Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dishonesty at Work Brews Paranoid Case

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dishonesty at Work Brews Paranoid Case

Article excerpt

A note tacked to a bulletin board in the newsroom of the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat drew many chuckles.

"Would the person who placed the two-hour call to Paris, France, last Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. please contact the city editor," it said. As far as I know, the bosses never got to the bottom of it. Speaking no French whatsoever and having no acquaintances in Paris, this then-young reporter was in the clear. And no, I don't blame that obviously expensive call for putting the paper out of business.

Now, many years later, I've got a small clue to the mystery caller's identity. I think he or she has been enrolled in the past two years at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

You may already know why I'd think that. It seems that some students living on campus managed to hot-wire the SIUE phone system, putting more than $1 million in personal long-distance charges on the state's tab over a period of almost two years before officials caught on.

The situation set me to thinking about purging my 1995 irritations, to give me a clean slate into 1996.

Problems with dishonesty and greed ride high on the irritations list. And the SIUE mess is a fine example. The attitude seems to be: "If I can take it I will."

Years of news reporting have made me a "shades of gray" person on lots of issues, but I see no other side to this. It is stealing, and it is wrong.

I might not rail on so much about this, I suppose, if it did not remind me of a discussion my wife recounted from the high school English class she used to teach. A startling number of students said they would readily keep money they found, even if they knew who lost it.

I end the year worried about society's basic honesty.

With a loss of honesty comes a logical companion - a loss of faith in people.

A high-profile example popped up when a major chain of stores recently refused to issue a credit card to a member of nothing less than the Federal Reserve Board. The retailer was wary because the applicant's credit report showed frequent inquiries over the previous six months.

There was nothing ominous, it turned out. But the episode shows that the ample dishonesty at work out there is fueling suspicion that may border on paranoia. …

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