Journalists may not like to think of themselves as grade-school teachers for public officials and candidates, but they often serve this function.
Are candidates following the rules? Who's at fault when candidates fight? Are they doing what they said they'd do?
In the case of McInnis, journalists have fulfilled this role in catching McInnis' plagiarism. A good teacher, particularly for older students, does basic plagiarism checks regularly.
Grade-school teachers also need to make sure their students' punishments are received and completed.
And that's where things stand with McInnis. He's agreed to one punishment (more might come), which is to give the Hasan Family Foundation its $300,000 back.
Now reporters need to make sure McInnis follows through.
There are two questions that need to be answered by McInnis and, if he won't answer them, by the Hasan Foundation.
- When will you return the money?
- Will you make a public announcement when the money is returned?
I emailed these questions to McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy this morning, and he quickly replied: "That's a matter between Scott and the Hasan family, as Scott said in his statement last week."
As a grade-school teacher will tell you, it's not good enough to leave punishments to old friends to work out, even if they're apparently fighting at the moment, particularly if the track record on basic honesty of one of the combatants is questionable.
Journalists have uncovered information (plagiarism and other alleged lies) that partisans on both sides of the aisle agree raise questions about the integrity of McInnis. In evaluating McInnis going forward, the public needs to know the specifics about how and when he's making amends for his past wrongs.
It's not enough for McInnis to say he'll sit down and make it right with the Hasans in private. This needs to be addressed in the light of TV cameras.
Journalists should track this closely for us by asking McInnis directly about it, and staying on the question.