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November 10, 2006
FOX 29: Station Manager
330 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Your station, FOX News 29 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, aired a report about the use of a Sony Play Station Portable (PSP) by a young child to view pornographic images while at school in Minnesota. The specific city in Minnesota was not reported.
Your reporter, Robin Taylor, compiled a sensationalist aggregation of clips of violent video games, pornographic images and peculiar online queries ("ku klux klan" and "babes"). Yes, the potential perils that children can find on the internet are very real and very serious, but the scope of the story in which your station partook was unnecessarily broad, serving only to inspire fear in your viewers. Furthermore, your station's stylistic choice of fear-mongering led your reporter to blame the technology in the PSP and the PSP itself rather than the three real parties at fault: the child, the mother and the school.
The child is, of course, partly to blame for accessing pornography in the first place. The mother bears responsibility for allowing her child unregulated access to a powerful, interactive gaming machine. The machine is marketed to people of all ages, not just children, and has games appropriate for all age groups. Furthermore, the PSP's wireless capabilities are a large selling point for Sony, as it makes clear in its PSP advertisement and system specs. It was the mother's responsibility to learn this before she let her child use the PSP.
Finally, the school is at fault because it left a wireless network online, apparently without any sort of access regulation (such as log in requirements) or content filter to prevent anyone on its network from gaining access to pornography in the first place. The child could have just as easily accessed pornography from a desk-top or laptop computer, or almost any device with wireless, browsing capabilities within the area of the school's wireless network.
I sincerely hope that your station informed the school in Minnesota that its wireless network needs to be secured. It is your station's responsibility to do so. This is especially true after referencing so many internet technology and security experts for a report that used the incident with the child as its centerpiece. Your reporter said, "As a parent... You can also limit what plays on a PSP with a password." Does this not also apply to the network at school?
It is also your station's responsibility to at least report this pivotal detail in your station's story.
I do not believe the sole responsibility for this report lies with its reporter, Robin Taylor. FOX News has become quite notorious for the production of sensationalist news or "infotainment", as it is often dubbed. I do not doubt that the culture of the FOX Newsroom indicates to all employees that similar, sensationalist reports are expected.
As presented, your station's report places sole focus on the negative qualities of a video-game console, which is, ultimately, a tool. I wonder if a report by your station involving a child and a gun would be equally heavy-handed against the particular brand of gun, especially if it were particularly small and portable, like the PSP.
Commissioner Alice Seagren
Minnesota Department of Education
1500 Highway 36 West
Roseville, MN 55113
Commissioner Alice Seagren:
Attached is a letter I sent to FOX News 29 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in regards to a report they did on an incident in a Minnesota school that involved a child's access of obscene materials through a wireless gaming device at school, using the school's wireless network. FOX News 29 did not disclose the city where this event occurred. The station also did not disclose whether or not the school has since secured its network.
This is no doubt a concern to you.
If you would like to contact FOX News 29, I show their address and phone number below:
FOX 29: Programming Department
330 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106