I hit the end button and heaved a deep sigh. It was Dallas, my editor-in-chief, calling to remind me to wade through the new comments on the Web site before the evening rush. We’d disabled the instant publication option once four-letter words became more common than punctuation. So much for all those well-educated conservative Christians this university was supposed to be cranking out.
Sorry, Lord. I could only muster up a modicum of repentance for the thought. 48 hours had passed since our breaking news, and I felt as if I hadn’t slept in weeks. I was sick to death of reading comments ranging from “how ******** dare you print this stupid story” to “If you can steal that much and get away with it, that’s awesome.”
I glanced at my computer. I still had one more call to make. Talking to our chaplain definitely sounded more appealing than tackling my other assignment. Rev. Bryan had a very calming presence, and heaven knew I needed one.
“Religion Division.” The division secretary‘s clipped greeting did little to calm me.
“Is Bryan Randall in his office? University Times calling.”
“Rev. Randall is gone to a conference until Monday. Would you like his voicemail?”
My heart sank. I’d been counting on some good quotes. “Well…”
“Wait, Rev. Biegot is in,” the secretary offered. “He’s acting chaplain while Rev. Randall is away.”
My heart sank even further. Tony Biegot was long on community-building and short on good common sense. “That would be great, thanks.”
“Hello, this is Tony.”
“Hi, Rev. Biegot, it’s Kate with the University Times.”
I could feel his smile slip. His voice was determinedly friendly when he spoke again.
“Hi, Kate. You can call me Tony. How are classes for you this semester?”
“Just fine, Reverend,” I said. “I’m actually calling about the incident a couple of days ago with Sam Colter.”
“I only know what I heard from students, and the email the administration sent out about your Web site.” The voice had cooled. “As I understand it, you were already rebuked for writing the article.”
My temper rose, but I fought it down. “No, sir. The university doesn’t have prior review – they can’t tell us what to print or not to print, as long as it’s factual reporting. President Robbins has already told me the email was more harshly worded than was warranted.”
“I’ve heard it’s created quite a mess.”
“I was hoping you could comment on the student reaction – all the backbiting. We’re writing a follow-up piece.” I could only pray my voice wasn’t shaking with anger.
“Are you sure that’s wise? I mean, after the trouble the first one caused?”
Something snapped in my chest. “The trouble wasn’t caused by the article, Reverend –“
“Reverend, the trouble was caused by the fact that a student stole $150,000 and was arrested by the FBI on campus,” I said. “What the Times did was find that much out and publish it to stop the speculation. By the time I got the story, people were saying it was $500,000, and he had a shoot-out with the police when they came.”
“But the controversy surely shows this was an un-Christlike way to handle the situation,” he said blandly.
“I agree the students are reacting in un-Christlike ways, sir. That’s why we’re writing this – to get them thinking about their own reactions instead of Sam.”
“I don’t think this needs any more publicity.” His voice was sharp now.
Mine matched his. “Then you should call all the news outlets in town – and a few national ones. This is a big story, and not just for us.”
I took a deep breath. “I was hoping someone from the chaplain’s office could give me a spiritual directive – how to move past all this and get the right perspective.”
The line was silent for a long moment. “I think we should pray for him.”
Brilliant. That should shut them up. I dutifully noted the sentence. “Anything else?”
“You know, it must be hard for you,” he said thoughtfully.
“Well, yes, it’s been a rough few days –“
He kept going. “Trying to balance your faith and your chosen career.”
“Beg your pardon?” I choked out.
“Journalism is hardly in keeping with the teachings of Christianity – don’t you agree?”
“No, sir.” Lord, help!
I could hear the disbelief in the silence.
“Yes, well, hope I’ve helped.”
“Thank you for your time.”
I was crying as I closed the phone.
Names have been changed, but this is a factual account of an incident my junior year of college. It took me a long time to get over that conversation, but I did. To read the editorial I wrote in response, click here:
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