Online Seduction Sting p.11

By: Dorothy Giobbe Denver Post marketing executive quits
after TV news airs his online pitch to underage youth sp.

A MARKETING EXECUTIVE at the Denver Post resigned last week "in the interests of the newspaper" after a Miami television station reported that he tried by computer to arrange a potential sexual meeting with an underage boy.
Ken Calhoun, 42, vice president of marketing for the Post, denied the TV station's allegation and said he is seeking the advice of a lawyer.
The resignation came after the broadcast of WPLG-TV's sting operation and weeklong series, "Online Sex," on how online chat rooms can be used to lure unsuspecting children and teenagers into illegal sexual encounters.
The series was produced by WPLG's investigative team, and was broadcast May 8-11. The piece on Calhoun ran for nearly five minutes on the first night.
As part of the series, a producer created a fictitious computer profile of a 13-year-old Florida boy called "Brad90." The station showed a number of excerpts from online conversations between Brad90 and Calhoun, who, the station reported, used the screen name "Ken4boys."
Calhoun acknowledged having online conversations with Brad90 but said he didn't know that he was talking with a minor. WPLG maintains that Brad90's online bio is clear about the youth's age, and that the profile is easily accessible to all users of the online service.
Online users frequently create a profile containing information about their hobbies, interests and occupations that can be easily accessed by users looking for compatible e-mail correspondents. Brad90 described himself as a male, student, born in 1981 and living in Miami. He listed his hobbies as music, swimming and skateboarding, and his personal quote as "let's have some fun."
In his profile, "Ken4Boys" described himself as a married marketing director living in the Denver area. His hobbies included "drinkin' martinis" and "xx video."
Some 11 days after their first online conversation, Brad90 and Calhoun agreed to meet in Fort Lauderdale. Calhoun was to be in Florida on vacation.
At the arranged meeting place, cameras rolled as two crews from the WPLG-TV station first captured Calhoun meeting with a young-looking WPLG employee who was impersonating Brad90, then showed the twosome strolling down a beachfront sidewalk.
As the two walked away, a camera crew and a reporter approached Calhoun and demanded to know what he was doing.
Calhoun resigned from the Post on the same day that excerpts from the footage were shown on Denver television station KUSA-Channel 9.
Post publisher Ryan McKibben accepted Calhoun's resignation, saying "I am saddened by this terribly unfortunate event."
Calhoun told the Post the TV report was "a slanderous piece of video, full of innuendo and half-truths. I categorically deny its implications about me and am seeking the advice of an attorney."
In an interview with E&P, Calhoun blamed the "degeneration of television news" and the emphasis on high ratings for the situation. He said WPLG "put together some video and innuendo, and created a news event, probably because of the position I held.
"They have to be made sorry for doing this to me, and make sure they don't do it again in the name of ratings," he added.
WPLG stood by its report and said it has received a number of supportive letters and calls about the series.
No charges have been filed against Calhoun, and law enforcement is not involved in the matter.
Calhoun joined the Post in January 1989. A replacement will be named in 60 to 90 days, the Post said.
?(Cameras from WPLG captured calhoon meeting with "Brad90" on a beachfront sidewalk in Fort Lauderdale. This photo was taken from a videotape of the TV report.) [Photo & Caption]
?(As the two walk away from the meeting place, camera crews and a reporter from the television station Calhoun and "Brad90." This photo was taken from a videotape of the TV broadcast.) [Photo & Caption]


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