Foxnews Faux Pa? Internet Enables Reader Fact Checking

(Posted 6/1/06) - The next time you read something in a news publication that sets off your b***sh*t detector, I suggest you test your intuition by doing an online search. Playing the detective is fun and will increase your understanding of any reported event of interest.

It is often surprisingly easy to detect false information buried in current news reports. It appears that 'research and analysis' by professional newsies is not a forte of many organizations (though they would prefer you believe otherwise).

Read on to see an analysis and reader response to a recent Foxnews report on criminality among illegal aliens in the US.

This is a verbatim copy of an email (with active links to sources) that I sent to Foxnews's reader response email address (insider@foxnews.com) after I read an inflammatory article posted on their website in late May.

I believe my email is self-explanatory as to the Foxnews report and my concerns with its factuality.

Hello,

I just read Fox's report (ref: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,197605,00.html ) in which you refer to a study by the Violent Crimes Institute of Alanta, GA. You report that VCI "conducted a 12-month study of sex crimes committed by illegal immigrants from 1999 to April 2006. It concluded that there are almost a quarter-million illegal immigrants in the U.S. who are sex offenders."

Did you research this statement or just report it out of hand? I find it very difficult to believe that out of a cohort of 12-15 million illegal aliens in this country approximately 1 in 50 is guilty of child molestation. This sounds like 'pick a number and report it as fact' to me.

I attempted to research the Violent Crimes Institute and found only this hit (ref: http://www.drdsk.com/index.html ). It contained no 'research' or 'study' information, only promotions for dubious profiles of serial killers; all rather sensationalistic, to say the least.

I found the following other tid-bits of information: There are currently 5 million convicted felons (state and federal) in the USA either serving sentences or under parole or probation. About 4.7% of those are sex-offenders (ref: http://www.preventfutureabuse.org/Statistics.htm ). You do see the problem with the VCI conclusion don't you? In all the USA's adult population their are less than 250,000 convicted sex offenders serving time, parolled, or on probation. Even expanding the cohort to include the current pool of convicted sex offenders that have exited the criminal justice system we get a population of less than 500,000! (ref: http://www.nationalalertregister.com/national-alert-registry.htm ).

To argue that over half of that population is derived from illegal aliens is bizarre beyound my understanding... unless someone has an agenda to poison the publics mind with untruths for some personal reason.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject, since your news organization reported it as 'a truth' with no qualifications to the statement by VCI.

You might wonder why I bothered responding to your article. I've been noticing more and more that news organizations seem to accept input from any source, throw it out into the public domain, and then move on without asking themselves, "do I believe this source's statements, and can I do a quick sanity check on the facts provided by the source?" It took me less than 20 minutes to come to the conclusion that the VCI report was a flagrant untruth.

Jon Wallace
Glen Ellyn, IL

A post script to the above email -- if I get any reply from Foxnews I will append it to this column. Don't hold your breath however -- that's another aspect of the newsmedia, they don't react well to criticism.