Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Think first, then tell the truth

By · Monday, August 22nd, 2016

No good comes from a lie.

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 …”

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.

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