Thursday, April 9, 2009

Definition of a Child Exploiter? Depends on who you Ask

Submitted by Anya

Child exploiter. If I had a dollar for every time a Gosselin detractor has casually tossed out this pejorative at not only the Gosselins, but those of us who admit that we like the program and do not think the Gosselins have undeniably and absolutely ruined their children’s future, I’d be a bit closer to that state-of-the art refrigerator that Kate Gosselin greedily beat me to.

The accusation – well, I guess it does what it’s intended to do– it rankles a bit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider myself as a child exploiter. I certainly don’t excuse the behavior of adults who would trade a child’s wellbeing for momentary or long lasting gain. As with many things in life, I think we part ways on where to draw the line. The real world abounds with many different examples that different individuals have different reactions to. During the early days of this blog, the case of children working on a family farm was brought up to illustrate that minors contributing to a family enterprise is not exactly a new concept. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think it is safe to assume most would not consider this child exploitation, even though minors are being compelled to help earn a living for the family.

Others have claimed that child exploitation has more to do with sacrificing your children’s privacy for financial compensation. We have discussed the example of celebrities who have given the green light to have their lives and that of their children broadcast on television. Non-celebrities such as the Duggar, Roloff and Hayes families have been brought up as well (although none with near the fervor the Gosselins engender). I tend to take each situation on its own relative merit and form an opinion accordingly. From what I have seen of these other programs, I would not characterize them as child exploitation. I don’t begrudge those who form a more wholesale and across-the-board opinion, but I kind of wish they would consider the possibility that those of us who view the matter differently from them actually do have morals and have considered the effect of all this on the children involved, including the Gosselin children.

All this brings me to a slightly more delicate subject. For many months, I have witnessed the cable news networks making hay out of the tragic Caylee Anthony case. And lo and behold, some blogs that call out Jon & Kate as child exploiters have joined in. As per usual, vile conjecture is the name of the game, such as speculation that Caylee’s uncle was also her father (apparently disproved by DNA evidence, by the way) or gossiping about a possible suicide attempt by her grandfather. Many apparently lap this up, and the ratings (and corresponding increased advertising revenue) confirm this. I personally don’t find entertainment in following the sad case of a young child who lost her life and I actually find the daily coverage on cable television and blogs exploitive (yep, I used the word). Why? A child is dead. The alleged murderer is in jail, awaiting trial. What exactly is to be gained from daily updates and loathsome rumor mongering? I certainly can’t see how a media circus will improve the chances that an impartial jury can be found, for example. The coverage mainly seems to satisfy many viewers appetite for sensational accounts of true crimes. In other words, it’s a form of entertainment for many. (I realize this is not a new phenomenon).

I guess my most fundamental issue with the coverage comes down to the fact that various media outlets and blogs are using the death of a child to fatten their bank accounts. More readers and viewers = increased advertising revenue. Do I accept that others (decent people) may see the matter differently, however? Absolutely. I wish those of us who do not consider the Gosselins child exploiters would be accorded the same consideration.

How do you feel? Do you consider extensive coverage of crimes against children to be distasteful or exploitive?