WBTV gets it wrong about public sex, gets slammed by QNotes

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Local CBS station, WBTV, reported about alleged gay sex in James Boyce Park, without actually having official proof of sex taking place there.

The report stems from a posting on a website, Cruisinggays.com, which is described as: "the world’s largest listing of gay pubs & clubs, gay cruising areas, gay friendly hotels & restaurants, gay saunas, gay services, gay events, and more."

The park is listed on the site with the comment, "Public Park with lots of trails." WBTV based a news story on the site, which by the way, still has Eastland Mall listed as a hot spot in Charlotte. How reliable of a source is this site?

James Boyce Community Park is located at 300 Boyce Road in southeast Charlotte.  It has the appearance of any park until you read the fine print found on a website called cruisinggays.com.

One visitor on the website claims people have sex on many of the trails and warns people that men have been seen having sex in the open.

We shared the contents of the site with some local parents at the park.

"That's real surprising as a parent that it's being advertised in a park like that," said Amanda Childress.

Police have been notified, but one person, in particular, is fighting back.

Brian Lutes leads the Stonehaven community patrol just blocks away, and he's hoping extra patrols can make a difference.

"In this instance, we're stepping it up, and trying to get down there several times a week," Lutes said.

Park patrons plan to be extra careful and people like Becca Dressler are hoping that police can put a stop to what's going on.

"I don't want my park being on a place for recommended sexual activity," Dressler said.

In recent years, the CMPD has conducted sex stings at various other parks in the Charlotte area and they have arrested numerous people soliciting or engaging in sex acts.

Missing from this story, according to Matt Comer, editor of the local LGBT publication QNotes, are facts, the voice of the gay community and an actual incident.

So, QNotes ran an article about the report:

WBTV News Director Dennis Milligan said his station learned of the park situation from a viewer.

“It [the public sex] had been the subject of neighborhood concern and consternation,” Milligan told Qnotes. “I think they had been in contact with the police department and there was some exchange of emails that there was going to be something done and that was forwarded to us.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) crime data tracking back to Jan. 1, 2011 show no reported incidents or calls for service related to public indecency or other sex-related crimes within a half-mile of the Boyce Park area.

Raleigh resident Sean Kosofsky is familiar with public park sting operations and the media reports that often follow them. For 12 years, he worked as the policy director for the Detroit, Mich.-based Triangle Foundation. There, he says, he dealt with hundreds of cases of gay men harassed, entrapped or intimidated by police in public parks and rest areas. [qnotes has requested data regarding public park stings and arrests from CMPD.]

Kosofsky says WBTV should have been more sensitive to the video images they used when producing the story.

“There is still a pervasive public perception that gay men are sex offenders and that if they are in these parks that children are somehow at risk of something,” he said. “Just because this website says that some adult at some time did something inappropriate in a park, that doesn’t mean that straight people aren’t doing this in public places all over. And, so the focus that somehow if it is gay men meeting in public that it’s a threat to children is lurid and a little bit biased, if not a lot biased.”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a national organization that counters anti-LGBT bias in the media, echoed Kosofsky’s sentiments.

“The sensationalistic nature of this segment perpetuates crude stereotypes about gay men, and only serves to stir panic and prejudice in its audience,” GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said in a statement today. “By circulating these images, WBTV is failing to meet the basic standards of fair and accurate journalism.”

There was a "publicized" arrest of a man soliciting sex from another man in Charlotte, this month. However, it didn't happen at this so-called hot spot. But at Charlotte-Douglas International airport, as reported by WBTV.

Police have charged a man who they say tried to solicit sex from an undercover detective last week.The incident happened at 4:14 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, at 6700 Old Dowd Road at the overlook at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Clinton Alexander Feemster, 58, was arrested for Soliciting Crimes Against Nature.

The police report said Feemster was "soliciting an undercover detective for oral sex."

Police say the incident occurred in a public area where families were present.

The CMPD has received numerous complaints from people who have observed lewd sexual activity taking place at this location.

Charlotte's relationship with the LGBT community, though the media and politicians, leaves a lot to be desired. Gays in this area are far too often marginalized and viewed as stereotypes to make someone's point or for a news stations' ratings boost.

Comer and QNotes issued this statement on Friday:

Correcting the record: WBTV’s anti-gay and sensationalistic tabloidism

The following is a statement from Matt Comer, editor of QNotes, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender newspaper based in Charlotte:

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Charlotte news station WBTV ran a story by reporter Steve Crump (“Internet site links Charlotte to gay sex” http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14080924) on alleged incidents of illegal sexual activity occurring in James Boyce Park in Southeast Charlotte. Their report was biased, sensationalistic and furthered, whether intentional or not, the stereotype and negative social stigma that gay men are a threat to children. For more details, you can read QNotes' story on the station's coverage here: http://goqnotes.com/10106/.

As I worked on covering WBTV's original story and the response to it, I also conversed with both WBTV News Director Dennis Milligan and reporter Steve Crump regarding the production of their Feb. 22 story and the reasons why many people, including myself, felt that the story was biased and irresponsible.

Despite these conversations – which included my thoughts on "group blame,” in which an entire minority group, in this case gay men, are blamed or asked to apologize for or condemn the actions a few -- WBTV's follow-up report on Feb. 23 (“Commissioner requests investigation into alleged sex acts taking place in park” http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14089194) wholly misrepresented my statements and thoughts.

Steve Crump reported:

Meanwhile, Comer feels some in Charlotte's gay community are being stigmatized by those who break the law in public places.

"I don't think it's the job of the entire gay community to apologize for the actions a few within our community," Comer said.

It should be made abundantly clear that I do not believe the gay community is being stigmatized by its own, the majority of whom are likely gay or bisexual men who due to societal discrimination and prejudice are unable to acknowledge their sexual orientation in public and healthy ways.

Instead, as related to both Dennis Milligan and Steve Crump and as stated during my interview with WBTV, I believe it is the media and many times police departments — not only in Charlotte but across the nation — which too often and irresponsibly correlate illegal sexual activity among men with the entire gay community. Given that positive coverage of the gay community is often few and far between, negative stories like these do a great disservice to this minority community.

Obviously, Steve Crump and Dennis Milligan had a clear agenda in mind before producing the "follow-up" to their Feb. 22 story.

In this particular instance, the only people stigmatizing gay men are the staff of WBTV.

Real facts and figures show a reality much different from WBTV’s hysterical and hyped-up sensationalism. There have been no reported or documented incidents of illegal sexual activity in a half-mile radius of James Boyce Park since Jan. 1, 2009. Further, figures from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on the number of charges for solicitation of a crime against nature throughout the entire city and county in 2010 and 2011 reveal that the overwhelming majority of cases involve heterosexual prostitution.

If WBTV actually sought to be "on your side," they would use their skills as so-called media professionals to report accurately and fairly on news of substance. Instead, they chose to forsake real journalism for sensationalistic tabloidism backed up by no numbers, no evidence and no fact – coverage that ultimately furthers stereotypes, discrimination, bigotry and prejudice against gay men.

It is not hard to tell whose side WBTV is actually on; certainly it’s not with this minority community.

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