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L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center decries sex-sting coverage

Manhattan Beach restroom

California Pete / Flickr

A restroom on the beach on Manhattan Beach

Some were taken aback at how eagerly certain media outlets, abetted by the Manhattan Beach Police Department, published detailed personal information on the 18 men accused of engaging in consensual-but-illegal sex in a public restroom.

Guilty or not, the men, all of whom had been swept up in a recent sting operation by Manhattan Beach police, were listed in a PDF file by the MBPD, along with date of birth, city of residence and high-res mug shots -- which CBS Los Angeles (KCBS and KCAL) then helpfully reposted online in its entirety. Similarly, the hometown Daily Breeze posted small versions of the arrestees’ mug shots but linked to the high-res ones, plus listed their names in a long paragraph -- the better to show up in future Google searches.

Reactions to those stories were mixed, judging from reader comments, but in a statement released Wednesday, members of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center did not mince words in expressing their outrage.

“It’s shocking that any news operation, but especially an affiliate of a major network like CBS, would choose to publish the mug shots, names and birthdates of people charged with victimless crimes, simply because the charges are salacious or related to gay sex,” the group’s chief of staff Darrel Cummings said in the statement.

“Publishing their photos serves no purpose other than to humiliate and destroy their lives. We call on KCBS/KCAL to immediately remove the images and names from their website.”

The group said its members contacted KCBS, and that “Assistant News Director Paul Button ... said he would look into the issue, but he has yet to follow up with the Center.”

Police have the right to release the names of any non-minors they have arrested regardless of the offense, and traditionally have done so. But unlike print and other old-media forms, online media poses a new challenge: On the Internet, stories last forever, making the repercussions permanent for those named.

At least two of the 18 men have denied engaging in lewd acts, and one told the Daily Breeze, “You have completely ruined my life.” An anonymous reader of this blog offered the following comment: “I know one of the guys that was arrested. He just walked in to take a leak and got tackled on the way out.”

Even so, some readers applauded the publishing of detailed information. “I live in Georgia (originally from the South Bay),” commented a Daily Breeze reader. “Out here, they post the name, address and photo of EVERYONE who is arrested and we LOVE IT. If you don't want your name and photo in the news, don't get arrested.”

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