NBC News has taken hits in the media for its “Dateline” series “To Catch a Predator.”
Now it’s about to take one from a competitor, ABC News’ “20/20.”
ABC confirmed that “20/20” is working on a story about “Dateline’s” visit to Murphy, Texas, where the show helped arrest more than 20 people on pedophile charges during a four-day sting eight months ago.
One of the suspects was a former district attorney, Louis Conradt, who shot himself to death when police entered his home with a search warrant.
Conradt’s sister slapped NBC Universal with a $105 million suit claiming that the company took over police duties and failed to protect her brother.
The arrests and the suicide have drawn new attention to the series and whether its tactics are compatible with journalistic or legal standards.
The Dallas Morning News reported that a “20/20” news crew questioned Murphy police chief Billy Myrick about the cases in a City Hall parking lot last week.
“I didn’t like their tactics,” Myrick told the paper.
Myrick collaborated with “Dateline” and the activist group Perverted Justice, whose members pose as children in chat rooms and attempt to lure them to a rented decoy house where anchor Chris Hansen, and the police, lie in wait.
“Dateline” has been the subject of several scathing profiles, including those in Rolling Stone and the current issue of Esquire, which portrayed Myrick as a weak leader eager to please “Dateline” producers and who kept for his own use an SUV seized in the stings.
While the show is a ratings winner, advertisers have long expressed misgivings about it, and NBC News said no episodes are scheduled after September.
It’s highly unusual for network news operations to take on one another. “20/20” and “Dateline” could be considered competitors.
NBC News declined to comment on the “20/20” story.