What Today’s Broadcast News Regards As “Credentials”

"Yes, yes...journalism degree, experience at a local affiliate, blah, blah...but no rapes? Arrests? Scandals? Sexual abuse? Miss, you have NO credentials that make you valuable as a network reporter! Wait--what's your bra size?"

Good for media ethics pundit Howard Kurtz for blowing the whistle, however gently, on ABC News’s hiring of Elizabeth Smart as a contributing on-air expert on missing children cases. “Does that strike anyone as odd?” he writes.

Well, it depends what you mean by “odd,” Howard.

If you mean, does it surprise me that a broadcast media outlet, one of the journalistic mutations that hired Eliot Spitzer, fresh off his prostitution disgrace, to headline a current events show on CNN, that puts a giggly fold-out-come-to-life  like Robin Meade in charge of Headline News’ morning, and that, like Fox News, chooses its female newsreaders and guest pundits according to their degree of resemblance to Mamie Van Doren or Raquel Welch, would hire a young, attractive blond woman with no credentials other than her role as the victim of kidnapping, sexual abuse and rape, as a correspondent, why no, I don’t find it odd at all.

If you mean, do I find it odd that a supposedly professional news network would so blatantly abandon professional standards  just to cash in on the Casey Anthony uproar, however, then…wait, no, I don’t find that odd either. Revolting, but not odd. Continue reading

Setting the Fairness Alarm For Congressman Weiner

Set alarm to "Unfair".

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is embroiled in a strange and distasteful controversy arising from the receipt by a young woman of a tweet from Weiner’s Twitter account including a photograph of a man’s provocatively bulging underwear–with both the garment and the bulge-producing contents allegedly belonging to the Representative.  Such situations require the media, the public, political allies and foes alike to set their ethics alarms to “Fairness,” because being unfair is so easy and seductive.  If your ethics alarms are properly calibrated, here is what should feel fair and unfair to Congressman Weiner.

Unfair: Assuming he sent the photo. He is a Congressman, an elected representative of the nation’s legislature. Just because other Congressmen (now ex-Congressmen) have, within memory, sent shirtless photos of themselves over the internet to troll for sex and giddily described having “tickle fights” with staff members does not have any probative value regarding what Rep. is or is not capable of doing. He claims his account was hacked as a prank. He deserves the benefit of the doubt until there are legitimate reasons to question his credibility on this issue. Even then, I think we owe it to him and our faith in democracy to begin with the assumption that a member of the U.S. House of Representatives couldn’t possibly be so crude, irresponsible and stupid as to send a photo of his crotch to a young woman. Continue reading

CNN, Flunking Journalistic Integrity 101

What? Oh THAT...

The stunning revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger  has been hiding a love child for a decade has media pundits pondering, “What was the biggest sex scandal  to snare an American politician? There’s Bill and Monica, obviously, and Mark Sanford’s South American soul mate; Sen. Ensign’s inter-staff incest and the probable winner after Clinton, John Edwards’ despicable betrayal of his dying wife. It’s a tough field, made tougher by the presence of one more formidable contender: Eliot Spitzer, who lost his job as Governor of New York after being caught playing in a prostitution ring, the exact same kind of criminal enterprise that he busted up as a crusading prosecutor on the way to the State House.

Yesterday, CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux did a feature story on notable political sex scandals, and mentioned all of these and more, with one  exception. Can you guess which? Here’s a hint: the author of the scandal currently stars as one of CNN’s political commentators.

Yes, Eliot Spitzer’s sexual meltdown didn’t make the cut of CNN’s scandal review. What does this tell us about CNN, Malveau, and everyone involved–producers, writers, executives…Spitzer?— in the feature vetting process?

Here’s what: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Prosecutor Kit Bramblett

Uh, Willie? The judge woul like you to put down the weed and sing.

In West Texas, Hudspeth County prosecutor has recommended an unusual set of penalties for country music legend Willie Nelson, who has been arrested for possession of marijuana as he has been many times in the past. County Attorney Kit Bramblett has recommended to the judge in the case that she allow Bramblett to drop possession charges if Nelson pleads guilty, pays a fine…

…. and sings “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” for in court.

His recommendation is ethically offensive on many levels, though it is probably not a violation of any Texas rule of legal ethics, for the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct does not directly address Ethics Dunces. However… Continue reading

And the Frontrunner for the 2011 “Eliot Spitzer Award for Outrageous Hypocrisy” is….

Looks like this year's "Spitzie" is already in the bag!

Clark County (Las Vegas) Deputy District Attorney David Schubert!

