For two years the paper published letters supposedly written by a little girl whose father was serving in Iraq. Some of the letters were also addressed to President Bush, taking him to task for invading Iraq in the first place. The only problem is that the father didnít exist and the little girl was an imposter. It took so long for the hoax to be uncovered because none of the paperís staff thought to confirm anything.
Three thoughts occurred to me while I read this news account of the whole sorry mess.
The first is that the professors tasked with teaching the students the ins and outs of the business really dropped the ball. I mean, címon! They were running this kidís letters for two freakiní years and no one thought to pick up the phone on their desk and give the Army a call?
The second thing that sprang to mind is that Iím in the wrong business. Being a journalist canít be that tough if the simplest of cons takes them in so easily. (coughRathergatecough) If anyone reading this post happens to work for a newspaper and is hiring, give me a call. I used to work in law enforcement so itís extremely doubtful that Iíd be as gullible as people who spend all that money over all those years going to J school in order to earn a degree, but Iím certainly willing to stick my head in the sand and turn my brain off if the paycheck is big enough.
Lastly, Iím really glad that this didnít happen at The Chronicle, the newspaper at the University of Chicago. After all, we have a reputation to protect around here.
One last thing. The woman who was behind the hoax says that it was a scheme cooked up between her and Michael Brenner, the former student reporter who first wrote about the little girl. Brenner denies all of it, saying that “I’m an idiot, not a con-artist.” He voices concern that this incident will hurt his budding career in journalism.
Well, shouldn’t it?
If he’s as stupid as he claims then no editor worth his salt will ever trust him to get the facts because he might be taken in the next time someone lies to his face. If he’s actually a scheming oppurtunist then no editor should give him a job for fear of harming the newspaper’s reputation if Brenner should ever again decide to manufacture another story.
I think Brenner should take a serious look at that entry level position they have in the mail room.