Think first, then tell the truth
We have seen that most recently with the made-up story involving four Olympic swimmers in Rio de Janeiro. The fabrication was that they were robbed in a taxi — by police, at gunpoint — when, in fact, they themselves had vandalized a public restroom.
The only money they had lost was the reimbursement they paid for the damage.
But they lost much more than money.
Why not tell the truth? Reasons can range from fear of failure to rash decisions to lack of conscience. We all know what it feels like to be fearful of something. But doing the right thing must prevail.
That’s why we encourage “thinking in advance” by always asking: What’s the consequence?
For journalists, this could mean, “What will happen if …”
- I publish this fact without checking its accuracy (possible correction needed)
- I publish this quote about someone else without checking its veracity (possible libel)
- I publish this information without giving credit to the person who owns it (plagiarism)
All of these could lead to loss of credibility. And when credibility is lost, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to gain it back.
That’s why in our classrooms, the consequence of any of these is an F for the assignment and possibly for the course.
It’s a harsh reality — as difficult to give an F as it is to receive one. But an F now might mean all the difference later.
The truth always comes out. It could take hours, days, weeks, months or even years. And, inevitably, one lie or untruth will lead to another.
Think in advance. Think of the consequences. Think.