The Hidden Life – Questions 3 and 4
3.When referring to the allegation that Mayor Jim West was pursuing underage boys online, why do you think editor Steven Smith differentiated between a legitimate news story and one that is not legitimate when he said, “If he’s [Mayor Jim West] engaged in this activity … we need to know that. If he’s not — there’s no story” ?
It is possible that Steven Smith differentiated the difference between a legitimate news story and one that was not as to protect all those involved. As journalists, they have an obligation to respect the reputations of those involved. It would destroy the credibility of a town paper to release such a major story and then have it proven wrong.
The mayor was an individual known for being conservative, anti-gay and was involved in the community with the Boy Scouts of America. If the leader of the community was that ingrained in the town, in close contact and having access to so many outlets to meet vulnerable youth – the public needed to be aware.
4.How did reporter Bill Morlin justify the use of a concealed identity on Gay.com as part of The Spokesman-Review‘s and the FBI’s “sting operation”? Why didn’t Morlin himself create the assumed identity to engage Mayor West online?
Reporter Bill Morlin justified the use of a concealed identity on Gay.com as a method to find the truth. This decision to move forward and uncover the truth surrounding the potential behavior of the Mayor as it was articulated that the purpose was not to bait but simply to see if the Mayor would pursue a young man.
This story developed from one that would have been assumed to focus on the mayor pursuing young men into a story that was about the abuse of public office.
Personally, it seems like Morlin was motivated to find that the Mayor was actually partaking in crude behavior. This only causes some to question Morlin’s intent. When discussing with the Mayor of his online activity, Morlin was fierce and simply destroyed that Mayor as a man.
The accusations the mayor faced were inappropriate and should be penalized. Gay.com was used as a safe haven for the gay community but if used with the intent of pursuing children, those individuals should be subject to the law.