At Concurring Opinions, Dan Filler has a post about residency and work restrictions on sex offenders. Filler seems surprised at the media coverage of the laws in the New York Times and the Washington Post:
Of course, these laws aren't really about reducing crime. Put in the kindest terms, they are about society expressing its anxiety and anger about sexual offenses. Put less kindly, they are about uncontrolled, and to some degree unjustified, fear of sexual crimes. And put most unkindly of all, they are simply about pandering politicians.
What I do find interesting is the fact that some major national media outlets have decided to take on these laws. True, both papers offer relatively progressive views of public policy. But it would be easy for a liberal paper to leave this issue be. Making the case against any sexual offender regulation is unpopular business, even among Northeastern and West Coast suburban liberal elites. These readers may shed tears for the poor, drug-addicted thieves (who do their business well out of sight of affluent suburbia) but they have no love for those evil pedophiles whom they fear haunt the local parks and schoolyards. Indeed, for most liberal legislators - those who fight overpunishment and stand up for the Fourth Amendment - sexual offender regulations are the prime site to establish tough-on-crime credentials. The Times and Post could follow suit; there's little percentage in highlighting these laws, except for an honest commitment to fairness and good government.
I think this perspective may be generalizing too much from just examples. Filler concedes that the NYT and WP might not be representative newspapers and, so, I think he is aware that the coverage might be a bit atypical. Generally, the coverage of sexual offender restriction laws is pretty supportive from newspapers and other media across the country. Catch a Predator takes the media coverage to a place that is virtually unprecedented, although it is not focused on the residency restrictions. However, as I have noted, I think the statements by police in Iowa that these restrictions are having some undesirable effects, has caught the attention of newspapers in states like Kansas where restrictions are being considered. With the recent piece on NPR, the NYT, and WP articles, maybe we will start to see more pieces like kind Filler is hoping for.