Those young reporters at the Cypress Bay High School newspaper who are starring on the new MTV reality show "The Paper" better straighten up and fly right before they learn some hard lessons that grizzled journalism veterans already figured out, according to Middle Tennessee State University newspaper writer and senior journalism major Andy Harper. These kids should have known that journalists are here to relay the hard news, not mess around with this reality TV thing—a genre in which "everyone loses." Indeed, they could have asked senior journalism major Andy Harper for a bit of advice before they went and let their on-camera kissing and alcohol sipping leave their "byline tattered with a mixture of mud and shame."
Most of these journalistic-hopefuls screwed their careers in the very first episode. After their last issue under the "old" editor in chief, the staff celebrated with a house party that included a game involving ping-pong balls, red plastic cups and a mysterious unseen liquid. Two of the show's characters, Trevor Ballard and Giana Pacinelli, sneaked upstairs for some "alone" time.
Not to say high school students are required to be "innocent," but Web sites like Facebook and MySpace already cause future employees trouble. The first episode of this show is basically like "Minors Gone Wild."
True, these high school staffers could have been drinking water or sparkling cider. Trever and his girlfriend Giana could have just gone upstairs to talk or snuggle. But I doubt future employers will view their actions as such.
These potential future pillars of the journalism industry have shamed the very job they wanted to immortalize. And worse, they have dragged their own good names through the mud, and a good name is one of the most prized processions a journalist can own.
To be fair, these high school students could be amazing people. They could be responsible, talented, journalistically attuned, career-ambitious individuals, but at the end of the season, none of those qualities matter. Because in the end, no newspaper wants to use a byline tattered with a mixture of mud and shame.
Andy Harper is a senior journalism major.