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?
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 The school has never withdrawn an award or honor: are we really supposed to believe that there is an established procedure for considering whether or not one should be revoked in an instance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.