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Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz

Posted: August 24, 2007 06:57 PM

How ABC, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Botched A Tale of Reputations, Tough Love and Censorship


If you want to marvel at big media's laziness-- and the exploitable flaws in citizen journalism-- check out this story I've just written for Reason.

The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, ABC News and Forbes all portrayed Sue Scheff as an innocent victim of internet cranks, a tireless advocate who works to help parents find schools for troubled teens. They told of a wonderful internet service, called Reputation Defender, which works to shut the cranks up-- or at least, push their complaints further down on Google search results.

But they missed the back story-- in which Scheff was the one being sued by a business competitor for making the exact same claims she turned around and sued the "cranks" for making about her!!!

They also missed the lawsuit and local media coverage which suggests that the "cranks" may not be the ones who are getting the story wrong. And they missed a glaring fact about the $11 million libel judgment Scheff won. This "child advocate" may have good reason to worry about her reputation-- and the press has been curiously supportive of a service which works to bury bad news.

A tale of tough love and free speech--and how one of the few places where teen survivors of abusive treatment can talk about what happened to them was nearly the victim of one woman's quest to hide her own links to programs that have hurt teens.