Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Integrity Demands Truth, Even When It Hurts: When I "Chickened Out" as a Collegiate Reporter, I Learned a Lesson I'll Never Forget

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Integrity Demands Truth, Even When It Hurts: When I "Chickened Out" as a Collegiate Reporter, I Learned a Lesson I'll Never Forget

Article excerpt

Every day, as editor of this publication, I make decisions about information in the hope of presenting you realistic, balanced, and believable stories and opinions on the pages of Behavioral Healthcare. Many stories or story elements reflect what I think of as shared wisdom--thoughts heard in a public policy debate, a bit of news referred by a trusted source, or a concept or idea that seems essential for readers to know. Others take a different tack, cutting against the grain of common wisdom by expressing unusual, unpopular, controversial, or painful viewpoints.

The make-up of each story and the sum of all our stories over time comprise a Behavioral Healthcare that, we hope, offers objectivity, balance, and integrity that you can depend on. That said, I know qualities like these are intangible. So, let me explain how I learned them and what they mean to me.

It all started in the 1960s, when I grew up watching The CBS Evening News with my dad. I could think of no better way to "be where the action is" than to be a journalist like Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, or Dan Rather--intelligently slicing through the issues and getting right to the truth.

As an undergraduate, I worked hard to be the top reporter at my small college newspaper. One of the biggest stories that I ever "covered" involved the dismissal of a college chaplain, a well-known figure on campus, shortly after he and students returned from a trip to the Holy Land. The administration made clear that its position on the matter was "no comment," which, to a journalist like me, was essentially a dare. So, I began working on the story, soon learning that the chaplain's departure occurred because he, perhaps not unlike Jesus himself, skinny-dipped in the Sea of Galilee in the presence of students.

After confirming this fact from an eyewitness who had reported this action to college administrators, I headed straight for the chaplain's office. On entering, I asked him to confirm that he had been fired. He looked at me, face ashen, eyes welling. "I was asked to resign," he said.

At that moment, faced with his grief and humiliation for the foolish act that cost his career, I could not bring myself to ask further painful questions. Nor could I later bring myself to write that foolish, humiliating detail in my story, a failure of objectivity and fact that was noted by my advisor and fellow students.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In my first test of dealing with an uncomfortable truth, I chickened out. …

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