Sunday, December 22, 2019
Media coverage of sex with student charges against former Leffen Center therapist revealing
The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office filed charges against Victoria J. S. West Friday and details were first revealed to the public when the Turner Report posted the story, complete with probable cause statement, at 12:18 p.m., six hours and three minutes before the news release.
Initially, KSNF and KODE reported that West was a 28-year-old who had sex with a 17-year-old and showed no information about her former affiliation with the Leffen Center, which is part of Ozark Center, which is part of the Freeman Health System.
Not only was the original post leaving out necessary information about her job, but it also left out the part that made the alleged sex acts at Schifferdecker Park a crime.
In Missouri, it is not a crime for a 28-year-old to have sex with a 17-year-old. Statutory rape is when the act is committed with someone under the age of 17.
From the initial reading of the television stations' report, no crime was committed.
While some social media commenters noted the omission of her former place of employment and attributed it to a fear of offending Freeman, since the story has been updated this morning and does include the information that West allegedly had sex with a student and that she was a behavioral therapist with the Leffen Center at the time, I will be more charitable. It appears more likely that the original caution with the story may have had more to do with it being a weekend and not having the most experienced news personnel on hand.
KOAM's original post, as far as I can determine the same one that is on its website this morning, was short, to the point, and had the basic information the Joplin Police Department released.
KZRG has posted the entirety of the news release on its website.
As of this moment, nearly 13 hours after passed since the press released was issued and not one word appears as far as I can tell on the Joplin Globe website.
Perhaps the newspaper has to wait to have an editorial meeting to decide how to handle straightforward news.