establishments will surely attempt to use their vast resources to defend their turf. And they won’t stop at misleading headlines.