By: Jackie Wallentin
After receiving over 1,500 comments on their website within two days of publication, editors at The Badger Herald, the newspaper for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, realized one writers’ opinion made an impact. Editors closed the comment section shortly after.
The piece, ‘The Worst People on Campus,’ named about three dozen students who bought Rose Bowl tickets, then tried to sell them for a profit online. UW-Madison put 5,800 tickets up for grabs on its website Sunday at 9 p.m with a $150 price tag per ticket. Within 20 minutes, no tickets remained. The article went up two hours later.
“Truly, there is a special place in hell for people who buy Rose Bowl tickets with the sole intention of profiting from them,” stated the article, written by Editor-in-Chief Kevin Bargnes.
Bargnes’s condemnation refers to the named students that, he claims, put their tickets online for more than $400 a piece. Bargnes goes on to say that this practice severely hinders the ability for students who actually love the game to attend the Pasadena Rose Bowl at a reasonable rate.
Going one step further, he asked the student body to submit the names of other scalpers to add to his list of ‘hated people.’
Editors removed the three dozen student names on Wednesday after over 200 additional names were submitted. The staffer’s reasoning? They didn’t have the resources to fact check the accuracy of each name.
Due to local and national publicity, Herald executive staff members released a statement defending the paper’s actions:
“While we may debate the appropriateness of running the list of names, that act generated an enormous amount of attention for an issue people obviously care passionately about.”
Staffers say the procedure for distributing Rose Bowl tickets is a failure. They blame the UW Athletic Department for allowing scalping to occur and limiting student participation in athletic events. Bargnes hopes the department will reevaluate its ticket distribution after watching the large controversy unfold.
However, the staff stands by the main points made in the article, including the printing of the names. I disagree.
Students named in the original article were harassed and at least one received a death threat. The Herald exploited these students’ actions, which are legal and their right to do. Publishing the names was unnecessary.
The staff claims the intent of the article was to expose the injustice of the athletic department. They should have sticked to that goal. I suggest writing a feature story critically discussing the ticket procedures. Investigate reporting goes a long way.
Was the Herald’s decision to print the names ethical? Did they approach the issue correctly? How else could they have gotten their voice heard?