Good morning (or, as I first typed it, “good monging”), everyone!
1 CNN’s walking, talking, “mistake…CNN’s alleged ethics watchdog, Brian Stelter, is really an embarrassment. He sees his job as defending the news media, not making its conduct better through objective criticism. He especially works up a sweat defending CNN, perhaps the most rooutinely unethical of all…but then, CNN pays his salary, the fools. He’s useless.
In a podcast,, both he and CNN token conservative S.E. Cupp blamed the mean conservative media and commentators unfairly dwelling on “mistakes” to undermine public trust in journalism. See Rationalization #19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
This is a legitimate defense if, in fact, an individual has been accused of not being perfect. Usually, however, it is an attempt to minimize the significance of genuine misconduct. When an act suggests that more than an honest mistake or single instance of bad judgment was involved, and that an individual’s conduct indicates a broader lack of character or ethical sensitivity, “Nobody’s perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” are not only inappropriate and irrelevant, but are presumptively efforts to change the subject. The fact that nobody is perfect does not mean that it isn’t necessary and appropriate to point out unethical conduct when it occurs. It also does not argue for failing to make reasonable assumptions about the ethical instincts of the actor if and when the unethical nature of conduct strongly suggests that it is not an aberration, but a symptom.
Though nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, we are all still accountable for the mistakes we make.
It’s not a mistake when CNN shows itself to be blatantly biased, it’s dishonest and a breach of integrity. It’s not a mistake when CBS, ABC and NBC refuse to report a Democratic Senator’s trial for bribery until it ends in a mistrial, its deliberate refusal to report the news. (CBS recently devoted 45 second to the President drinking from a water bottle.) It’s not a mistake when NBC reinstated a news anchor (Brian Williams) who was shown to have lied repeatedly, its contempt for journalism, and irresponsible. It’s not a mistake when ABC ignores basic conflict of interest principles to allow former Clinton staffer and current Clinton Foundation donor George Stephanopoulos to interview both Hillary Clinton (nice, easy interview)and the author of a book criticizing her (hostile interview), it’s incompetent journalism. Etc, meaning I could go on for, oh, 50,000 words or so without having to check my notes.
The fact that CNN lets an unqualified dolt like Stelter talk about ethics isn’t a mistake either.
When mistakes—and fake news, the description of misconceptions as facts, and bias-driven choices regarding which stories to cover and which to bury are not mistakes—by professionals reach a critical mass, they implicate trust.
2. Like THIS mistake, for example…Here, courtesy of Newsbusters, is veteran CNN journalist Gloria Borger spinning for Al Franken:
Borger …immediately went into spin mode by downplaying the fallout, stating that KABC radio host Leann Tweeden “did not call for him to step down or say he ought to step down” and didn’t render an opinion upon being told an investigation had been launched.
Gloria really needs to 1) read Ethics Alarms and 2) take Ethics 101. What a victim chooses to say about an unethical act that harmed her doesn’t alter the seriousness of the act in any way.
From there, Borger continued proving this segment as one of political tribalism, declaring that what matters most is “the context in which all of this occurring, which is Moore — Judge Moore — and that has been, you know, brewing and percolating, whatever you want to say, for days and days and days.”
In other words, “Look over there!” This is also Ethics 1o1 stuff: Whether the conduct of individual A is better or worse, the unrelated conduct of individual B must be judged on its own ethics breaches. Borgia is appealing to Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” (This is also the current favorite of my Facebook friends, who are embarrassing themselves. At least they aren’t posing as journalists.) Continue reading