From the Las Vegas Sun:

“Metro Police said chief Clark County Deputy District Attorney David Schubert was arrested in connection with drug charges Saturday night. Police spokesman Jay Rivera said Schubert was charged with possession of cocaine and booked into the Clark County Detention Center…
Police planned to release more information about Schubert’s arrest on Monday, Rivera said.

“Schubert recently prosecuted the high-profile drug cases involving Paris Hilton and pop singer Bruno Mars.”

Now THAT’s hypocrisy!

Worst Ethics Column of the Month: Michelle Goldberg’s “The Lara Logan Media Wars”

There’s nothing so pointless as complaining about a phenomenon that is logical, natural, useful and just, on the grounds that it’s so darn mean. Nevertheless, that is the gist of a Daily Beast column by Michelle Goldberg, another in the increasingly ethics-challenged stable of journalists being assembled at Tina Brown’s slick website.

Ruing the fate that befell journalist Nir Rosen after he not only ridiculed the horrendous attack on ABC reporter Lara Logan by an Egyptian mob, but implied that as a ‘war-monger” she deserved it, Goldberg wrote…

“…it indicated that Rosen has deep, unexamined problems with women, particularly women who are his more-celebrated competitors. But it was also appalling to realize that this brief, ugly outburst was going to eclipse an often-heroic career. The media’s modern panopticon has an awful way of reducing us all to the worst thing we’ve ever done…Again and again, we see people who make one mistake either forced out of their jobs or held up for brutal public excoriation. But the more we live in public, the more we need to develop some sort of mercy for those who briefly let the dark parts of themselves slip out, particularly when they’re truly sorry afterward.”

Ah, yes, the old “one mistake” plea! Continue reading

Eliot Spitzer, Playing to Form

The buzz out of CNN is that its struggling “Spitzer-Parker” talking heads show is on the ropes, and will soon be re-tooled, de-Parkered, or dropped altogether. Nobody who has tried to watch this virtually unwatchable program will be surprised to hear it, nor will anyone be surprised to see the show re-emerge as just “Spitzer” or perhaps “Spitz!” If that is the solution, it will be one more instance in which unethical conduct prevails over its good twin. This is show biz, after all.

It won’t prevail for long. Eliot Spitzer has revealed himself on the show as a selfish, unmannered bully, as well as an old-fashioned male chauvinist pig. Continue reading

Eliot Spitzer, the Harvard Club, and Blackball Ethics

Eliot Spitzer, we have learned, has been blackballed by the New York City Harvard Club. Although over 11,000 graduates of the august institution are members, and the club, which is always seeking funds and rejects an application about as frequently as its alma mater plays a decent football game, nonetheless found Spitzer wanting.

Is this a surprise to anyone? There are only a few reasons to join the Harvard Club or even tolerate it, unless one has an unhealthy affection for the stuffed heads of things Theodore Roosevelt shot, many of which are hanging on the wall. The main reason is prestige (and to let visitors know that you graduated from Harvard without having to say so). A club, by its very nature, suggests some degree of exclusivity; one’s cache from belonging to a club derives from its members. I can imagine a rational person feeling some sense of pride in belonging to a club of Harvard graduates. I cannot imagine a rational person feeling any special sense of exclusivity emanating from membership in a club that includes Eliot Spitzer. Continue reading

Leona Gage: A Celebrity Liar Ahead of Her Time

Leona Gage died last week, and there are people who love her and will miss her. But Gage’s obituary would have never been deemed worth of mention in major newspapers had it not been for a series of lies she concocted in 1957 because “she needed the money.” She was Miss USA that year, until contest organizers discovered that, contrary to what she had said,  she wasn’t single ( a requirement then); wasn’t waiting “until she was 26” to have a boyfriend (she had been married twice at 14, and already had a child), and wasn’t 21…she was just 18. Continue reading

Why We Have Unethical Elected Officials, A Continuing Inquiry: Part 1– Spitzer’s Standards

Eliot Spitzer, CNN commentator and New York political veteran, endorsed fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo in his quest to be New York’s governor.  Then he said:

“The problem that Andrew has is that everybody knows that behind the scenes, he is the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there, and that is his reputation from years in Washington. He had brass knuckles, and he played hardball. He has a lot of enemies out there. Nobody’s been willing to stand up to him.”

Eliot Spitzer thus officially confirms his belief that being nasty and dirty, and everything that implies (such as lack of integrity and fairness, ruthlessness, dishonesty, deceit, vindictiveness, and meanness, as well as a Machiavellian approach to governing)  justifies the trust of the people of New York. Continue reading