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April 3, 2013

Death of Buckwild Star “Wake-Up Call” to West Virginia Students

Richwood High School is a member of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program. The Labs are classrooms, after-school programs and clubs around the country producing original, inspiring reports about how national and global issues affect local communities.

Students at the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs site at Richwood High School in West Virginia recently reported on how the MTV reality show “Buckwild” reinforces negative stereotypes about West Virginians.

However, after they reported on the story, the news broke that one of the show’s stars, Shain Gandee, had died. With this news, Richwood students Erin and Daniel reflected on how the death has affected young people in the state. View their story and read their reflections below:


It’s almost a wake-up call to hear someone like Shain Gandee has died. As young people we all think we’re invincible and that bad things can never happen to us. To see someone like Shain, who was such a public figure and also a teenager just like us, die is a little earth shattering.

This changed my perception of the story a lot because its interesting to see the way people react. A lot of people went from hating the whole show to being truly sorry for Shain and his family. It almost brings more of a perspective to the idea of Buckwild as a “reality” show.

In light of recent events and the media coverage of Shain’s death, I think it’s very possible a lot of people may see our story as heartless. The news of the deaths spread very quickly, and I think its important that our story still send its own message.

While Shain’s death is heartbreaking, and it is important to remember his family, I still feel like the public has a right to see the kinds of things that went on on the TV series. I don’t think his celebrity status should make this story different than any other. After all Shain wasn’t the only one that died in that vehicle. This could bring to light the repercussions of radical teen behavior and the fatal consequences and risks they pose. Shain’s loved ones may not want his death exploited, but when dealing with touchy issues, an unfortunate series of events shouldn’t stand in the way of what could be a very relevant experience.



To be completely honest, due to the fact that is was April 1st (a.k.a. April Fool’s Day), I thought [the death report] was an April Fool’s joke. However, as more and more more reliable resources, such as WSAZ and MTV, start reporting the death of Shane, I felt a sense of remorse. To lose a family member and a friend is one of the worst things that can happen in this world. Even though I didn’t know Shane as a friend, through my Christian faith, I am continually praying for his family and the people affected by his death.

I, being a very caring individual, now feel very remorseful about our story. Even though we tried being very neutral in our efforts of showing the good and bad about “Buckwild”, our story has a more negative connotation of the show and of the people in it. I feel as though when people see our story, they will think of Richwood’s residents as uncaring, when in reality, we are as shocked as most people to hear about the loss of such a young man.

While my heart goes out to the friends and family of Shane, our story isn’t about him. Yes, he is in the show that we did our story on, but we were not just focused on how he himself reflects the state of West Virginia. We just showed how different people are reacting to “Buckwild”. My thoughts debate against themselves though because I feel as though our story might add insult to injury. The friends and family of Shane will get mad once they see how some of our stories reflect “Buckwild”, but the truth hurts. The bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lies.

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