• ETHICS: Uncovering a sports scandal

Minneapolis is, like many places in America, one of those sports crazy towns. And the local favorite is the Minnesota Gophers basketball team.

In the spring of 1999, the team found itself headed to the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament with many of its fans thinking the team had a shot at making the Final Four. Fans around Minnesota and especially in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were excited about the possibilities.

But there was a very different fate in store for the team.

Months before, the St. Paul Pioneer Press had gotten wind of an academic cheating scandal that include several members of the basketball team. A small number of reporters and editors at the newspaper pursued the story but kept what they were doing secret not only from the public but also from the other members of the paper’s staff.

The newspaper published the story about the cheating on the day before the Gophers were to play the first game in the tournament.

How the newspaper got the story, why it published it when it did, and what happened in the ensuing days is a fascinating lesson in journalistic process and decision-making. The story raises many ethical question that journalists must consistently contend with.

A lengthy account of what happened can be found at Journalism.org at this URL:


As you read through this, make notes about your reactions and the questions that you have. This will make an excellent discussion for your class.


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