One of my favorite training sessions to conduct is on newsroom ethics: What do we know? What do we still need to know? What are the risks? Who are the potential victims of our decisions? People often see the answers to these questions differently. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Here’s the latest scenario for you to think through:
The Sex Offender Football Star
One Saturday morning, I decided to scroll through the state’s sex offender database while I sipped my coffee. I mean, how else would you spend your weekend?
I came across an offender listed at 6’7″ and weighing roughly 300 pounds. Curious about the guy, I googled his address and saw he lived just feet from a small faith-based university. Another google search would show he was an active member of the school’s football team.
He wasn’t just any player, either. NFL scouts had an eye on him and were projecting him to go in the first couple rounds of the draft.
A sex offender football player? At a faith-based university? You don’t see that one every day.
After some calling around, we learned the people who lived around him weren’t aware they were staying just doors down from a registered sex offender. We were pretty sure school officials hadn’t alerted anyone of his status.
The school had to know about it, right? The silence on the other end of the phone line when I called over to raise that question was a clear indication they were aware.
“Let me get back to you in a couple hours,” the university official said.
Our sales department started to get calls from higher-ups at the school. A few minutes later, our general manager’s phone started ringing.
I initially felt that people who go to the school deserved the right know about this. I also figured it was something boosters and donors would want to know about the team they supported.
The school argued the young man was getting his life in order and a potential report could set him back. There was nothing new to report, according to the university. This had happened in the past. Administrators told us the school had enrolled the player because they felt they could help him become a better person.
So what would you do? What questions do you need answered before you proceed? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
How did this one end? It’s an interesting story. Shoot me an email and I’ll tell you.
Have an ethical dilemma you think is worth sharing with others? Email me: KellermanRA@yahoo.com