The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has fingered a culprit in the Megan Meier story.
And the guilty parties are--surprise!--bloggers.
The traditional press, ever mindful of mouthing ethics that fall far short of what they actually practice, is again pointing a finger at their Internet brethren.
Joel Currier, the P-D writer seems upset that readers, upon reading Megan's story, became upset. The Post-Dispatch can hardly direct their ire at readers, having lost over 10,000 of them over the last year, so bloggers are not only handy, but also a logical target.
Besides, bloggers most likely don't read the Post-Dispatch anyway.
Why's Joel so upset? We'll let him explain.
Rage against Curt and Lori Drew of Dardenne Prairie continues to explode on the Internet — targeting the couple and people who did business with them.So: there are people upset with the Drews. This is unpardonable. Joel quotes a few of the merchants, who are upset at being contacted by people learning of their association with Drew's Ad Vantage advertising company.
Bloggers want justice for Megan Meier, 13, and vengeance against the Drews, whom they blame for Megan's suicide last year.
Dozens of names and phone numbers of businesses that advertised in Lori Drew's coupon book have been posted online with demands to boycott their establishments.
Many of the companies have canceled their advertising contracts with Drew and received letters saying Drew is folding her coupon business.
He then moves on to Drew's lawyer to support his thesis. The reporter in Mr. Currier surely knows that someone's attorney may not be the final word in objectivity.
Jim Briscoe, the lawyer representing the Drews, told the "Today" show on Tuesday that Lori Drew has had to close her advertising business and her daughter has dropped out of school after the publicity and investigation into Megan's suicide. Briscoe also said it was not clear whether the Drews would be able to continue living in their Dardenne Prairie neighborhood, four doors down from the Meier house.One admires Jim Briscoe. His job of presenting Lori Drew as a sympathetic figure is not an easy one. But he gets paid to do that job.
Drew "absolutely, 100 percent" did not know that Internet messages to Megan had become nasty, Briscoe said. Drew did not write any of the MySpace messages that preceded Megan Meier's suicide in October 2006.
Joel Currier gets paid to do another job.
And today he earned his pay decrying the reactions of readers--of bloggers. He quotes another harried small businessman.
Stein Hunter, 49, the owner of the Crooked Tree Coffee Shop in St. Charles, says he sees irony in the way people are using the Internet to harass business owners in order to get back at the Drews.
"The issue is harassment," Hunter said. "And they are harassing people."
An expression of opinion is many things to many people. To Mr. Hunter, it's harassment; it must certainly seems like it to him. But then, Mr. Hunter brews coffee: he doesn't report the news.
Another expression of opinion in the Post-Dispatch came from Currier's colleague, Jeff Gordon, sportswriter, about the Cardinal's Scott Rolen. "Rolen's gotta go," writes Gordon today. But no piece on whether Rolen agrees with that opinion or feels harassed. Or whether his livelihood might be affected.
And Rolen didn't conduct a six-week hoax on a 13-year-old girl; all he's apparently guilty of is pouting and frowning.
There's more of the same from Joel Currier in his story; anyone wanting to read it can check out the article; it's listed at the end of this post.
One could do a simple check--we did--to find that most of the phone numbers, personal information and posting of advertisers came from readers of blogs, not the blogs themselves. Whether in comments tagged onto the end of posts, in forums or in emails, readers were almost universally outraged.
Why were readers outraged?
That was simple enough to check also. They were upset that a 46-year-old woman would concoct an elaborate scam on a 13-year-old girl suffering from depression. They were upset that, in Drew's own words, "she, with the help of a temporary employee named "Ashley", constructed a profile of 'good-looking' male on 'myspace'".
They are upset that when "the communication became 'sexual for a 13-year-old', Drew--again in her own words--continued the fake male profile despite this development.
They became upset at a traditional press, which had long published the names and personal information of anyone targeted in frivolous lawsuits or cases where people were arrested for offenses, large and small(and later the charges were dropped), clammed up when it came to an Internet hoaxer.
And now, those same readers appear to be upset when reporters attack the one vehicle they had for expressing their anger: the Internet and the bloggers who chronicle there.
This isn't the first time this has happened. It's one of the reasons that TV ratings and circulation figures continue to tumble for the gatekeepers in the traditional media: poor and unresponsive customer service.
One suspects this won't be the last time.
1-FAS-FAX Numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulation
2-Internet Fury Mounts in Megan Case
3-What Lawyer said in 2007, What Lori Drew said in 2006
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.