The mainstream media has never been all that great at dealing with stories involving porn models, especially when they delve into murderous territory. For the most part, I attribute this to the fact that every story needs some sort of angle to make it stand out, and journalists are usually in a frantic rush to be the first to get a piece out the door. It’s the reason every news story involving someone getting high and biting someone must include the phrase “Zombie apocalypse!” and the reason anyone who has ever worked as an adult model must be referred to as a “pornstar.” It’s just easier to sell a story if it includes buzz-worthy shorthand.
In many ways, the Luka Magnotta story — involving a fame-obsessed sociopath accused of murdering and disassembling a 33-year-old man — represents how the media tends to trip over itself when dealing with porn and violence. “You know what they say: fix one broken faucet and they don’t call you a plumber. But suck one dick . . .” says JC Adams, the creator of the website Gay Porn Times and a reporter with 17 years of experience in adult entertainment. “[Magnotta] was labelled a ‘gay pornstar’ because that’s what 30 seconds of Google research brought up for the first few stories written about this.”
When dealing with a story about an alleged murderer, there’s nothing inherently wrong with incorporating facts about the daily life of the accused. When it’s done right, it helps to flesh out the subject’s psyche, offering a fully realized glimpse into the world-view of the accused. However, when the media places too much emphasis on the porn aspect of a story, it risks sensationalizing the sexual side of the news while drawing attention away from the crime at hand.
Worse yet, gay porn was a minute part of Magnotta’s life: he only ever performed in a handful of scenes, a fraction of which were gay. If the media had focused more on how his dalliances in porn and his history of murderous tendencies were born of a single-minded desire for notoriety, rather than trying to aggrandize them without context, it would have been a more informative way of getting the story across. But unfortunately, the entire thing caved in on itself: the horror of the crime was downplayed in favour of emphasizing parts of the story that simply weren’t as important.
“[The media is] still uncomfortable with pornography being discussed openly; it still has a lurid appeal that has never rubbed off,” Adams explains. “The media clearly still looks at it this way, too. Every single time, for example, we have another story of a high school teacher being outed as a porn actor, the parents and the media lose their shit. And the students usually couldn’t care less.”
Ultimately, this is a matter of misplaced priorities. When the focus is bringing in page views rather than reporting objectively, informative content is sacrificed for hyperbole.