Thursday, August 16, 2007

This Would Make A GREAT College Course...

There's a war of words going on behind the scenes as Kent State J-school students and friends come to the defense of the fellow who allowed himself to be skewered on WKYC earlier this week in Eric Mansfield's report on personal records found in the dumpster behind the Fairlawn BMV. In case you haven't seen these reports, it should be mandatory watching on so many levels.

The issue should be just how safe your private information should be when doing business with the public. Lots of folks who Eric tracked down told him they discarded the state driver's forms -- with addresses, social security numbers, etc. -- by leaving them with the clerks at the BMV. The young man (a KSU student who's been raving about this on his Facebook page, as well as garnering support from journalism students at Kent) who ended up splashed all over the story went to WKYC's Akron studios to check it out because his mother runs the bureau and is now in big-time hot water with the folks at the state. He says it's the lazy customers, not lazy clerks, responsible for not shredding the personal info...even claiming other tenants at the shopping plaza where the BMV is located could be behind it.

OK? Following along? You can be the judge on whether it's a story or not -- the State of Ohio thought it was troubling enough to warrant their own investigation -- but what I find fascinating is the response, both public and in private emails to Eric's bosses, complaining about the video lynching this young man says he endured by sticking up for mama. (Personal advice: don't be surprised after you GO to the TV station when they start rolling video)

What's even more interesting is that some of these emails originate from inside the Daily Kent Stater. (Disclosure: I serve on KSU's JMC Student Media Advisory Board, which means we vote on who has the student management positions and advise on budget issues.)

If the student journalists at the Stater have trouble grasping the issue -- and then flaming WKYC without even talking to their reporters for the other side from BMV-boy's rants -- what's that say about the state of investigating reporters coming up the ladder? Eric tells me he's not surprised that those accused of being asleep at the shredder switch would cry loud and long but when students displaying their positions at the Stater start weighing in without talking to a fellow reporter for the other side, it makes me wonder who's getting a fair shake from whom?

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