Monday, January 22, 2007

Confessions of a teenage fabulist

In a comment to a previous posting, "hp" brought this to my attention in Canada's Maisonneuve magazine.

"Any thoughts?" he or she asked.

Yes, and I think the article is so important to read that I wanted to do a separate posting instead of just comments.

It's a story by "Kate" about how she faked her way through journalism school. It's a sordid tale, probably one that will leave many people shaking their heads -- in bewilderment, or in agreement that journalists are scum.

Of course, as many of the commenters have noted, we can't even be sure this isn't made up. But even assuming that, it's a fascinating tale I think you should read and consider. It raises many questions. Just a few:

  • Are we too blinded by "good" writing?
  • Why would a journalism professor accept at face value some of the things that obvioiusly raised questions?
  • What safeguards do we have at the college level to prevent fabulists from getting through the system? Are our problems similar to those of other professions? Can we learn anything from them?
Among the most dismaying things to me out of this story -- let's assume truth here for a second -- is that a professor allowed students to go so far afield that he or she did not seemingly have a good grasp of the subject matter so that such fabulism not only got by, but was praised as good work. No student should be allowed to pursue a story for credit unless you, the professor, have a grasp of the subject or a willingness to make some calls to get that grasp.

It's a fine line we walk as journalism educators. This story should send us all into a moment of introspection.

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