Irresponsible Journalists, meet an Inexperienced Marine

I came across this story. It’s about a young lady from Indiana named Private Kylie Furnish that recently completed Marine Corps Recruit Training and is upset that she is not being allowed to wear her Dress Blues to her High School graduation. She faces the same choice as every other student – wear the cap-and-gown, or don’t attend.

The story starts;

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A soon to be Leo High School graduate will be skipping out on her big day this weekend because she won’t be allowed to wear her Marine Corps dress blues.

Wait, why is this news again? Let’s continue reading…

…Private Kylie Furnish graduated from high school early and recently graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp. Private Furnish had hoped to walk with her class this weekend wearing her Marine Corps dress blues, which is Marine Corps policy for a ceremony like this.

Any other former Marine at this point is asking himself or herself “what?” right about now, perhaps with a confused look on his or her face. I’ll clarify that point later. But, let us read on. The School District defends its position thusly:

“The attire for all graduates of East Allen County Schools is a Cap and Gown representing the high school from which they graduate. This is a ceremony to recognize the achievements of four years of high school effort as seniors leave us and go on to many different aspects of life: work, college, military, service, homemaker, etc. Whereas we are aware there are many students who would prefer to wear their own choice of clothing at graduation to symbolize all different sorts of things, the Corporation’s policy is that participation is contingent upon the required attire of a cap and gown.

East Allen County Schools is not unlike most, if not all, schools in the state. Each year school districts are presented with requests to alter their long-standing rules and practices regarding the graduation ceremony. The courts have granted school districts the right to continue to follow these rules and practices time after time. It is always a difficult thing to turn down requests which have such emotional ties to them. However, as stated above, graduation is the time that is used to recognize the achievements of our all seniors. The Cap and Gown, most symbolically, does just that.”

Well, that certainly sounds reasonable to me – especially as the Marine Corps policy mentioned earlier does not exist. The story concludes:

Outraged at the policy, Furnish says she won’t be going.

Well, she has the right to be outraged. Just as I have the right to be outraged at the rain and I can refuse to walk outside when it rains. She recently completed a more significant graduation ceremony, anyways: from Marine Corps Recruit Training.

The Marine Corps’ general guidance is that a uniform may be worn at ceremonies such as this. “May” is the operative word. There is no requirement or policy saying that a uniform must be worn at such civilian ceremonies. In my opinion, the only possible way these two journalists could possibly have received information to the contrary is if they are willfully and negligently (perhaps maliciously) pretending that an 18 year old Marine Private as an expert on Marine Corps uniform regulations. Five seconds on Google, just five seconds of responsible journalism, would have brought them to the relevant policy in the form of a PDF that can be searched through for key words such as “uniform regulations,” as I have done below. (pages 75, and 78, emphasis mine):

DESIGNATED UNIFORMS AND OCCASIONS FOR WEAR

BLUE DRESS UNIFORMS
1. The blue dress “A” uniform may be worn for parades, ceremonies and formal or semiformal social functions… The blue dress “A” uniform will be is worn for the following official military/social occasions:

What follows is a list that includes events at the White House and the Marine Corps Ball, but not anything resembling a high school graduation. It also goes on to specify which variant of the blues can and cannot be worn on leave or liberty (ie, off work) but that isn’t relevant to us here. The words “may” and “will” for unofficial/civilian events and for official military/social events respectively are consistent, and not ambiguous. The language is exact and the document incredibly easy to find. It wasn’t rocket science for me to find that, and I’m not the one claiming to be a professional journalist.

While true that the young Marine is mistaken (if her words are indeed the source of the incorrect statement regarding the policy, and the journalists didn’t simply make it up) and perhaps also being a bit dramatic, the reporters that wrote the story are being irresponsible and sensationalist by attempting create a dramatic story when, in reality, there is no story.

Teenagers say and do silly and dramatic things for a variety of bizarre reasons, Marine or otherwise. She didn’t instantly become an expert on Marine Corps Policy by virtue of completing recruit training – she demonstrated that she understands the basics about what it is to be a Marine, and she is allowed to make a mistake here-and-there that she hopefully learns from. “Basic” training is not “Advanced Law and Policy Training”.

What she doesn’t need is to be taken advantage of by two journalists in such a way that her error will be immortalized, the way some journalists love to do with anything military. Being a Marine Private does not entitle her to speak for the entire US Marine Corps, and the journalists know that. If they hadn’t built a story around such an easily discovered misunderstanding, I wouldn’t be complaining. But, they did. So, I am.

I’m making a story out of a non-story by publishing my response. The story is simply that two journalists (presumably college educated and experienced in the field of journalism?) ought to know better and be capable of very basic fact checking. There, now your error is also immortalized Scott Sarvay and Krystal Shull.

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Irresponsible Journalists, meet an Inexperienced Marine

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