Opinion: KETV Incompetence Harms Community

Nebraskans Unafraid / FACTS extends its gratitude to Lisa Sample, Ph.D., and individuals across the nation who assisted with the production of Confronting the Lie.

Confronting the Lie is a response to the latest trash-TV report in Omaha that is based on decades-old myths and lies that have been debunked by researchers across the nation. Dr. Sample is one of those researchers.

Confronting the Lie may be viewed in this playlist. It will be available soon in DVD format, combined with Nebraska – A State of Shame, one of our previous projects.

Confronting the Lie had a proximate trigger and a broad context. The proximate trigger was last week’s shallow story by a personality at KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha that once again reported as “fact” the thoroughly untrue notion that sex offenders are just re-offenders. That is so wrong that it is tantamount to KETV reporting about ships sailing off the edge of the flat world.

The broader context is that KETV is not the only place all these lies keep making their way into what is loosely termed “news.”

Nebraskans Unafraid / FACTS has attempted to share factual information with KETV and other stations in the past. All of that material has been steadfastly ignored. Some might say we are being unduly harsh. If you think that, then you have not lost your job, your home and your family because the state Legislature decided in 2009 to make political hay with your life.

So what some think harsh we would willingly trade for what we have endured. And after what we have endured, we are stronger. And we are getting even stronger. We will not go away, we will not be silent and we know this:

Because it cannot afford to lose viewers, a small TV station like KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha cannot really report the facts about the low re-offense rates of former sex offenders. That would be unpopular.
Like a seventh-grader faced with a choice of standing for the truth or being popular, KETV and the other stations will opt for untruth and popularity. They are fighting for an ever-dwindling pool of viewers. So it boils down to ratings.
But at what cost to the community? KETV might not purposefully damage the community. But it is ignoring work done by a nationally recognized researcher in a nationally prominent criminal justice program that is located a few minutes from the Channel 7 studio. That is so far removed from anything that might be called journalism that it is painful to have to point it out. That is incompetence. And it does harm the community.
The primary aim of the anti-sex offender laws that were enacted in 2009 was to boost the political careers of Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Sen. Pete Pirsch. Bruning himself says that Nebraska now puts people on the public shaming site that would pose no risk to his own children. Bruning of course will insist that he wanted to protect children, not boost his political career. Yes, and Vladimir Putin says those soldiers invading the Ukraine aren’t Russians. Some lies, we suppose, are just . . . necessary.
If someone does not pose a risk to the children of the state attorney general, or to anyone else’s children, or to anyone else, what possible excuse can there be for destroying their lives and their families? That is not hyperbole. It is fact that is borne out in the research that is being conducted by Dr. Sample at UNO. It is fact discerned by U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, who issued a ruling that ripped the law and its makers unmercifully.
And that was yet another in a long string of facts about this issue missed by KETV.

Expert Says Current Law Will Only Increase Harm to the Community

In Confronting the Lie – Part Three, University of Nebraska-Omaha criminal justice professor Lisa Sample, Ph.D., says she wants to make sure policy-makers base their decisions about sex offenders on science. And the science says that the vast majority of sex offenders do not re-offend. Endlessly punishing them and their families, especially by putting them all on a public shaming website, will lead to more — not less — re-offending.

Research by Dr. Sample’s colleague, Ryan Spohn, Ph.D., bears that out: Sex offender re-offense rates in Nebraska are extremely low — but they went up after the enactment of LB 285 of 2009, the law that put them all on the shaming website.

Asked what she would recommend to Nebraska policy-makers who are sincerely interested in public safety, Dr. Sample said:

  • Take people who do not pose a risk of re-offense off the public shaming website and bring back risk assessments.
  • Don’t enact laws that prevent former offenders from having jobs, housing, good family and community connections because those are the very things that keep them accountable and free of re-offending.
  • Don’t confuse news media coverage of a horrible crime with a complete picture of the situation. Legislating to the extreme horrifying instance is like legislating based on something you saw in a movie.

Confronting the Lie II: Working Around a Law That Seems Designed to Make You Fail

Because local TV personalities cannot get beyond their own limitations, Nebraskans Unafraid presents Confronting the Lie – Part II. If someone you know cites something they saw on local TV about former sex offenders, refer them to this series of videos.

In this segment, nationally recognized expert on sex offending and the law Lisa Sample, Ph.D., discusses research she is conducting that shows even some of the worst sex offenders are capable of reforming and redeeming their lives. She has found that the law is not much help and that offenders succeed despite laws based on ignorance and lies.

Tomorrow: Confronting the Lie – Part Three. What would it be like to have laws written solely to provide for public safety?