If you notice the message I posted on the 13th then you know that there was an article in my hometown newspaper, The Sun Chronicle, about MySpace. My profile was shown in the article, however it had nothing to do with the article. I ranted and raved on the 13th and then decided to exercise my right to free speech in a more constructive way. So I sent an e-mail to the editor.

Dear Editor,

In Sunday’s Edition of The Sun Chronicle there was an article about MySpace and the potential dangers that it poses to teenagers. The overall tone of the article describing how teens can say safe on the Internet was good. The tips for teens was also very good.

However there was a screenshot of a MySpace search using Attleboro as the keyword. This brought up a list of users who had Attleboro as their location in their MySpace profile. My profile was one of those that was pictured. In the overall context of the article this screenshot seemed very out of place. Had the journalist contacted the people who were listed in the screenshot for quotes or something then it would have made a little more sense to have that screenshot in the paper.

It made me very uncomfortable to read an article talking about the dangers of being online and the access that sexual predators have to teenagers and then to see my picture from my MySpace profile up in a random screenshot. I concede that there was a caption that read here is a list of some residents of Attleboro who have MySpace accounts. I would have appreciated being contacted about my profile and my MySpace Account and Blogging on the Internet in general.

I have been blogging for the past 2+ years and I blog every single day. I have been working on a personal project to take at least one photograph each day. These photographs are then posted to buzznet.com and from there I post them to my MySpace and my Blogger accounts. I keep a list of other Photo-A-Day enthusiasts whom I have met online and in real life.

My main blog, http://benspark.blogspot.com, is where I post messages about TV, movies, books, I am reading, plans for my recent wedding, pictures from my wedding, favorite web comics, favorite folk and acoustic musicians. I host a daily trivia game and I even have many affiliate links to amazon.com and various other businesses. Through blogging I have met some very nice people including one web comic who created the wedding gift that my wife gave me. We are hosting him in July when he comes here to promote his first published comic book. I am proud of my blog and my dedication to maintaining and improving it each day.

I feel that by having my profile on that screenshot in the paper portrays me and my profile in a rather creepy way. I have had many good experiences online. Then again I am 31 years old and have been online since I was in college so the main gist of the article doesn’t really relate to me because I am not an impressionable teen.

I just feel very uncomfortable with my profile in the paper associated with the subject matter of the article. Had I been contacted to contribute in some way to this article I could see why my profile would be relevant. I understand that I was not portrayed as a sexual predator or deviant, however the image was randomly inserted and there I was. My profile is the one of the person in the Kayak. And I would be most happy to talk to someone from the Sun Chronicle about blogging, MySpace, Internet dangers and the Internet in general.

Respectfully,
Drew

Opinions editor of The Sun Chronicle, Mark Flanagan was great, he called me right after the message and left a voicemail for me saying that he would forward my message along to the News section and did I want to submit my message as a letter to the editor for the opinion page. The more I thought about it … yes, I did want to submit something to be in the paper. So I cleaned up what I had written and I submitted this.

Dear Editor,

In Sunday’s Edition of The Sun Chronicle an article was featured about the Internet site, MySpace, and the potential dangers that it poses to teenagers. The overall tone of the article describing how teens can stay safe on the Internet was good. The tips for teens were also very helpful. Making parents aware of potential dangers and giving them something to talk
about with their teens was a service to the community.

However there was a screenshot of a MySpace page of search results that used Attleboro as the keyword. This brought up a list of users who had Attleboro as their location in their MySpace profile. My profile was one of those that were pictured. In the overall context of the article this screenshot seemed out of place.

I was alerted to this article and the picture by one of my friends from MySpace who is also an Attleboro area resident. She left a comment on my MySpace profile that said, “So the Sun Chronicle had a 3 page report about MySpace and how it gives pedophiles easier access to their victims. They showed Attleboro profiles and right on the bottom’s is YOU! I kid not!”
Immediately I thought the worst. An article about pedophiles and somehow my picture is in the article. Why was it there? How did it get there? All the rest of the day I was anxious to get home and read the article. When I got home I read through the article and could not see the relevance of my profile, including my picture, and the profiles of other MySpacers and their
pictures inserted in a random screenshot.

It made me very uncomfortable to read an article talking about the dangers of being online and the access that sexual predators have to teenagers and then to see my picture from my MySpace profile up in a random screenshot. I completely understand that by having a public profile on sites like MySpace my image could be used without my permission. I concede that there was a caption that explained that many residents of Attleboro have MySpace accounts. However, I would have appreciated being contacted about my MySpace profile and my picture being used before it went into the paper.

