Monthly Archives: December 2009

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Lester Rodney (1911-2009)

There are so many people who escape our notice despite great deeds and remarkable lives. One of those who had escaped mine was Lester Rodney, who died this week.  He was an Ethics Hero. He was also an American Communist. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Heroes, History, Journalism & Media, Sports, U.S. Society

Checkbook Journalism at NBC

The Society of Professional Journalists has properly condemned NBC for the journalistic ethics sin of “checkbook journalism”—paying subjects for exclusive news interviews. Following the happy conclusion of the protracted child custody dispute between American father David Goldman and his son’s Brazilian step-father, NBC flew the re-united father and son back to the U.S. on a charter flight, then featured them in a Today Show interview. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Journalism & Media

The 2009 Ethics Alarms Awards, Part 1: The Worst

Welcome to the first annual Ethics Alarms Awards, recognizing the best and worst of ethics in 2009! These are the Worst; the Best is yet to come. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society

Why Fenway Fans Boo Johnny Damon

Outfielder Johnny Damon was the heart and soul of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, the team that broke “the Curse” and finally brought a World Series title to Beantown after 86 infamous, frustrating years. But Red Sox brass didn’t want to give him a four year guaranteed contract when he became a free agent in 2005, and the New York Yankees were willing, so Johnny Damon shaved his beard and cut his shaggy hair to play with the team Bostonians love to despise. Every time since then, when he came to bat in Fenway Park wearing pinstripes, a chorus of boos and jeers showered down on him from the same fans who once cheered his every move. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Journalism & Media, Sports

TMZ’s JFK: Fake Photo, Same Ethics Questions

I love this, I really do. Yes, the JFK photo found by TMZ and trumpeted elsewhere, including here, is a hoax.

Since the photo conveys no new or false  information about JFK’s proclivities, its main significance is that TMZ was sloppy, and since it is well established that it traffics in gossip and rumor anyway, this means Ethics Alarms and others were gullible and careless.

I apologize.

A few points:

  • All the questions raised in the post stand.
  • This reaffirms my conviction that postng a hoax of any kind on the web, whether photo or otherwise, without clearly designating it as such, is unethical.
  • Let us all give thanks  for “The Smoking Gun.”


Filed under The Internet

Napolitano Ethics: “Heck of a job, Janet!”

Is it too much to ask that our government officials don’t try to con us, deceive us, and treat us like idiots?

Apparently so. Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics

Conservative Stories, Liberal Stories: Isn’t a Drunk Senator Just Plain News?

A Youtube video shows Montana Senator Max Baucus (D) giving a rambling rant of a speech from the Senate floor, waving his arms and slurring his speech like Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as he condemns Republicans for being overly partisan in the run-up to the health care bill vote. Was he drunk? It sure looks like it to me, based on some considerable experience with such things, but no, the real reason he looks drunk to me must be my right-wing political bias, because only conservative blogs and media seem to see anything intoxicated about the good senator’s speech at all.

This isn’t just silly; it is harmful. Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

JFK the Philanderer: What Does It Mean?

Honest, I’m not picking on the Kennedy’s. That this surfaced today is a coincidence. But if you cross Ted Kennedy and Tiger Woods, you get Jack Kennedy, and what should appear on the web this morning but a surprising photograph:

TMZ, the celebrity trash website that likes to publish paparazzi photos of supermodels with spinach between their teeth, has a genuine scoop: it has gotten its cyber-hands on a photograph that appears to show a bevy of naked women frolicking on a yacht as a young Senator Jack Kennedy lounges nearby.  [UPDATE: As explained by The Smoking Gun here, and discussed in a later Ethics Alarms post here, the photo was a hoax. The ethical issues raised by it and discussed below are still valid, however.] Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, The Internet

Farewell to the NY Times’ Ethics Blog

Well, the New York Times has spoken: it apparently doesn’t think ethics commentary blogs are worth the trouble: it quietly deep-sixed Randy Cohen’s “The Moral of the Story” blog less than a year after launching it. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Journalism & Media, The Internet

The Wrong Lesson from Tiger’s Fall

So that’s the lesson, is it?

As the year end lists almost unanimously “award” Tiger Woods the distinction of engineering the Scandal of the Year, pundits also seem to be nearing consensus on the lesson we should take from the golfer’s fall, which is: “Don’t make athletes and celebrities your role models or heroes. They are human beings like everyone else, and are guaranteed to disappoint you.”

Oh, I see…it’s all our fault. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Sports, U.S. Society