Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Further Ethics Observations On The Planned Parenthood Videos

hand

1. The fourth in a series of surreptitiously obtained videos depicting Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal body parts for research has been released. The Center for Medical Progress is the anti-abortion group that has created these videos: it defines itself as a “citizen journalist” project. Since these videos have been made using deception and without the safeguards of established journalism ethics by untrained and non-objective journalists, Ethics Alarms has consistently held that they are the result of unethical conduct, regardless of the motives behind them or what they show.

I am, reluctantly, reversing that verdict. The reason is the now undeniable refusal of the mainstream media and professional journalists to do their duty regarding the abortion issue in general and Planned Parenthood in particular. Despite the significance of these videos, the attack on Planned Parenthood and the fact that abortion is the most contentious and least resolved moral-ethical issue of our time, the news media, broadcast and print, have intentionally and unconscionably avoided covering the Center for Medical Progress videos and the issues they raise. The average American who does not monitor the news over the internet probably isn’t aware of the videos at all, and certainly has no sense of their content.

Journalism ethics codes state that deception and surreptitious means are only justified as investigative methods of reporting when more open and transparent reporting cannot obtain the facts. When professional journalists shrink from their duty to obtain the facts and report the truth, citizen journalists must take over, because democracy requires truth and transparency. Journalists should have made these videos. Because reporters abdicated their duties, those who picked up the dropped banner of probing investigative journalism regarding vital national issues should not be condemned. They should be praised, and by everyone, including journalists. If a fire fighter refuses to enter a burning building to rescue a child, and a citizen knocks down a door to do the job, I don’t want to see that citizen charged for the cost of the door, or criticized for acting. The videos are a public service, and necessary perspective on our society’s war against the unborn. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Unethical Headline Of The Month: The Hill

“Cecil the lion’s killer donated to Romney”

Yup. This really was the headline, and the story under it really had nothing more valuable to offer.

You know what? I’m willing to bet that at least one of those Planned Parenthood execs caught on video talking about crunching unborn baby skulls donated to Barack Obama’s campaign. Or have given money to Hillary’s campaign.

Or have bought Barbra Streisand CDs. Or like cheese.

What possible relevance to anything is this jerk’s political donation record from three years ago? What does this headline mean? Is Romney a lion-killer? Is the Republican Party now implicated in Cecil’s death? How is this conceivably news, since only an imbecile would see any relationship between the two acts: giving to a political campaign and shooting a beloved lion?

It is interesting, I suppose, that The Hill employs at least two imbeciles: the one who wrote this piece, and the editor who didn’t toss it in the trash.

Now if Cecil the lion had donated to Romney, THAT would have been news.

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Filed under Animals, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Jon Stewart Betrayal Update: Concha Gets It Right

Jon-Stewart-and-BarackLast night Jon Stewart finally commented on the reports of his meetings at the White House, and by his smug demeanor and evasiveness, confirmed the assessments of Ethics Alarms and many others.  Joe Concha of Mediaite nailed it:

“Well, I mean, I don’t know if they were secret,” the 52-year-old said last night while pointing out his name (which one?) was clearly on the visitor logs. It all sounds so much like Stephanopoulos explaining that his donations to the Clinton Foundation that were also there for all the public to see… buried on his tax forms. All I know is this: If I met with the president and hosted a program which primarily focuses on politics, pretty sure I’d let my audience know at the very least that what had happened. Unless, of course, I have to carry out my PR orders in a way no White House Press Secretary or Sunday talk show appearance ever could…Why attend a meeting with the most powerful person on the planet if you can’t report back what was said? In the end, these people are there not for an interview, but for instructions. And that’s exactly why Stewart took the Acela down to DC: To come back to New York and serve as the Baghdad Bob of arguably the most influential news program—forget that it’s billed as fake—on the dial right now…No matter…Stewart will get the Letterman treatment next week when he leaves The Daily Show, and rightly so. He didn’t earn $25-$30M a year for hosting a show four days a week for nothing. His timing, delivery and intelligence is something you don’t teach or learn.

In the end, Jon Stewart will be looked back on as one of the great performers of our generation. He’s also one of the more dishonest, and about as phony as they come.”