Had the journalist contacted myself or the other people who were listed in the screenshot for quotes or their experiences with MySpace then it I could see why my profile would have been relevant. However, none of the people from the screenshot were part of the article aside from their profiles and images being
posted. This image was very out of place. I understand that I
was not portrayed as a sexual predator or deviant, however my image was randomly inserted into the article. My image really had nothing to do with the context of the overall article. Anyone who may be glancing through the paper and not reading carefully could draw their own conclusions.

I have three blogs and I have been blogging for the past 2+ years and I update and improve my blog every day. I have one main blog through Blogger (http://benspark.blogspot.com). This is where I post messages about TV, movies, books I am reading, plans from my recent wedding, pictures from the wedding & the honeymoon, my favorite web comic artists and their online comic strips, and my favorite musicians (I have discovered many new artists through MySpace). I also host a daily trivia game and maintain my own online bookstore. I have also been working on a yearlong personal project where I take at least one photograph each day. These photographs are then posted to my Buzznet blog and from there I post them to my MySpace and Blogger accounts, where readers can comment on the pictures.

Through blogging I have met some very nice people including one web comic artist who created the wedding gift that my wife gave me, a custom comic strip about our wedding day. I also met nine other Photo-A-Day bloggers who posted photos for me each day while I was on my honeymoon so that my readers would get their Photo-A-Day fix while I was gone.

I have spent ten years online, I taught myself html, designed websites in my spare time and professionally. The Internet is a great place and there are many nice people there, but like anything else there are those who turn the good things into bad. The Internet and the technology available to users have grown exponentially and have made access to advanced technology easier for all users. With this new technology it is easy to forget that there are
still dangers to be aware of. You have to protect yourself because what you do online can have very real consequences in real life. I appreciate that the Sun Chronicle printed an article making readers aware of what can go on and how to protect themselves and their privacy. I certainly learned something from this article.

Respectfully,
Drew

Well what I didn’t realize is that a letter to the editor for the opinion page needs to be no more that 350 words. Verbose, me, never. So I cut it down and here is my final submission. I don’t know when or if it will make it into the paper.

Dear Editor,

In Sunday’s Edition of the Sun Chronicle an article was featured about the Internet site, MySpace, and the potential dangers that it poses to teenagers. The overall tone of the article and tips for staying safe on the Internet was good. Educating parents of potential Internet dangers and giving them something to talk about with their teens was a service to the
community.

However there was a screenshot of a MySpace page of profiles that had Attleboro as a keyword. There was a caption that explained that many Attleboro residents have MySpace accounts. My profile was one of those that were pictured. It made me very uncomfortable to see my image in an article about the access that sexual predators have to teenagers. I understand that I was not portrayed as a sexual predator; however, my image had nothing to do with the content of the article. Anyone who may be glancing through the paper and not reading carefully could draw their own conclusions.

I completely understand that by having a public profile on sites like MySpace my image could be used without my permission. Had the journalist contacted me or the other people who were listed in the screenshot for quotes or their experiences with MySpace then I could see why my profile would have been relevant. However, none of the profiles pictured were part
of the article aside from the keyword, Attleboro.

I have spent ten years online, I have designed websites in my spare time and professionally. It is good that Internet technology available to users has grown exponentially and has become easier for all users. With this new technology it is easy to forget that there are still dangers to be aware of. You have to protect yourself because what you do online can have very real
consequences in real life. I appreciate that the Sun Chronicle printed an article making readers aware of what can go on and how to protect themselves and their privacy. I certainly learned something about my privacy from this article.

Respectfully,
Drew


I do not want to make a huge deal out of this whole issue but rather bring to light what came up and how it was dealt with. As you can see I paired things down to a more constructive and respectful tone. Oh and I took out my full name which I did sign to the letters.

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One Response to “The Sun Chronicle’s MySpace article….”

  1. Be As You Are says:

    Drew,

    Good for you! I was shocked when I read the initial post about the article…. but I am glad that you took the time to clear it up – not just making it about you and how you are clearly not a pedophile, but about the Internet community and blogging, etc… Way to get it out there that the internet is an acceptable place to make friends, learn new things about people and keep in touch with the old friends they haven’t seen in 7 years (that is why I joined myspace – to find old high school friends and it’s worked).

    I am glad you took the time to clear it up – it’s time that people realize that the internet is not a creepy place unless you are in the wrong places….