As the face of news and journalism continue to change, even traditional outlets are pushing the envelope with commentary that shocks our sensibilities. This weekend, the Washington Post, soon to be taken over by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, published a piece of commentary defending sexual relationships between teachers and students. Not surprisingly, the opinion piece (which we are not linking to here), and the decision by the newspaper that brought you Watergate and Richard Nixon’s impeachment, has come under fire for what some see as crossing the line between legitimate journalism and the salacious.
Guest writer and friend of The Broad Side, Matt Shipman, wrote this open letter to WaPo expressing his outrage over the decision, and has allowed TBS to republish it here:
Dear Washington Post,
I am writing in regard to the opinion piece you ran on August 30, “Sex between students and teachers should not be a crime,” by Betsy Karasik.
Choosing to run an op-ed that openly defends the rape of children by teachers does not contribute to any sort of intelligent discussion. Instead, your decision offered a forum to defend the indefensible behavior of pedophiles and sexual predators.
I work with a shelter that serves survivors of rape and sexual assault. They are contacted by thousands of people each year, despite the fact that I do not live in a particularly large city. Offering a soapbox to someone who is attempting to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault is a step in the wrong direction.
By presenting this opinion piece, you appear to be tacitly acknowledging that the subject of child rape is open to debate. That is, frankly, alarming. I am disappointed and saddened by the Post’s decision to offer even the illusion of intellectual cover to those who would harm children.
What do you think? Is the news industry so desperate for eyeballs that there are no longer any limits on the kind of commentary that gets published?
Matt Shipman is a freelance writer and father of three, based in Raleigh, NC. He is also the founder of the First Step Project, which supports community nonprofit organizations.