Ethics Alarms: the News, the Web, and Other Things

Why People Think the Media is Biased, Reason 61,567: Chris Matthews recently mocked new Mass. GOP Senator Scott Brown for signing a book deal to write his autobiography. “Didn’t people used to write their memoirs after their careers?” Matthews sneered. Gee, Chris, I don’t know: Weren’t you extravagant in your praise for Sen. Barack Obama’s autobiography, published before he was half-way through his first term?

How Writers Are Different From Lawyers: A free-lance writer lays out her ethical principles here, which includes not lending her talents to causes she doesn’t believe in. She is on firm ground, because citizens don’t have a Constitutional right to have their ideas professionally communicated to the world. Citizens do and must have the right to use the laws of their country for their own benefit, however, and to have the best representation possible when they are accused of crimes. That is why we can make judgments about a writer’s principles based on her choice of clients, but to do the same with lawyers is an attack on the principles of democracy.

On the Other Hand, This Tells Us a Lot About Drug Lawyers…A lawyer’s marketing site called “Arizona Drug Lawyer” features a post by its administrator that reads thus:

“Is it unethical for a defense attorney to tell his client to lie?

I recently studied a case where a theif was given the perfect solution to get out of a crime, all he had to do was lie and say he was a drug addict and opposed to getting a prison sentence, he would get 90 dys in rehab. Is it unethical for an attorney to tell the theif to lie to get a better sentence? He was not a druggie, just a crook.”

It is more than a little disturbing that a site linked to a law firm would have to ask this question, as it is Legal Ethics 101 (and ABA Model Rules 1.2, 1.3, 3.3 and 8.4) that a lawyer must never advise a client to lie.

It is also disturbing, even to someone like me who is habitually confused by “ie” words, that the administrator of a website can’t spell “thief.”

So THAT’S What Dan Rather Was Thinking! ABC News has admitted that an on-air “demonstration” of what the Toyota sudden acceleration is like was fabricated and misleading…showing, for example, a shaky camera shot purporting to be of the runaway vehicle’s speedometer that was actually taken while another vehicle was parked. This is the unethical journalistic logic that was at the root of Dan Rather’s attempted use of a forged letter to question President Bush’s service in the National Guard: though the evidence was false, what it showed was “true,”  so it was “ethical” to present it as proof. How many journalists think this is acceptable? Many more, I fear, than we know.

Surprisingly Persuasive Arguments Dept.: A blogger argues that it is unethical to use ad-blocking software, because it stops websites from which you get free content from covering expenses with ads on their sites.

2 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms: the News, the Web, and Other Things

  1. Re “ie words”: My English teacher always taught me to spell check in a word processor before I publish something. She was right.

  2. I learned never to trust Dan Rather the first time 60 Minutes did a story on something I knew well. Unfortunately it seems that the type of “news reporting” 60 Minutes did has become the model for regular news reporting. This really goes too far, though. Why not just show movies instead? They would save on production costs and everyone (except me, maybe) would recognize it as fiction.

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