KTVB Ch-7 misinforms with “cruising” sex story

Jody May-Chang©
June 28, 2009 PrideDEPOT.com

Mark Johnson Ysabel Bilbao KTVB Channel 7 Reporter Treasure Vally Boise Idaho NBC affiliate Gay CruisingPrideDEPOT.com recently reported on the Treasure Valley’s CBS affiliate, KBCI Channel 2’s sensational and inflammatory version of the facts surrounding the arrest of Wayne Olin, 65, who allegedly exposed himself to a Garden City undercover cop in a wooded area near the Boise River.

Olin’s felony solicitation charge was reduced the day after his arrest to misdemeanor indecent exposure. KBCI covered the story as a “Gay Sex Sting” that resulted in the arrest of Olin who has never been identified as a gay man.

PrideDEPOT.com contends that KBCI”s coverage was over inflated and the station”s news judgment was flawed.

This incendiary reporting of a non-news story was not limited to only KBCI. The same arrest took on an entirely different scope and scale from the NBC affiliate, KTBV Channel 7.

Channel 7 exploited the incident with inflammatory coverage that started with Olin then launched into unrelated issues seemingly aimed at promoting misinformation and loathing of gay men.

KTVB Channel 7 Mark Johnson Gay CruisingThe story starts off with anchor Mark Johnson warning viewers that the facts of the story may not be suitable for children. Johnson pitches the story to reporter Ysabel Bilbao, who set the scene for viewers that the Greenbelt, a popular pedestrian trail, has hidden dangers where men are having sex with other men.

If there was any legitimacy to the story at all, Bilbao shot holes in it for the apparent sake of grabbing viewer’s attention.

On its website, KTVB.com posted two stories about the arrest. The first report posted at 12:37 pm, shows a video with a mug shot of Olin along with the caption “65-year-old man arrested” under the headline “Sex arrests along Greenbelt in Garden City.”

When the video is played it runs a completely unrelated story about a murder case in Meridian. The only thing that is related is there are men in orange. That error is not what is at issue here but does raise questions about KTVB’s commitment to accuracy.

This first story provides a contrast to the second report, posted just hours later, which is deeply concerning to the LGBT community and their allies.

KTVB Channel 7 Ysabel Bilbao Gay CruisingBilbao takes the questionable news story about a misdemeanor arrest and mutates it by taking viewers on her odyssey of gay cruising. In her coverage, Bilbao equates public sex acts and indecent exposure with gay cruising. Whether it is her personal bias or obvious lack of information about gay men, one thing is very clear. she effectively demonized gay men through her four minute package.

In his opening to Bilbao’s report, anchor Mark Johnson says, “Garden City police say he [Olin] asked an undercover detective for sexual favors and then publicly engaged in an act on himself.”

Then Johnson says, “Olin was doing something in the area known as cruising” and he tosses the story to Bilbao who is reporting live from the Greenbelt.

In the written article Bilbao quotes the Judge in Olin’s arraignment as saying, “Did willfully and lewdly expose your genitals in public place, to wit along the Boise River Greenbelt at East 48th and Mystic Cove Park.”

Bilbao immediately translates the Judge’s statement into this: It’s called cruising and it’s been a problem for officers all around the Treasure Valley for more than 10 years now.”

Of course Bilbao never quantifies the problem, number of arrests, or convictions to support her “more than 10 years now” statement.

KTVB Channel 7 Ysabel Bilbao Gay CruisingWas it just one arrest, 10 or maybe 100 arrests? Bilbao failed to offer precise information to support the statement in her report.

KTVB captions Bilbao’s video reading, “Men having sex in very public location.” She says, “It happened at Plantation Island where police say the men were having sex along the Greenbelt. It’s called cruising and it’s easy to find online.”

Bilbao and Johnson don’t understand what cruising is, yet they stand to misinform viewers on the subject without putting it into proper context.

Bilbao demonstrated that she has total disregard for journalistic standards when it comes to reporting on issues impacting gay people. KTVB’s overblown story about a single arrest of a man who exposed himself sets the stage to stereotype gay men as inherently deviant and something to be feared.

The vast majority of gay men DO NOT engage in public anonymous sex, and the small minority of gay men who do would be less inclined to do so if the media and political hacks did not demean or vilify them as Bilbao did in her report.

