20/20 Needs to Expose Dateline NBC


Dateline was back with the hidden cameras again this week. Chris Hansen attempted to make a big deal out of “exposing” iPod “thefts” and to make Apple out have some responsibility for not incorporating a complex solution to keep thieves from being able to use iPod’s that they steal.

First, let me say right off, taking something that isn’t yours is wrong. It’s a moral issue. However, life is not fair and part of the process is to learn not to leave things lying all over creation and expect to get them all back. If we lived in a world where everything you left out was returned, we wouldn’t have shows like Dateline. There would be no wars and no one would ever do anything even remotely questionable.

The problem I have with the episode is two-fold:

First, it’s not Apple’s responsibility to act as your insurer. If you cannot insure the protection of your own property that’s a lesson you need to learn. Apple should not be required to spend the money to add complex security to an iPod just in the event of your leaving it laying on a park bench.

Second, if you see someone with an iPod and you see them leave it on a bench and then go up and take it, you’re a thief. You could have done something to help this situation. If you walk along one day and see an iPod lying on a bench in an empty park and you take it, you are NOT a thief. The moral thing to do would be to take it and give it to the police. The odds of that happening are probably off-the-charts but it would be the moral thing to do.

To suggest that such a person is a thief is to suggest that everyone who finds money on the ground, and spends it, is also a thief.

People need to get some perspective on these issues. It’s extremely easy to sit back and act like the world is a perfect place where people do the right thing all the time. It’s just not going to be that way.

I lost my wallet at a local cinema. We were the last people to leave the theater. I realized it was missing before the cleaning crew finished cleaning up the theater we were in. When I went to the desk to inquire about it, much to my surprise, the wallet was there. What wasn’t there was the $40 in cash that was in it. I said, “Who turned it in?” The response was that one of the workers did, just moments before I came up. When I pointed out the missing cash their answer was, “Oh well.” It seemed pretty obvious to me who took it and I do believe someone should have taken this up with the worker but, frankly, I was just glad to get the wallet back. The $40 was a cheap lesson learned. I now check for my wallet whenever I get up from a movie theater seat.

The point is that I should have taken better care of my wallet just as I should with an iPod or anything else that I want to keep. Someone online tried to suggest that this view is the same thing as saying that you’re not a thief if you drive up with a forklift and cart my car off. Nonsense. You had to willingly plan to take my car for that to happen. It’s also a simple matter to know who a car belongs to.

Here’s the bottom line. If you leave your iPod on a bench and the next day you return to look for it and don’t find it there, would you actually tell your friends that your iPod was stolen or that you lost it? Nearly everyone would say they lost it and the last time I checked losing things was not something that could be defined as being part of a crime. Try going to the police to press charges on that one. Their first question will be, “Did you leave it unattended?” However, if I go out to the parking lot and realize my car is gone, I, like everyone else, will call the police and report a theft. Their first question in that case will not be, “Did you leave it unattended?”

Dateline must really be running on empty if this is their idea of a hot hidden camera story. How about exposing more spammers, more politicians, more corrupt companies? Come on, you’ve got a long way to go Dateline before you get to making people who find a dollar on the street feel bad.

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