Ethics Dunce: The Daily Beast

Does this look like a Panamanian fisherman to you?

The American public is cynical and mean-spirited enough, I think. It doesn’t need any more shoves in that direction from the crass hipsters at The Daily Beast.

Tina Brown’s site, recently named as the Web’s top news agregator, noted the follow-up to a story highlighted on Ethics Alarms, the stranded fishermen who were ignored by a passing cruise ship even though its passengers had alerted the crew. Two of the fishermen subsequently died; one of the survivors is suing Princess Cruises. The Beast intro to the story began this way:

“One U.S. cruise line has a litigious Robinson Crusoe on its hands.”

The story is sub-headlined: “Wilson!”, a reference to Tom Hanks’ volleyball companion in the film “Castaway,” who meets his end at sea.*

Suing a cruise ship and its captain who apparently violated the laws of the sea by not rescuing a ship in distress is not being “litigious” in any way, shape or form. The Daily Beast is denigrating the survivor of a terrible ordeal who appears to have a legitimate and serious grievance.

As for the “Wilson” reference, it is unforgivable. Two men died in this incident; they weren’t volleyballs. They weren’t even “castaways”! I don’t know, but it looks to me as if some editor at The Daily Beast noted the incorrect use of “castaways”  and was reminded of the Hanks movie. The dead fishermen had families. A breezy style is fine in its place, but trivializing a tragedy and an alleged act of deadly dereliction of duty with cute pop culture references shows an underlying lack of respect and fairness. Why treat the men’s deaths this way? Is it because they were Panamanian, not, say, African Americans shot in a gated community? Because an American cruise line is being sued? Because someone thought the Wilson gag was just too darn funny to pass up? Journalists are not exempt from the Golden Rule. Their subjects have dignity; they deserve not to be stripped of it just because a gag got big yucks around a meeting table.

It’s called professionalism, Tina.

Get some.

* Unrelated to this post: If you would like to read about the psychology that led the Hanks character to anthropomorphize the ball in his isolation, you may find this interesting.



Graphic: New York Times

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

One thought on “Ethics Dunce: The Daily Beast

  1. It was not only callous, but a major disrespect to one of the oldest articles of international law. People in distress at sea are to be afforded every attempt by other mariners to come to their assistance. This rule is even observed during wartime by ships of contending nations. Why then did the captain of this cruise ship just sail by? And why wasn’t he immediately relieved of his command afterward? There have been far too many cases in recent years of the captains of such vessels showing what amounts, at best, to extreme unprofessionalism by traditional nautical standards. Don’t they teach these things to ship’s officers anymore? Or are they just seagoing hotel concierges now?

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