In Defense of The Wanted

It’s 24 meets Dog the Bounty Hunter.

What’s not to love about that?

NBC's latest addition to the reality show genre, The Wanted, doesn't premiere until July 20 at 10 p.m. ET, but it is already stirring up a full pot of controversy. And while it would be easier for me to join in the media pig-pile on NBC, touting superficial analysis of a show I’ve never seen, I have decided instead to go into this with an open mind and many questions. Let there be clarity!

The Wanted features Emmy-winning journalist Adam Ciralsk, retired Navy SEAL Scott Tyler, retired Army Special Forces officer Roger Carstens, and former U.S. intelligence official David Crane. They all team up to track suspected terrorists and war criminals living comfortably among us -- “us” being quiet, unsuspecting neighborhoods all over the world.

This proximity should cause a certain level of discomfort for those of us who would prefer to think “not in my neighborhood.” Perhaps that discomfort is why this show is under fire by the mainstream media. We don’t want to consider the possibility that our neighbor finances a global terrorist organization, or that our daughter’s college professor is accused of genocide.

But psychology aside, criticisms of the show stem primarily from issues of journalistic ethics and vigilantism.

There has been some blatant bad reporting regarding the show. I have seen several articles label all members of the show’s team as journalists, while only one is. Also notable, though only mildly surprising? Despite the considerable coverage of the show to date, the cast members I spoke to have had little contact from the media.

I was prepared to write endlessly about comparisons to other “reality shows” and about how the media has covered high-profile criminal cases in the past. But I realized -- again, after talking to the cast of The Wanted -- that these comparisons, however valid, are also a distraction from the real question of the roles and responsibilities of investigative journalists.