Ethics Hero: Journalist Harris Meyer

Harris Meyer is an Ethics Hero because he won’t let a bad lesson go unchallenged.

Meyer is an award-winning  freelance journalist and a former editor at the Yakima (Wash.) Herald Republic. That was the paper that first broke the story of Gaby Rodriguez last year, which I wrote about here. With the encouragement of her high school principal, Rodriguez, a senior, embarked on some amateur social science research that involved deceiving everyone in her life except her mother, one (of seven) siblings, her boyfriend, and the principal. She pretended that she was pregnant, suing padding. She faked the pregnancy for months, finally announcing the sham in a student assembly. This extended hoax was supposedly designed to expose how pregnant teenagers are treated by their peers and others. It was, by any rational standard, a despicable thing to do—a betrayal and exploitation of her friends,  her boyfriend’s family, her siblings and teachers. Deception on such a scale must be justified, if at all, by both need and necessity. Were there other, less destructive ways to investigate the treatment of pregnant teens? Sure there were; interviews come to mind. Collecting published journals and other accounts. But Gaby’s unethical stunt was in spiritual synchronicity with a reality show-obsessed culture, where fake is entertaining and collateral damage is of no concern.  I wrote: Continue reading

Fake Pregnancy, Real Deception, Real Harm

"How exciting! It's fake, isn't it?"

Gaby Rodriguez, a Yakima (Washington) High School senior, faked a pregnancy for six months as a school-approved senior project. She told no one about the charade, which the school has called a “social experiment,” except her mother, boyfriend and principal. Others, like her siblings, her boyfriend’s family, fellow students, friends and teachers, were led to believe the pregnancy was real.

Thanks to hidden camera shows like ABC’s “What Would You Do?” and various reality shows, too many people have the impression that everyone they meet is a potential guinea pig. On the contrary: using decent, disguise, deception and lies to “see how people react” is no better than lying for any other reason, and often more harmful. Continue reading