File this under slideshow ideas gone very, terribly awry.
Last week the Houston Press published a piece entitled ‘The 10 Hottest Women on the Texas Sex Offenders List.‘
From the intro: “We combed through 15 of the biggest counties in Texas and came up with the 10 hottest women in the database. Warning: In some cases, we picked out the best of a series of mugshots. Alternative choices were starkly different. So click on each link before you send any marriage proposals.”
Following this was a list of the women, along with the sex and age of their victims.
This was not, as you might jump to conclude, simply a badly thought-out traffic-baiting decision. Apparently it was simply badly thought-out (and badly explained) traffic-baiting decision that author Richard Connelly insists it was well-intentioned.
Here’s Connelly explaining and apologizing in a separate post that went up later the same day.
Here was the genesis of the idea. Last week I spoke to two veteran child-porn prosecutors for a Q&A on how they do their jobs…They talked of how child predators don’t fit any category — the people they prosecuted included successful lawyers and doctors, as well as unemployed losers.
It triggered an idea about how people have a preconceived notion of what dangerous predators “always” look like — slovenly fat guys in T-shirts asking kids if they wanted a ride — and how best to shake that notion up.
An item on “10 sex offenders who don’t look like sex offenders” might have done the trick, but seemed boring.
In an attempt to catch attention (and yes, eyeballs and clicks), I thought of the 10 hottest female sex offenders. “Hottest” because it’s a Web-headline staple for such listicles.
I also wrote an over-the-top intro, trusting that the outrageous headline (Anything putting “hottest” near “sex offenders,” I thought, would clearly show over-the-topness) would indicate this was fully intended to shock.
Indeed. So basically, good idea, terrible headline and introduction, though if one or the other had been done better he probably would have been fine.
That said, in a world where Donald Trump is mayb making a run for president “trusting that the outrageous headline…would indicate this was fully intended to shock” seems utterly naive at best.