IESB's Robert Sanchez missing over allegations of child sexual abuse

by Paul William Tenny

Robert Sanchez (right) poses with John Campea at Comic-Con 2007.
Robert Sanchez (right) poses with John Campea at Comic-Con 2007.

The Wrap broke a pretty ugly story today over the circumstances of missing blogger Robert Sanchez. Local police want to question him over allegations that he drugged and raped his 14-year-old stepdaugther.

All the media sites I follow with the exception of The Wrap, which broke the story, including blogs both large and small and trade papers, haven't said a single word about any of this.

I actually find the latter part of this disturbing all unto itself. That Sanchez is (or is not, that won't be determined until he's caught and put on trial) a pedophile, incestuous rapist sadly isn't all that shocking. Not because of who he is, but because there are over six billion people on this planet and a lot of them are bound to be messed up in the head. It only seems like this is happening more often now because the Internet and its evolving communication ecosystem makes finding relatively inconsequential news a heck of a lot easier and faster.

And I only call this inconsequential because we're talking about a relatively obscure blogger, rather than a politician, person in a position of authority like a police officer, or the cliched dirty priest. Obviously it's devastatingly consequential to the victim.

Due to the rapid nature of information spreading via websites, email, text messages, Twitter, and whatever else you can think of, I'd have expected this to be a short lived but bright story with the media crowds that I travel. Most of these sites compete with each other and cover the same beat. That one of their own, a well known figure inside that community, is on the run because of something as scandalous as incest and child rape, isn't being covered at all makes me start to question the value of that community.

Are they ignoring the story because it's one of their own? Is it because they don't care? Do they not see the relative importance of this story to their readers, and shouldn't they all be thinking about the impact this is having and will continue to have on their community in the future?

I guess not.

For my part in all of this, I'm only writing this post because I've written about Robert Sanchez and IESB a couple of times before. Sanchez moderated a panel at Comic-Con 2007 called "Masters of the Web", where he took offense to being called a blogger, and fancies himself a journalist and a part of the "established media".

He's hardly alone in that respect, Deadline's Nikki Finke also hates being called a blogger despite the fact that her primary job is running a blog (using WordPress, no less), on which she posts "stories" that virtually define blogging. Spelling and grammatical errors, incoherent rambling, unsourced rumors, after-the-fact edits to old stories that proved wrong or misleading with no mention of the changes, usually short and spur-of-the moment, opinion mixed with fact, lots of days off without explanation, etc.

That's the kind of person Robert Sanchez was (less about the work ethic). He internally equated being a blogger with being the cliched amateur sitting at home in their undies, posting about what they had for breakfast that morning. That cliche hasn't been true for quite some time, with "established media" outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post using blogs for reporting real news and doing substantive journalism in short form for years. And that's why I wrote about Sanchez's blowup at Comic-Con. Everything Robert Sanchez did for IESB, while claiming to be a journalist and a part of the established media, was what the people at Cinematical and all the other blogs were doing.

Cinematical happily acknowledges being a blog, saw nothing wrong with it, and in fact was originally founded by Jason Calicanis as part of the first successful blogging network at his Weblogs Inc. startup.

I considered Sanchez an arrogant elitist, and he was. But apparently he was a lot of other things as well that I'm sure had nothing to do with blogging or his profession.

The Wrap paints a very incomplete picture of where Sanchez has been -- depending on who you ask -- either missing, busy, or dead for the past three weeks. He's almost certainly missing in the sense that nobody being honest knows where he is or has been for most of June. One of IESB's managing editors says the staff were told weeks ago that Sanchez wasn't around due to a family emergency, and later that perhaps he had died. His wife at one point was telling people that Robert had killed himself. But no missing persons report was filed that The Wrap could find, and if the police are looking for him, that means he's probably not dead.

The relevant allegations are that Sanchez sexually abused his 14-year-old step daughter, possibly drugged her to do so, and possibly taped the assault.

Since I haven't been keeping up on some of my news feeds over the past year, I didn't notice that IESB's Twitter account was deleted, that Sanchez wasn't working on the site, visiting film sets, and doing what he normally does, and now it appears the site itself is offline. I would have picked up on this a lot sooner, except as I mentioned at the beginning of this story, none of the sites that I do still follow has said a single word about any of this.

You'd think it'd be worth at least a 200 word throwaway post that Sanchez was taking time away from his business due to an "emergency" that has lasted over three weeks, or that the site's Twitter account was intentionally deleted, but that is not the case. A short review of my records shows only a few stories that mention IESB since April 1st. None of them say anything about Sanchez being missing, dead, wanted for questioning by the police, or IESB imploding.

As far as I can tell, as of the time I'm writing this story (~9:30pm EST), no site other than The Wrap has picked up this story.

To put a nice bow on this mess, I don't know Robert Sanchez and have never spoken to him personally. He may or may not be guilty of what he's accused of doing in these rumors. That is for a jury to decide, should he even be arrested, which isn't certain since he's only wanted for questioning at this point. Though obviously it doesn't look very good that his first reaction to all of this (before it was made public) was to go on the run, abandoning his wife and family, and his business.

If he does have even an ounce of integrity in his body, he should return to his family, answer the questions asked of him by the police, and take things one step at a time from there.

in Celeb, Feature, Legal


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For me, the corollary to all this is the fact that sexual abuse is a problem that long ago overwhelmed our society. The numbers are absolutely staggering, and the truth is, there are without a doubt many others in the entertainment journalism profession who have been touched by this familial, step-familial issue.

It would be interesting if one of them spoke up.

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