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Dave McKenna tackles a 16-year-old chess cheat

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Versatile, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member


    Writing for Grantland, McKenna details the story of a high school student who cheated at chess as a gateway to the broader questions facing chess in the connected world. It's a gripping, wonderfully told story, but I am not sure how comfortable I am with it, ethically. Should we really be calling attention to the ethical failings of a 16-year-old, using his real name? McKenna says the tournament made note of his name and his case is somewhat high-profile, but this story has greater reach than chess message boards and newsletters. It's linked off the ESPN.com homepage right now.

    This kid knows a full account of his cheating at chess when he was 16 will appear high on Google searches for his name for as long as Google exists. That doesn't seem fair. He messed up, but isn't he young enough to be allowed to mess up?
  2. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Nope, sorry. Not for this. 16 is plenty old enough to know what he's doing was wrong, and he wasn't just playing in scholastic tournaments. This wasn't "lol, I cheated on a test in high school." The kid entered real, adult chess tournaments for actual money. He intentionally doctored an electronic device for scorekeeping to run a powerful chess engine so that he could steal money and ratings points from other players.

    That's the kind of person he is, so he can live with reputation hit for awhile.
  3. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member

    This is an interesting debate. I don't know what the rule is in the U.S., but in Canada, a "young offender" is someone who hasn't yet reached his 16th birthday. Even if they kill someone, their names can't be published. Obviously, the chess kid committed a far lesser crime than murder, but up here at least, once you reach 16, you lose the ability to blame your age for your actions. You are considered an adult before the law.

    At the same time, I did dumb things when I was 16 that I wouldn't dream of doing now. I think like a lot of people of my vintage, I'll be forever grateful that the Internet was not around when I was a kid.
  4. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member

    Actually, after double-checking the Young Offenders Act, the age is now 17. (My dad is sitting here, and he's saying that must be a recent change... relied on him for my previous information. Old man is slipping.) So, this kid could theoretically murder someone in Canada and not be named. Again, not sure what the rules are in the U.S. for that stuff, or if you guys have any rules like that. Here, though, 16 would be considered too young to shame.
  5. In the U.S. this stuff varies by state.
  6. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but youthful offender laws prevent the police or authorities from releasing information about the kid. If a newspaper or media outlet is able to discern that info on their own, though, there is nothing illegal about publishing a kid's name.

    My understanding was that a lot of newspapers have their own policies about it, but there is nothing legally stopping them from printing anything that isn't libelous, including a youthful offenders name if they chose to.
  7. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    In America, yes.

    In Canada, some publication is banned. It depends on the circumstances.
  8. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I think the Google thing is somewhat overrated, and varies wildly from occupation to occupation. Maybe someday, everyone will just do it as part of the hiring routine, but right now in Rhode Island, convicted child molesters with long, long dossiers both on Google and in the searchable court database don't seem to have many problems finding gainful employment.

    As far as the chess cheat, if anything, I think a story like this would help him, since it increases the natural curiosity factor. He also has years to pull a mea culpa, unlike, say, Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair. Finally, he is a chess cheat - I imagine that like being a computer hacker or other brainy, white collar crime, it probably won't be seen as a negative to everyone.
  9. Yes.
    But again, the age kids/adults are considered youthful offenders varies from state to state.
  10. JC

    JC Well-Known Member

    I believe the only circumstance that would allow it in Canada is if the youth is tried as an adult.
  11. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member

    I believe JC is correct. If a crime is heinous enough, I believe children over the age of 12 can be tried as adults, and then I believe (I'm not positive) an exception can be made. But the whole point of the Young Offenders Act is to give kids the chance to be rehabilitated and start their lives clean. Publishing their names would defeat that purpose.
  12. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Member

    If I remember right, the Canucks fan who was caught in the photo trying to light the police car on fire had to get a special judge's order to allow him to make a public apology since he was underage. The media wouldn't be allowed to cover the apology without the judge's permission.
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