1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

The Student Who Lied Her Way Into the Devlin Interview

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Have we talked about this? Apologies if I missed it:

    The young woman, a senior at Washington University and apparently a freelancer for the NY Post, lies and says she's a friend of Michael Devlin, who kidnapped the two boys, and she gets in to see him. He talks to her, although she never mentions the Post.

    As we all know, the interview runs in the Post, his attorneys are ballistic, and all kinds of security and ethical questions are raised.

    My question(s): Would you hire her? Is the reporter, who was previously writing about faking orgasms and sex toys for the campus paper, going to have a great future, or is she going to be known as the unethical liar who cheated to get a story?

    One perspective, from the CJR: http://www.cjrdaily.org/behind_the_news/the_fine_line_between_hype_and.php
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't really mind her lying her way through prison bureaucracy.

    I mean, the guy is going to know she is not a friend and can choose to talk or not.

    She has to come clean about what she plans to do with the interview, though.
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Apparently she told him the interview was for the student newspaper--she didn't mention the Post.
  4. tenacious_g

    tenacious_g Member

    I don't know how I feel yet about this. Obviously, misrepresenting yourself is unethical. But having covered crime and courts at my prior gig, know that the jail would not have let her in had she identified herself as a reporter without even asking Michael Devlin. It is his choice, nobody else's, who he talks to but in my experience, the jail would have, with a high profile guy like him, never would have let it happen otherwise and it isn't their place to stop such an interview but that's how it works.

    Sure she could have fought their denying her entrance, but by the time it got resolved, his attorneys would have nipped the potential interview in the bud or at least demanded they be present and watered down his side of the story dramatically. A good defense attorney would have made it clear to their client from the start that interviews would not be in his best interest now and he could have made the decision himself when he found out who she was in the visiting room.

    Still, I know misidentifying herself is not the best way to go about it. I just remember being denied multiple jailhouse interviews by wardens who just assumed they had the right to do so. At the jail, it is the inmate's right to see whomever they want (obviously within legal reason) and that incules reporters. If she did say it was for the student paper, another problem on her part, but he still knew it was a reporter doing a story that would be published.

    And you could argue she is his friend, right? She is the only one so far that has told his side of the story at all. I bet he is happy she did that and now considers her a friend. (Maybe a stretch)

    As for hiring her, can she do an agate page?
  5. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't hire her. Her means stunk, and the end stunk.

    Truth is, most editors would, and we all know it.
  6. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    One of the writers on our school paper lied to a restaurant and said he was with a credit card company so that he could find out how much the student government council spent at the fancy restaurant.

    The restaurant gave him the information. The student government had spent A LOT (including alcohol), which they were unauthorized to do. So, a wrong was exposed.

    The reporter had no idea what he did was unethical. It wasn't a mistake of malice. He learned the rules, took his lumps from our advisor, went on to graduate and work for a major newspaper.

    So, I guess my point is, if she knew it was wrong to not ID herself as a reporter for the Post, and she did it anyway... she should be in hot water. But if she's a student who's learning, she shouldn't be run up the flagpole.


    Side issue: I do some freelance work, and this can actually be a sticky area. The people I pitch to often aren't interested in a story unless I've got the goods (i.e. people who will agree to go on camera.) But it's often hard for me to get the goods simply as a freelancer. I need the 'umph' of: I'm working on a story for X.

    What I end up having to do is, "I'm a freelancer who does work for X. I'm hoping to pitch this story to them. Would you go on camera?"

    It sort of stinks.
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I disagree with that part.
  8. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    Misrepresenting who she was writing for is completely unethical, but this is a college student. I wrote something inappropriate, too, at that level, so I sure won't judge.

    And no doubt this will get her offers that she wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
  9. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I'm sort of with most of the sentiment on this. Lying to get in and see him doesn't bother me, particularly if she would have never gotten face to face with him without lying to the prison. Lying about who she was working for to get the guy to talk crosses the line. I can't exactly say why, but one is enterprising to me, the other is unethical.

    The only possible explanation, other than the obvious one of bad ethics, is if she went to the Post after she already had the story. In that case, she wouldn't have said she was writing for the NY Post when she talked to the guy, because she might not have known she was yet. Does anyone know if this is the case?
  10. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    I wonder if she pitched the story to the Post after the fact, once she knew she was sitting on something with a high level of demand. I wouldn't be so quick to blame her if that was the case. The AP likely would have picked up the story from the school newspaper anyway. Overall, she did more things that impressed me than put me off, that's for sure. I'd hire her.
  11. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    If she went in as 'work for the school paper' and later decided to sell it to the Post, that's still not exactly clean.

    And if that was the case, the Post should have viewed it as ill-gotten gains unless Devlin was made aware of the situation. So I blame the Post.

    But what do I know... just a 'local tv personality,' right cran?
  12. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    I'd hire her in a heartbeat. Also, it makes little sense that she'd hide the fact she was writing the story for the Post instead of the student newspaper. Public is public, so if Devlin was willing to talk for a story, he would more, not less, likely to talk for a big city paper than a student one.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page