After Lotts was arrested on child-abuse charges, why did his interest in Satanism seem more relevant than his sex-offender status?
Alleged criminal John Lotts, Jr., made news recently when he was arrested on charges of assaulting a 5-year-old Tennessee boy. According to police, the boy had “multiple injuries, including a laceration to the liver, and kidney contusions.” The boy’s mom was also arrested for failing to protect her son from the attack.
Gruesome enough, right?
Let’s look at the first sentence of the news article about Lotts’ arrest from the NewsChannel5.com site, based in Nashville:
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A self-confessed Satanist is behind bars charged with abusing a five-year-old boy. Detectives suspect it may have been part of a satanic ritual or torture.
The first sentence of any news article — called the lede — is written specifically to grab attention. The first thing reporter Nick Beres mentions is the alleged Satanism angle, even before he gets to the child abuse. The latter should be attention-grabbing enough, right? So why does it play second fiddle to a piece of personal information?
The rest of the story is a confusion of information: After Lotts was arrested, police questioned him. During questioning, he “produced a red card and declared himself a member of the Church of Satan.” While it’s true that CoS members sometimes carry red cards, it’s unclear why Lotts would mention this during the interview, particularly since he then had to disavow the police of the idea that his alleged assault had anything to do with his religious beliefs.
In fact, Lotts came right out and told the reporter that he “admitted to harming the child after losing his temper, but said his Satanism had nothing to do with what happened.” And, to be fair, the reporter looked at the Church of Satan web site and commented that “the web site also clearly states that it is wrong to harm little children.”
However, Beres waits until the very last sentence to mention perhaps the most pertinent piece of information about this man charged with violence against children: he is a convicted sex offender in the state of Tennessee.
Let’s revisit that lede again. Wouldn’t this be just as compelling?
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A convicted sex offender is behind bars charged with abusing a five-year-old boy.
You’d read that, right?
And it wouldn’t give you the mistaken impression that Satanism had anything to do with the crime.
If Lotts had revealed to police that he was a CostCo member, or held a library card, they wouldn’t immediately leap to the conclusion that those memberships had anything to do with the abuse of a child. Waving around a red Church of Satan card shouldn’t be any different. The only reason it did is because the police in this instance — and in many instances — are so ill-informed about the actual practices of Satanists and other minority faiths.