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Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:20 PM

 

Seeking opinions: should media do background checks to find controversy in even feel good stories?

That's the debate that's been going on in Iowa this week after the Des Moines Register, when profiling a 24-year-old who had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars (now millions) for an Iowa Children's Hospital, decided to include in that profile a reference to 2 offensive tweets he had made 8 years prior when he was a 16-year-old sophomore, referencing the Tosh.0 show on Comedy Central.

There's a lot more to this story, including the doxxing of the reporter himself for even more offensive tweets he had in his past (he's since been fired), but the Des Moines Register has doubled down and defended its background check practice (claiming they did it for 'the public good' and that readers insist on 'the whole story') and the editors that had approved the story are keeping their jobs unscathed. They've said very little about the hypocrisy of doing such thorough checks on the subjects of their stories but not on their own reporters.

What's everybody's thoughts on this practice? I can maybe see why you would do it on certain types of stories/subjects, but let's say someone saves a bus full of Girl Scouts from a fiery accident. Before writing that story, should the newspaper spend a bunch of time digging into the past of the rescuer to find out if they've ever done anything controversial?

For good measure, another ironic twist: Anheuser-Busch was originally heavily involved in the fundraiser, but backed out on parts of it after the tweets came out. Internet sleuths dug into it and found that Anheuser-Busch was, ironically, a sponsor of Tosh.0, the very show the kid quoted. They're holding him accountable for quoting a show they themselves sponsored...

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:26 PM

1. "How one tweet can ruin your life"...

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:28 PM

2. Mixed feelings.

I've never even heard of the Tosh.o show so I'd have to know what it is and what he said about it. OTOH, he was 16, not an adult.

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Response to 50 Shades Of Blue (Reply #2)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:33 PM

3. I think the age is less of an issue than that they dug it up at all. Why?

 

I don't buy the "readers need the whole story" bag.

I have never read an article on someone and thought, "boy I wish I knew every single thing this person ever did in their entire life, especially the bad stuff."

This reporter went back through EIGHT years of social media posts to find these two tweets.

With the public now having knowledge of that kind of practice, aren't they pretty much guaranteeing that almost nobody will want to talk to them about anything, even when on its face the story itself should be a very positive one? EVERYBODY has skeletons.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Reply #3)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:38 PM

4. That's true too. The more I think about it the more I think this was going too far.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:39 PM

5. If a bus crash "hero" tries to cash in...

they're fair game.

If they wish to remain anonymous, they should be free to do so, I think.

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Response to Harker (Reply #5)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:45 PM

9. So let's say your local newspaper asks you a question on the street about the upcoming election.

 

You'd be comfortable giving them your name knowing that this kind of background checking is apparently standard practice for even the most minor stories?

You have a whole lot cleaner life than the rest of us do.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Reply #9)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 02:00 PM

15. Answers are optional.

Anybody digging into my past would find plenty of crumbs under my rug. I don't present myself as a great man of virtue, that's for sure. I try, though.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:42 PM

6. You don't want to be took for a story so you do want to check it all out

On that note Tosh.0 is a horrible show I'm surprised it is still on the air.

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #6)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:43 PM

7. For what it's worth, they had already written several stories about it over the previous couple week

 

It wasn't until this last story that they decided to bust that information out.

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #6)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:46 PM

10. I thought it was long gone

what a horrible show!

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:45 PM

8. Every single one of us should have the opportunity

to witness our old selves and own up to it. It is called growth.

If you admit it, talk about it and show your growth that is a positive for all.

If it is brought up and you make excuses then you really need to think about your real feelings and thoughts on the matter now.

If you own up, then deny, then seek others to blame, then deny etc. etc. you have not grown up and are not likely to be trustworthy.

Growing up is hard and we rarely make people do it anymore. I had a very hard opportunity to do it once and I did it. It was hard, then I grew up.

This is JMO however.

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Response to MuseRider (Reply #8)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:47 PM

11. He had. They did not bring up a tweet from 3 years ago that was very progressive.

 

They only brought up the 8-year-old tweets.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Reply #11)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:54 PM

14. He now has the perfect opportunity

to address that.

Some people start out in a way that guides them poorly. Even though they are doing good things now their past is unavoidable. I think this would be a good lesson for a lot of people.

I don't really think being humiliated is fun or funny but it can be handled with the right attitude.

A kid made some bad remarks. Really? That is how they want to hurt this guy who is apparently doing really good things? It is a very sad world we live in.

I was asked once to run for a small office in my county. All I could think about was my iffy past and how I would not want that drug out and aired so I declined. It felt cowardly to do that when it would have been a good opportunity to shrug and give the story and move on. I do not think there is a thing we can do about this anymore, it is all available to anyone who wants to knock you down. It is now our job to evaluate these things by the responses I guess. It really sucks.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:48 PM

12. No, they shouldn't

It serves no public good (the press and its freedoms are about maintaining an informed citizenry, not voyeurism)

Every person is much more than their own weakest moment or most regrettable words.

Don't we want people to show growth, change, improvement? To be able to put their best foot forward and overcome past failings? What matters in something like this is the good thing the person is doing today.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sat Sep 28, 2019, 12:51 PM

13. They should have...

Contacted the guy so his apology could be included in the story

Not blind-side him like they did

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sun Sep 29, 2019, 08:24 AM

16. I think of "Joe" the "plumber."

The world is full of shills and phonies.

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Response to MadDAsHell (Original post)

Sun Sep 29, 2019, 08:47 AM

17. I wish they wouldn't unless it's germane to the story. The story should start with the good deed.

They should keep an eye on the story going forward. Remember when two people raised a ton of money for a homeless man, and it turned out to be a big fraud? Also, the guy raising money to build the wall. When that began to look suspicious, they dug into his background, but not before there were red flags.

This practice might deter people from doing good deeds. A lot of people "turn their lives around" at some point. We do want to encourage that.

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