Hats off to my good friend, Liz Safran, who makes her videojournalism debut on ZDNet for following a sneaky Dateline reporter all the way to her car in 110 degrees Friday afternoon in Las Vegas.
It was a few hours after the official Kick Off of DEFCON 15, an annual hacker conference proceeding BlackHat every Summer, just after Vegas' annual monsoon. The reporter, an associate producer for Dateline NBC, was outed in a public meeting for flirting up hackers and trying to get them to brag about felonies for a "caught in the act"-type expose.
Her goal? Not to show how hackers, working with private industry and law enforcement agencies throughout the world, are actually helping with their vulnerability and security knowledge. Her goal was to make them all look like criminals to her audience, which she describes as "central Kansas."
Well I know a few people from Kansas and they are not dumb at all. But with a brand name like NBC behind the Dateline series, even smart audiences are led to believe they can trust the information.
Dateline's antics come as no surprise to me. I've had dealings with Dateline in the past.
About two years ago, I started raising alarms about a group Dateline was using called Perverted Justice, who took the law into their own hands, accusing innocent people of being pedophiles and ruining their lives. Some of the accused really were pedophiles, but most of them were young kids not knowing who they were flirting with in cyberspace, and two of them were attorneys representing the accused. These Perverted guys are the same guys Dateline uses over and over again in their "To Catch A Predator" series, which I feel is criminal.
So now the young blonde Dateline Babe, Michelle Madigan, got to taste her own medicine. At one point in the tape shot by my friend Liz, a voice rings out asking Madigan how it feels.