A MAJOR bust of an internet-based child-porn operation run by a Texas couple has been in the news lately. My local daily, the Philly Inquirer, ran a follow-up story today from the Associated Press, focusing on the business's foreign connections. I was reading along, mildly interested, until I came to the sentence: "Most of the Texas-based business' content, agents said, came from Indonesia and Russia, where suspects known as Web masters operated the sites."
Oh, no. Not 'Web masters'! They must be evil!
This is sort of like reporting: "According to police, the get-away car was operated by a suspect known as a Driver." Duh.
What's sad is that this is an AP story, from someone named Chris Brummitt, apparently an AP stringer in Jakarta. The AP is supposed to be relatively well-informed operation. It's never heard of the word 'webmaster'? It was presumably edited by a copyeditor for the Inquirer, who also apparently has never heard the word.
Maybe this is an Old Media vs. New Media thing. But it sure makes the Old Media look silly and uninformed.
It's also a reminder that no matter how well a story reads, no matter how compelling it is, there's no guarantee the writer has done his homework, or knows what the hell he's talking about. This story, by the way, is well written, entertaining, quite colorful in its discussion of Indonesia's open-air pornography markets, and reads very smoothly. If it weren't for that one slip up, I would have assumed the writer was well-informed, and I would have trusted what he had to say, at least as much as I trust the average news story. He may still have the rest of his facts right, but glaring errors like not knowing what a webmaster is, make me wonder.