“Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”
– Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
Robert “Alex” Green, reporter and editor of the Bryan College newspaper, The Triangle, said that his teachers taught him to tell the truth, and that’s what he did.
After the Christian school officials killed his story detailing that one of his teachers was arrested, Green self-published it and circulated several hundred copies around the school.
For this small and noble act, Green was awarded the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for 2013 from the University of Oregon.
In acknowledging Green’s actions, the dean of the university’s school of journalism, Tim Gleason said, “We applaud not only his courage in reporting the story but the thought process he shared with us about his ordeal.”
According to a report in USA Today (Apr. 15, 2013), “Green learned from an FBI news release and a report from the sheriff’s department in Catoosa County, Ga., that Morgan was arrested in an FBI child prostitution sting on June 24, 2012.
“Green worked on the story about two months — getting documents and interviewing college officials. But Bryan President Stephen Livesay decided the story wasn’t appropriate for the paper.
” ‘As we said at the time, we believed we were doing the right thing to protect the privacy of a man charged, but not convicted, of a crime,’ said Tom Davis, Bryan spokesman, in an email.
“Green believes school officials had good intentions. He believes students needed to know what happened with Morgan. He also feared there might be victims on campus.’We felt it was our obligation to get the story out — as journalists and as Christians,’ he said.”
The second tenent of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code asks a member of the press to minimize harm. “Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.”
In explaining his actions, Green wrote in an editorial that self-publishing the story was the best way to reach the on-campus audience. “Printing this story,” Green said, “will not cause a Penn State situation for Bryan. I believe it will prevent one.”
” ‘A student’s recognition for significant achievement is a matter for celebration,’ [a university spokesman] said in email. ‘The matter that was the basis for Alex’s award was difficult for both Alex and the administration, as neither had experienced that set of circumstances before.’
“Jo Ellen Werking-Weedman, a journalism instructor and adviser to the student newspaper said, ‘The goal of Christian liberal arts education is to teach students to act with integrity and to tell the truth. We can’t preach that in certain classes and then say, ‘Don’t put it in print.’ ”