Unlike most of the mainstream media, I would have a hard time choosing a news story to feature as the year's best or worst in any category. However, I have one recent story to nominate as a cautionary tale for December, 2007. It's the story of the young girl who won Hannah Montana concert tickets by writing an essay falsely claiming that her father was killed in Iraq. The various implications of this story upset me. Have demanding children and doting parents who proimise the impossible gone too far, or is this just an isolated case?
As I understand it, once the fraud was exposed, the girl's mother said that they had just done what was necessary to get those impossibly popular tickets. It sounded as though she found nothing wrong with doing whatever worked. Later, she claimed that it was "just an essay," and that she'd never claimed it was true.
Whether an exercise in deceit or expedience, this is a disturbing tale. It suggests either that all's fair in media contests and making children happy, or that there is no distinction between fact and fiction. Maybe such an attitude influenced the James Frye-Oprah fiasco, although I think the reaction was a bit overblown in that case.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Hannah Montana ticket incident is the lesson that mother is apparently teaching her daughter: any means to an end is justified.
Maybe the very fact that this story caused enough furor to bring Good Morning America stories and interviews, among others, proves that some parents still care about the examples they set, the lessons they teach their children. I hope that there is no growing trend toward such fraudulent actions. Fiction is fiction, truth is truth, and we need to acknowledge, recognize, and teach the difference.
Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne