Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater

Today I had a story in the Daily Universe, which you may want to read before continuing: http://universe.byu.edu/node/6474
The story was cowritten by me and my partner Danny for an advanced print reporting assignment. I have to give credit here where credit is due: although I did a lot of interviewing and writing for the article, it was Danny who got The Interview. Since the article topic was my idea, I was supposed to take point on it, but I told Danny to feel free to interview anyone he heard talking about interesting cheating-related things. He called me later to tell me about Heather. She started talking to one of his friends at work about her procrastination "method," and he asked her if he could interview her, fully expecting her to say no. Amazingly, she agreed, even after he made it very clear that this article would appear in the newspaper with her name and information. She didn't care, which proves once again several things I have learned since becoming a reporter:
1) Some people are stupid.
2) Some people will do anything to to get into the newspaper.
3) Some people don't censor themselves well.
4) Some people don't understand the power of the press to make or break a person.
5) Some people don't realize that newspapers aren't just five minutes of fame any more. If you're mentioned in the newspaper, a potential employer could Google your name ten years from now and found out about that time that you did that thing...
So he interviewed her. I interviewed other students. We wrote a story. And then we put it in the newspaper as promised, prominently displayed as the front page package. So far, we haven't heard from her. Maybe nothing will happen to her. Maybe she'll get kicked out of BYU. Maybe everyone will hate her and next year she'll still be getting "Hey, weren't you that girl...?" I'll probably never know. A small part of me feels bad about possibly having a hand in ruining her life. But a bigger part of me is okay with our desicion to publish. She knew her name was going to be in the paper, and she decided she was okay with the consequences. She did it to herself. It's not our job to protect unwise people from themselves, especially the dishonest ones. And we believe her story conveys the message Danny and I set out to give in the first place: there are many BYU students who would never dream of taking cheat sheets to a test. They think of themselves as honest, temple-reccomend-carrying, calling-holding members of the church. And yet, they are rationalizing their way down a slippery slope of "Well, I'm not really lying" instances. If at least one person read this article today, thought Heather was a bad person, and then thought of this article next time they were tempted to do something dishonest, then Danny and I did our jobs. Because from where we're standing, we don't see any gray areas.


  1. Amen! I totally agree with you. If you continue on with a journalistic career, you're going to find a lot more "stupid" people. It's hard to not feel sorry for them, but like you said, it's not your job to protect people from themselves. Way to go with the story!!

  2. I read your article, and it made me sad... sad that people sell themselves so short. Doesn't their honor mean anything to them? Anything? I guess not.