Ethics Dunce: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Is the body of Charlie Rose’s work as a journalist less impressive, valuable, expert, enlightening and professional because we have learned that he is an abusive, sexist, gross, harassing pig? Of course not.

That being the case, why is The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication revoking the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism it bestowed on him in 2015? Let’s have the school’s explanation, shall we?

In the words of Dean Christopher Callahan:

We give the award each year based on the knowledge we have of a recipient at that time. When new information about a recipient surfaces, the question we ask is not whether the award would be given again with a new set of facts, but whether the transgressions are so egregious that they demand nothing less than a reversal of history.

I believe Mr. Rose’s actions of sexual misconduct reported by The Washington Post and other media outlets, which are largely unrefuted, rise to that level. The damage caused by Mr. Rose’s actions extends far beyond the news organizations for which he worked. The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity. In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable, and that such behavior – far too common in not just media companies but many organizations – must stop.

So now you know why. The school, and its dean, and everyone else involved in this decision, is craven, hell-bent on virtue-signalling, bereft of integrity, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest. The school has never withdrawn an award or honor: are we really supposed to believe that there is an established procedure for considering whether or not one should be revoked in an instance of “new information” that has nothing whatsoever to do with the reason the honor was bestowed? Rose’s shame hardly did any lasting harm to the news organizations he worked for beyond the inconvenience of replacing him. He discriminated against women? Being the biggest cheese in William Paley’s all-male news room, Walter Cronkite’s treatment of women during the “Mad Men” error probably wouldn’t pass muster today, though I can’t picture Uncle Walter parading naked in front of female colleagues. (Fortunately I can’t picture Charlie doing that either). If Walter’s Juanita Broaddrick, reading about the slap-down of Rose, comes out with a credible accusation against the icon, will the Arizona State-based institution change its name to the Dan Rather sch…no, it can’t do that.

“In rescinding this award, we hope to send an unequivocal message that what Mr. Rose did is unacceptable”—wait: when did this become a workplace conduct organization? This school is supposed to send messages to journalists about journalism, not hotel room decorum.

Let’s see whose Cronkite awards haven’t been revoked…why, there’s openly biased Gwen Ifill, who breached conflict of interest rules by moderating a candidates debate when she had a financial stake in the election’s outcome! And Look! There’s the proudly unobjective  and bigoted Christiane Amanpour! No removal of her award for excellent journalism despite her openly embracing unethical journalism practices. And…what’s this? Brian Williams!

I guess the fact that Williams was revealed to be a fraud and a liar doesn’t justify “a reversal of history,” but then nothing does. Nothing learned regarding Charlie Rose’s non-reporting, non-moderating, non-anchoring conduct outside of the broadcast studio changes what he accomplished in those roles in any way. What The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has done to Rose is nothing more nor less than irresponsible historical and cultural bulldozing, eliminating the historical records of important figures who contributed to businesses,professions,  government, arts, sciences and society, if there is any chance that the mention of their names will offend someone for reasons unrelated to those contributions.

As I concluded a 2015 post on this exact same ethics issue, when the legitimately honored individual being bulldozed was Bill Cosby…

Stop airbrushing your history, your heroes, your geniuses and your trailblazers, America. 

It is wrong—dishonest, incompetent, unfair, irresponsible, destructive….and so, so short-sighted and stupid.

Yes, it takes courage to oppose this tidal wave of political correctness—surely some in this country still have courage, right? I know it’s scary ….to slow  one of the  unreasoning, destructive , runaway cultural freight trains that are bearing down on American society with increasing frequency. But prominent people stood up to Joe McCarthy, opposed popular wars, fought for civil rights, and have repeatedly risked reputation, employment, friendships and even their lives to insist on sanity, proportion and rationality when it was being swept aside by coalitions of the opportunistic, the Machiavellian and the ignorant. Surely there are prominent Americans who will stand up to this? Hello? Is anybody there?

Because this isn’t just airbrushing. It is bulldozing. And the culture, history and perspective it will leave the nation with will be flat, bleak, and a lie.

But oh so inoffensive.

If Charlie Rose deserved his award in 2015, he deserves it today.


10 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

  1. The dean said: “The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students….”

    It can be deduced that the long-range protection plan is to hire women in pairs and have them walk around together.

  2. The last time I heard of a journalist being drummed out of favor before the current moral panic was Helen Thomas, after she said all the Jews in Israel should go home to Germany and Poland and other places. Her name was erased from awards, or rather the school that had given an award with her name on it discontinued the award, her agent dropped her like a hot potato, and she was left to live out her remaining days in disgrace. It didn’t matter to those of us on the right, since we hated her anyway (she was an Arab, a pain in the ass, and SUPREMELY physically ugly),and it didn’t matter to those on the left, since Obama was in power, she was no longer needed to break the White House press secretary’s balls while insisting journalist and public official alike kiss her ring because of her age and seniority, and now she was a liability with the Jewish lobby who you just. don’t. cross. under. any. circumstances.

    Charlie Rose just happened to be another domino in the row of prominent figures in that industry, most of them conservative, who have fallen down recently. It wouldn’t surprise me if his fellow liberals are ok with letting him fall and “take one for the team” in the hopes of completely cleaning Fox News from the airwaves or eliminating so much of its talent as to make it unviable. The others you mention above didn’t have their issues at a time when there was such an opportunity, and so were either left be, ignored, or defended.

    We’ve already established that bulldozing and airbrushing are now the thing to do on the left, as long as there’s political hay to be made, and the left has no problem bulldozing a few of its own, as long as they take down more of the other side in the process.

  3. I have to admit to not a small measure of schadenfreude in seeing Charlie Rose being dropped like dirty shirt by the Walter Cronkite School. I found Charlie insufferable and unwatchable. He was was just so damned earnest and soft-spoken and unctuous. Any institution that would honor Peter Arnett’s girl friend or Brian Williams deserves to have to do a tap dance over honoring Charlie Rose. They can all go down together.

  4. Once again we have a cognitive dissonance scale issue.

    If an institution gives an award to an individual there is supposed a win-win situation for all involved in terms of the cognitive dissonance scale.
    If the situation changes, like now with Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Charlie Rose, the pay-off for the Walter Cronkite School becomes negative. For instance, negative publicity, less students, future potential award winners refusing openly the award, etc.
    In such a situation the Dean should choose for what is best for the institution he is responsible for, and therefore revoke the award.

    Imagine, 2015, you are, as a member of the committee that is deciding whom to award, at a meeting where on the agenda is the question whether to nominate Charlie Rose, whose body of work shows he is an impressive, valuable, expert, enlightening and professional journalist.

    But, the day before this meeting news came out showing he he is an abusive, sexist, gross, harassing pig!

    Would you vote for his nomination?

    • That’s a bias to get over, that’s all. If you want a character requirement in the criteria, then put it in. This is an integrity issue. The method you describe essentially says that such honors mean nothing but PR for both parties, honorer and honoree. The honor was for Excellence in journalism, not altruism, kindness or not embarrassing an employer.

      The Mark Twain award was just awarded to David Letterman. That was gutsy, given the timing. Letterman was an admitted harasser, but he was an important figure in comedy and satire. I’d vote for him if I was on the organization’s board, and I hate the guy.

      Would you not give the Nobel Prize to Watson or Pauling if they had made arguably racist statements before their honors? Not if you want the honor to mean anything.

  5. I do not want to claim that such honors mean nothing but PR for both parties, honorer and honoree but it is, imo, a big part of it. It certainly was for Alfred Nobel according to Wikipedia,

    “In 1888, Nobel was astonished to read his own obituary, titled The merchant of death is dead, in a French newspaper. As it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died, the obituary was eight years premature. The article disconcerted Nobel and made him apprehensive about how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will [ … ]”

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