Badgers Make Mistake

By: Jackie Wallentin

Photo taken from The Badger Herald's website.

 

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?

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11 responses to “Badgers Make Mistake

  1. I completely agree, printing the names of the people were unnecessary. There is no reason to publish these names and isolate them as the “worst people on campus.”

    However, I agree that the intent of the article was worthy, and the editor was right that people cared about the issue. I also like how he defended his newspaper’s intention of publishing the article, although in hindsight they must be kicking themselves for publishing those names.

    • Yeah, I agree that the intent was worthy. The issue seems like one that encompasses the entire campus. Students have a right to know where their money is going. However, I don’t believe they went about it the right way. I give them props for standing up for themselves.

  2. It was completely unnecessary to release the names of people. And damning them to hell and asking for additional submissions for his “hater list” is sensational, poor journalism. I think this would make a good opinion piece so long as the names were left out. But I do like the editor-in-chief and UW defended their intentions. It was definitely a gutsy move.

    • Yes, definitely a gutsy move. The staff isn’t going to back down on their stance, which is a good thing. They made a mistake, and they kind of admitted that, but they aren’t trying to cover up what they said. Good journalists should stand up for themselves if what they are reporting on is truth. The staff is a united front, which I believe is a positive sign of camaraderie and unity.

  3. Do I thinkt he editor-in-chief should be fired? No. But I do not agree with his actions. The article itself could have been interesting: “Students buy to sell…” However, since students were named and targeted, the column takes a turn down Unethical Avenue. I can attest to the fact that college students are desperate for money, and if Drake was headed toward a bowl game, many of our own would do the same thing.

  4. You make a good point. I don’t think the EIC should be fired either. His opinion is warranted, but he could have been less harsh, and the names were not needed. I like that their paper isn’t shying away from an important issue. I like that they are the voice for their campus. But yes, Unethical Avenue is not a good place to be. Drake students probably would, you’re right.

  5. I could not believe that a university newspaper would actually publish this. There is no reason to why this is relevant news. I think that the staff made a huge mistake and at least are owning up to it, but they did not say they did anything wrong in publishing the names. If there attempt was to attack the athletic department, they definitely failed. They exposed these students and should be ashamed of themselves for the kind of harm they could have caused for their lack of judgment.

    • I completely agree. I think their goal was a good one, but they failed to execute. How do you think they could have achieved their goal?

  6. I don’t think publishing the names was ethical at all, especially since the students who were on the list were harassed. Maybe this could have been a good article if the names had been omitted. I don’t even really see how it could be so upsetting that the editor damned the scalpers to hell, but then again, I’m not much of a sports fan. All in all, the Editor made a horrible decision in publishing those names.

  7. I could see why they published this information, but I don’t agree with it. I may have gotten a laugh out of it, but it wasn’t newsworthy by any means. They clearly didn’t approach the issue well at all since they just went through the sports department. The could have just printed the number of people selling the tickets as a suitable replacement, but I could see them not being happy with a blank message such as that.

    • That’s a good suggestion. By publishing the number of students who tried to sell their tickets, the student body would have gotten the idea.

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