From personal fantasy to public deception

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By Amanda Woods

It takes a powerful story to inspire people, and Christian blogger Becca Beushausen from Chicago, Ill. had just that story, or so it seemed.

In her blog last summer, Beushausen told the Internet community that she was pregnant with a terminally ill child, yet because of her anti-abortion views and strong Christian values, she decided to carry the baby full-term. Beushausen’s emotion-stirring life story prompted many to come to her aid. 

  Her supporters  were devastated to find out that baby “April” passed away only a few hours after childbirth, just as Beushausen had feared.

It could’ve been a captivating, heart-wrenching story – if it were true.  A reader of Beushausen’s blog, a dollmaker, pointed out that a picture of the deceased child on Beushausen’s blog was not a baby girl – it was instead a plastic doll.

As soon as the news about Beushausen’s hoax became public, I snatched it up as my blog topic for the day.  I concluded my post with the question: “Knowing the truth about Beushausen’s hoax, would you ever see her in the same light again?  Would you ever read her blog again, or view anything she writes as true?”

 In all honesty, I didn’t know how to answer that question myself.  The Christian side of me wanted to forgive Beushausen; l could only imagine the kind of emotional distress she was facing.  

But the journalistic side of me was infuriated – this woman misled the public! That’s no trifling matter.

I always knew deceit was wrong, especially deceit of millions of readers. But upon reading Beushausen’s story, I came to understand the far-reaching effect of lying to the public. 

Journalists are not innocent of such deceit — take the Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke scandals for example.  But with blogging and citizen journalism on the rise, I’m concerned that stories like Beushausen’s will become more common.

Soon I was getting 100,000 hits a week, and it just got out of hand,” Beushausen told the Chicago Tribune. “I didn’t know how to stop. … One lie led to another.”

Just how much do ordinary people crave the title of “cyber-lebrities?”  Is online popularity suddenly more important than the basic ethical standard of honesty?

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One response to “From personal fantasy to public deception

  1. Great post, Amanda. Lots of perfect topics for class discussion. Remind me. At some point, we will have time to talk about this (probably later in the semester when we talk about ethics.)

    Content: 4 The only thing I would change would be to make the top seem more current. When you start with a story in the past, it makes the reader feel like the news is old. Think inverted pyramid. Tell the reader what’s been on your mind (journalistic integrity) first, then tell the story of last summer, then go back to today.
    Links: 3 Good. High value. Would have liked to see a link to HER blog and to what others are blogging about her. That would have raised it even higher. Still, I’ll give you full points.
    Grammar: 3

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