The University of South Dakota hopes the firing of a reporter from the school newspaper can be a teaching moment on the importance of journalistic ethics. The award-winning Volante fired Joey Sevin for including questionable sources in his reporting. But Sevin insists he did not make up the names of the students in his stories.
A school newspaper with a proud heritage of journalistic excellence finds itself in the uncomfortable spotlight of being in the news.
"You never want to be the one making news we're supposed to report the news, it's an awkward position for us," Volante advisor Chuck Baldwin said.
The Volante fact-checked a half dozen stories filed by Joey Sevin and the staff couldn't verify that ten of the students he interviewed even exist. Sevin says some of the students may have given him a phony name.
"The only assumption that I could have would be that people, to avoid association with the media, might have made up names or some type of alteration of these names so they didn't have to be identified. It's a really weird situation," Sevin said.
So weird of a situation that the Volante isn't buying it.
"I could see a student doing that as a prank. I can't see ten students doing it over two semesters in six stories and that's what I told the student, this just isn't believable," Baldwin said.
Sevin says he regrets throwing away his notes that would prove he crossed no ethical boundary.
"I have a tendency to write down what I interview people writes and toss it aside to make room for more," Sevin said.
Since the questionable sources came to light, the Volante is now requiring all of its reporters to submit a source list with each story that includes the sources name, email address and phone number.
"Hopefully, people don't join the newspaper just to throw it on the resume and then put no work into it and just make up theses sources because that's not what journalism is about," Volante Sports Editor Grant Bosiacki said.
Sevin says he has no hard feelings toward the Volante. But he hopes the students he claims to have interviewed for his stories will come forward and clear him of wrongdoing.
"It's not something I like circulating constantly around campus because it's really humiliating so I guess just moving on from the situation," Sevin said.
Baldwin says the incident has not harmed the Volante's credibility. He says the public response, especially from professional journalists, has been very positive about how the paper handled the firing.