You Have A Great Past

A sign greets visitors at Silver Dollar City, “You have a great past ahead of you.”

Maybe there. But sometimes in real life, well, not so much.

Reporters are sometimes confronted with this issue when deciding whether to write a story:

How far in the past is a person’s past not an issue for today or tomorrow?

Is it important in political campaigns that some 50ish candidates tried marijuana when they were in college? At what point is that college student no longer the person who is seeking our vote?

The key question for reporters and voters alike is “What is the person’s character now?”

Employers probably face this issue more often than we know. Does a prison record forever brand a person as unworthy of trust for the rest of his or her life? Or do we really believe that someone actually did “pay their debt to society?”

What did any of us do when we were younger that would be embarrassing, to say the least, if it became known today or if someone decided to manipulate the facts to our detriment?

A definitive answer that reporters give to questions like these is, “It depends.”

Case in point:

Today the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports a 38-year old high school teacher has left her job and the school district says she will not be back because she performed in adult films when she was 22 and a homeless single mother of two children. One of her students had asked her about that issue.

The story says the woman had lost her previous teaching job in Kentucky after a student got a tape of one of her films and showed it. Things get a little murky when reporters want to know why the St. Louis Parkway School District didn’t know about the Kentucky incident.

It’s not as if she has been hiding her past. She was on television with Dr. Phil five years ago talking about her past. The Dr. Phil website says the woman told him she had gotten medication for her bipolar disorder, had found God, and had gotten a college education since those days. “I’ve done everything I could possibly do to prove that I’m a different person now,” she said.

She loves to teach, she says, and her evaluations as a teacher have always been good.

Some might think this is a story that attracts attention because of a readers’ or listeners’ prurient interests. To a degree, that’s right.

But this also is one of those stories that gets reported because of the questions it asks on multiple levels, not the least of which is a question she might be asking herself, “Where do I go with my life now?”

Probably not to Silver Dollar City.

Print Friendly