Exactly.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media

Not Every Disappointment Is Cable TV Or Social Media Fodder: The Case of The Dry Artificial Leg

WHEEEEEEEEE!

WHEEEEEEEEE!

In the old days, the saying was “You don’t have to make a federal case out of it.” Today it would be “You don’t have to put it on the internet.”

At Frontier City’s Wild West Water Works in Oklahoma City, a family objected strenuously because their 8-year-old daughter’s prosthetic leg caused her to be banned from the water slide. The attendant stopped the family at the entrance to the ride, explaining that park policy prevented individuals with prosthetic limbs from sliding because it risked scratching the sides of the slide. The family decided to make a federal case out of it, and the dispute ended up on in the local media, then the national media, then the internet, then social media

The complaint was that the park didn’t have this restriction listed. Okay, good point. That doesn’t mean they were obligated to let the daughter scratch the slide with her leg. I can imagine other perils of sliding with an artificial limb that neither the park nor its insurance carrier would want to risk. It’s a shame the little girl was embarrassed and disappointed. My son was once similarly disappointed when a ride he wanted to go on had a height requirement. Too bad. I didn’t make a federal case out of it. Not every restriction can be listed on park signs; the longer the text, the fewer people read it.

The family of the rejected girl, however, did make a federal case out of it. They got the news media involved, and soon the park was putting out this:

“Our goal at Frontier City is to create family fun and fond memories for each of our guests while placing a priority on guest safety. Our Ride Admission Policy has been developed in consultation with industry professionals, based on the recommendations of the ride manufacturer, past experiences, and evaluations of each ride using knowledge of the ride in all operating conditions.Like many water parks across the United States, regulations regarding loose articles and medical assistance devices are enforced to ensure the safety of each guest. Unfortunately, we can’t allow loose articles, swimwear with exposed metal ornamentation, casts, certain limb braces, or prosthetic devices on certain slides at Wild West Water Works.We never want to refuse our guests the opportunity to enjoy our attractions, but we must also always follow guidelines that have been set by our industry to insure the safety of all guests. To avoid any confusion or heartache in the future, we will strive to make sure this is communicated better in advance by adding the restrictions to our website and ride signage. We deeply regret any disappointment caused to our guests due to our Ride Admission Policies. Again, our first priority is guest safety and our mission is to provide the best experience possible for all of our guests.”

The park sounds completely reasonable, professional and fair. But one family had to react to a minor disappointment by casting the Frontier City as a heartless villain and their child as a victim, resulting in dozens of news stories across the country, blog commentary and Facebook posts. Some things are not worth making a fuss about. Some things should be handled with a shrug, a quiet suggestion of a better way to handle things in the future, agracious goodbye and maybe a letter afterwards.. Every minor dispute doesn’t have to be the Battle of Waterloo.

I fear we are raising a generation of entitled and hair-triggered victim-mongerers, armed with little cameras and video recorders, ready at any provocation to turn every mistake, disagreement, disappointment or ill-considered glance into 15 minutes of infamy for anyone unfortunate enough to cross their paths. In the future we will all be spending so much time apologizing to each other and explaining to the media what we meant that it will be increasingly impossible to just live. The insatiable web and 24-hour news cycle makes shaming a constant threat to the most minor offender, and gives everyone the power, under the right conditions, to bend others to their will.

But I guess that dystopian hell will be worth it if the next child with an artificial leg knows she can’t use the water slide at Wild West Water Works before she gets to the top.

__________________________

Pointer: Fred

Facts: KFOR

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Family, Journalism & Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

Jon Stewart’s Betrayal

emergency-clown-nose

Politico has confirmed that on two occasions, Comedy Central’s Now I’m a comic-Now I’m a pundit-Now I’m a journalist Jon Stewart secretly went to the White House to meet with President Obama:

Jon Stewart slipped unnoticed into the White House in the midst of the October 2011 budget fight, summoned to an Oval Office coffee with President Barack Obama that he jokingly told his escort felt like being called into the principal’s office.In February 2014, Obama again requested Stewart make the trip from Manhattan to the White House, this time for a mid-morning visit hours before the president would go before television cameras to warn Russia that “there will be costs” if it made any further military intervention in Ukraine.

To engage privately with the president in his inner sanctum at two sensitive moments — previously unreported meetings that are listed in the White House visitor logs and confirmed to POLITICO by three former Obama aides — speaks volumes about Stewart and his reach, which goes well beyond the million or so viewers who tune into The Daily Show on most weeknights.

It mean rather more than that. The visits mean that what Stewart and Comedy Central represented to the public as independent commentary on public affairs by a wise, critical and trusted truth-teller was in fact state propaganda, dictated by the President of the United States to a messenger of influence. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions

The Gawker Mess: Is Integrity A Virtue When It Means Continuing An Unethical Policy?

gawker1The website Gawker is reeling in the aftermath of particularly Gawkerish  (that is, slimy) story exposing the efforts of a high-ranking male official at Gawker rival Conde Nast to secure the services of a male prostitute.  Following backlash even from those who usually tolerate  Gawker’s smug invasions into celebrity privacy, Nick Denton, the president of  Gawker Media, had the story taken down. He then wrote a post titled “Taking a Post Down,” defending his executive action.  Gawker Editor-in-Chief Max Read and Gawker Media Executive Editor Tommy Craggs resigned, and the editorial staff has protested the episode, noting that “business executives deleted an editorial post over the objections of the entire executive editorial staff.”

First, regarding Gawker’s plight: good. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving website. Second, and more controversial is this interesting ethics question that we don’t encounter very often outside the realm of “The Godfather” films: Is integrity applied to an inherently unethical culture a virtue?

When the Conde Nast outing story received furious blowback from media critics but also gay activists, who are flying high right now and thus not to be crossed, Craggs proposed that Denton issue a statement that Gawker was founded as a media gossip site and had always “unapologetically and often mercilessly” invaded the private lives  those who work in  the industry. “We stand by the story, which meets our simple, unwavering standard of being both true and interesting,” the statement was to say.

That simple, unwavering standard is and has always been unethical. Gawker hurts people for fun and titillation, and makes a profit out of doing so. Printing what is “true and interesting” without considering whether the often prurient interest factor outweighs the harm to the individuals and their families done by the site’s prying is inherently unfair and irresponsible. The pulled story was not atypical, but then Gawker has been typically immune to shame and decency. What had changed?

Denton’s various explanatory statements are ethically inert—not surprising, since he founded this monstrosity. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Leadership

More Signature Significance: The New York Times’ Deceit At Hillary’s Command

Hillary is not pleased. Get with the program, NYT!

Hillary is not pleased. Get with the program, NYT!

From Dylan Byers at Politico:

The New York Times made small but significant changes to an exclusive report about a potential criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s State Department email account late Thursday night, but provided no notification of or explanation for of the changes.

The paper initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.”

That clause, which cast Clinton as the target of the potential criminal probe, was later changed: the inspectors general now were asking for an inquiry “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”

The Times also changed the headline of the story, from “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” reflecting a similar recasting of Clinton’s possible role. The article’s URL was also changed to reflect the new headline. As of early Friday morning, the Times article contained no update, notification, clarification or correction regarding the changes made to the article.

One of the reporters of the story, Michael Schmidt, explained early Friday that the Clinton campaign had complained about the story to the Times.“It was a response to complaints we received from the Clinton camp that we thought were reasonable, and we made them,” Schmidt said…

This is, quite simply, the New York Times spinning for Hillary Clinton. The switch to the passive voice deceitfully implies that only the e-mail account, not the individual who created and used it, is being investigated for criminal misconduct. An account is inanimate: it can’t break the law. Only a human can do that. If the account is illegal or is used illegally, then the user, not the account, has broken the law. The original version of the story was fair and accurate, but because it properly called attention to Mrs. Clinton’s habitual dishonesty as well as her deceptive defense that her conduct in this matter was beyond reproach, the Clinton machine demanded that the supposed exemplar of American journalistic integrity further the campaign’s strategy of misdirection. The New York Times meekly complied, in the dead of night, like the lapdog it has become. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement