If the Carson King saga has taught me anything, it’s this: We all need to do better
Boys are dumb. From right around the age of 10 until they are, oh, let’s say 21 or 22, boys are just really dumb.
That’s the running joke I have with my oldest daughter. Anytime a school dance rolls around, I remind her. Whenever the subject of dating is broached, I fall back on my tried and true retort.
Now don’t take this the wrong way, but there’s a whisper of truth in my joke. And here’s where I add everyone, not just boys, into the equation.
I was a young boy once, and as I think back to my adolescence I’m pretty proud of the kid my parents raised. I got good grades. I didn’t get into trouble. I treated my teachers with respect. I was involved in sports and other activities. I graduated near the top of my high school class.
But I wasn’t perfect. None of us are, no matter how much parents want to cover their eyes and pretend. There are things I said and did that make me cringe to this day. Some things are embarrassing to even think about, if I’m being honest.
And while my daughters love to give me grief about growing up in the “old days” before cell phones were as common as convenience stores, I’m so, so grateful I didn’t have social media to contend with. I’m so relieved the statements I made as a 16-year-old don’t follow me around like the Grim Reaper.
Which brings me to Carson King, the latest Iowa hero to be bombed out of the sky and back to Earth by something foolish he posted on Twitter eight years ago when he was 16.
If you don’t know who King is, then where have you been? Here’s the short-short version: He’s the Iowa State fan who made the sign for GameDay asking for money to replenish his Busch Light fund. It was cute, it was funny, and it took off like a wild fire.
Soon enough, the money began to trickle in when a national audience saw it nearly two weeks ago. And rather quickly, he decided to put his new fame and what was once a modest fortune to good use. He announced he would donate the money to the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, the one that has become synonymous with The Wave.
Anheuser-Busch and Venmo quickly jumped on board, promising to match the funds received. It eventually topped $1 million and King became a household name almost overnight. He was on Good Morning America, Anheuser-Busch promised to send him a year’s supply of beer and the company even put his picture on the can.
It was Iowa Nice to perfection — a feel good story for the entire state and country to rally around.
And then came Tuesday night, when the Des Moines Register foolishly decided to dig into his Twitter account and found several offensive tweets he sent out when he was 16. Now 24, King quickly apologized for his past tweets and went on a personal public relations tour that showed more maturity and sincerity than we see from any Fortune 500 company that pays PR firms millions to resurrect its status.
But for Anheuser-Busch, the damage had been done. It quickly severed ties with King, but committed to matching the funds through the end of the month. That’s something, I guess.
As for the Register, it now finds itself embroiled in its own PR nightmare. How it couldn’t see this coming, I have no idea, but public support of King and a public backlash of our state’s largest newspaper was swift. Twitter blazed with anger directed squarely at the Register and the reporter, Aaron Calvin, who dug up the information.
Just like everyone else, I had my own opinion and I stated it firmly with this tweet: Dig deep enough and long enough, you could find dirt on anyone. None of us are perfect. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a pretty crappy night for journalism in our state.
I stand by that tweet. But I’ll also offer this: We all need to do better.
For starters, we need to do a better job of educating our kids and, quite frankly, ourselves about the perils of social media. When you hit send, just know it’s out there forever, ready to club you across the face when you least expect it.
We all need to do better.
I commend King for quickly owning up to his past mistakes, and I don’t hold any ill will towards him. If anything, I respect him even more today for truly being the grown up in the room. He didn’t ask to be put in the spotlight; all he wanted was to do something good and he succeeded.
As for the Register, I think it made a magnificent mistake. Digging for this information seems petty and it’s simply not news, in my opinion. But even with the knowledge, it could have done the right thing and not publicized the tweets. It could have even made King aware of them and allowed him to delete them before they became public.
But I also don’t condone the way the public has reacted with a call to abandon the Register, or for the way it’s attacked Calvin, who, come to find out, has made his own mistakes on social media. If you don’t like what he did to King (and you shouldn’t), then you also shouldn’t like what’s being done to him.
Again, we all need to do better.
I understand that not everyone feels the way I do and that’s your right. If you want to boycott the Register and paint everyone in the media with a wide brush, I can’t stop you.
But I also know some of the hard-working journalists at the Register, many of whom I’m sure were just as appalled as you that their employer went the route it did. Taking aim at those individuals and potentially playing a role in the elimination of jobs isn’t the right thing to do.
I wish the genie could be put back in the bottle and we could rewind back to Monday when this was still a story that made all of us smile. But life doesn’t work that way. Instead, all we can do now is learn from the mistakes and move forward in the best way possible.
I, for one, am going to try to do better.
That snarky tweet that I think is funny, I hope I’ll have the good sense to delete it before I hit send.
I want to think before I react. I want to add dialogue to the conversation — any conversation — that will bring about positivity, not the opposite. I’m the first to admit I haven’t always succeeded in that arena.
I need to do better.
We all do.