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That's Terrible. Tell Me More

Tom Ellison is guilty. But what about us?

By Richard Warnica 15 Dec 2006 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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Tom Ellison, a Vancouver teacher who seduced a string of teenage students into sexual relationships in the 70s and 80s was found guilty today on a total of five counts including two each of gross indecency and indecent assault.

It’s today’s big story in Vancouver and will no doubt top newscasts, front pages, and call in shows all weekend. And that, in itself, may be a bigger story than anything Ellison did. 

The coverage of the Ellison trial is a story unto itself. For weeks lurid testimony was splashed on newspaper front pages and replayed on the nightly news. Every new revelation of an hour long session of oral sex, or a nude swim gone wrong demanded newer, longer, more vivid stories.

The Vancouver Sun, which usually slips news copy behind the firewall after a week, keeps some of their Ellison archive packaged on their homepage. So you can get an idea of what I mean. But the Sun was hardly alone. Globe BC, The Province and local TV news all piled on.

And it’s hard to blame them. While the public tell pollsters they want more health coverage or hard-hitting investigations, what they really mean is, more sex please. At The Tyee, stories on stripping, breasts or chastity belts, are always among our most popular.

And the Ellison trial, though bigger than most, is no exception. A cursory scan of this week’s papers turns up this story on a Utah child rape trial and this one in which my friend and former collague Trish Audette breaks the record for number of blow jobs mentioned in a single piece.

The Ellison trial is a good chance to examine what we think is news worthy and why. I don’t have the answers. But I’d encourage you, if you’re reading this, to write down yours in the comments section. Did you follow the trial? What did you think of the coverage? Do you want to know more?  [Tyee]

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