KTVB Channel 7 Ysabel Bilbao Gay CruisingKTVB failed miserably to first understand the subject that they reported. Had they done a little fact-finding they would discover that the men most often arrested for this kind of conduct are not gay. They are men who mostly self-identify as being straight men, but sometimes have sex with other men.

In her report Bilbao says, “Men women and children are spending their summer days enjoying the Greenbelt, but what may be hiding in the bushes specifically in one area, has Garden City Police concerned.”

Oh, it gets worse!

As if mischaracterizing cruising is was not enough, Bilbao continues with a dramatic web interlude. She is seen on camera scrolling though listings of locations and non-verbal signals on a cruising website.

“After a quick Google search,” she tells viewers, “We found websites that directed those interested to public locations like parks, gyms, truck and rest stops all around the Treasure Valley and throughout the state.”

PrideDEPOT.com tried for over an hour to locate the site Bilbao was surfing and we were not successful in locating it. Bilbao misinformed viewers by calling this a “quick Google search.”

KTVB Channel 7 Ysabel Bilbao Sex StingHowever, we also noticed something very curious. In one screen shot we saw what appears to be the word “[M]embership” suggesting that KTVB may have had to register as a member of an adult gay website.

Even novice web surfers understand, membership means you have to register with the website and create an account in order to login and view all the content on the site.

Did Bilbao or someone at KTVB sign up as a member of an adult gay website so that she could use this information for her report?

PrideDEPOT.com did a series of web searches using the word “cruising.” The majority of sites we found were travel curse lines and trip package sites.

Bilbao’s report implicitly suggests there is a connection between men having inappropriate and illegal adult consensual sex in a public bathroom with child molesters.

KTVB showed images of children playing and families sitting at picnic tables in a park 20 miles west of where Olin was arrested in her attempt to link it to the Greenbelt story.

KTVB Channel 7 Ysabel Bilbao Sex StingBilbao says, “Family-friendly Lakeview Park in Nampa has been a hot spot for years. The first big arrest happened in 1997, when eight men between 25 and 75 years old were arrested for having sex in the park’s bathroom.”

Just then, there are images of urinals and a toilet in the men’s room.

“Then more arrests,” says Bilbao, “in the same park six years later.” As she says this viewers see a children’s play area in the distance from inside the bathroom as the door slowly opens.

KTVB clearly wanted to convey the impression of a predator peering out the bathroom door toward innocent children at play, something viewers might see in a story about child molesters.

But this story was not about child molesters. This is an over-inflated story about a man charged for indecent exposure; a man who may not actually be gay!

Bilbao hyped up the Greenbelt arrest and went 20 miles away to dig up a 12-year-old story and never mentions any recent incidents or arrests in the Nampa Park that she described as a “hot spot.” The most recent incident or incidents she talks about happened 6 years ago and she offered no details.

KTVB Channel 7 Ysabel Bilbao Sex StingWithout missing a beat Bilbao is seen back at her computer on the membership only cruising website. She highlights it on the screen while telling viewers the specific signals and codes adult men use to connect with one another.

Bilbao is a journalistic hack who weaved together disjointed issues in order to create a patchwork of misinformation on a story about an indecent exposure charge.

Not only that, she can be credited with offering tips to gay bashers and others who may actually harm men who are gay or perceived as gay.

Thanks to Bilbao’s hackneyed story, an unsuspecting straight man with allergies is now perceived as a gay man looking for sex just because he happens to rub his nose and cough in a public men’s room.

At the very end of her report Bilbao adds a little 12-second pinch to give herself some plausible deniability as she slips in, “So police aren’t sure, but they don’t believe that these men are dangerous or that their contacting any children they say they are straight men, gay men, some married some divorced, some have children and they are coming from all social classes, but parents should be aware anyway.”

It is the previous 4-minutes of coverage and Bilbao’s creative imagery that has us concerned.

Does this kind of reporting stop anonymous sex in public places, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

But what this style of reporting does accomplish is to instill panic that gay men are to be feared and demeaned. KTVB’s report enforces the misconception that gay men in Idaho are romping around in bushes or in public bathrooms near children and families.

Bilbao and KTVB should be nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama in the manufactured news category.

Related Story: KTVB “Cruises” back to 1955. . .