And The Self-Destruction Of America’s Journalism Continues: I Pronounce The Boston Globe Ethics Alarms DEAD

The Boston Globe is the first newspaper I ever read, admittedly because it long had (no more, alas) the best sports section in the country. Even after fate took me away from my beloved home town and deposited me, apparently forever, in Washington, D.C., I continued to subscribe. Many times, notably when the paper’s special investigative unit blew the top off of the city’s deep and long-rotting child molestation scandal among its Catholic priests, leading to the exposure of the unimaginable world-wide scandal that went all the way to the Vatican, the paper validated my loyalty and admiration.

But political bias was always the Globe’s Achilles Heel. The editorial staff was a Kennedy family lapdog, and this metastasized into knee-jerk  Democratic Party support even when it could not be logically justified. Eventually, it was obvious that the paper’s ethics alarms, if not dead, were barely pinging. in April of 2016, the paper suffered a crippling Donald Trump-sparked nervous breakdown, turning itself into a print version of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.” It featured a phony front page —a portent of the fake news to come, but not just at the Globe—showing the dystopian future that awaited in the hopefully alternate dystopian universe where  Trump was elected President:

I wrote in part,

So disturbed is the editorial staff of the Boston Globe over the nauseating threat of a Donald Trump presidency that it has jettisoned all established principles of journalism ethics in an embarrassing, self-destructive effort to “stop” him. Mark this down as one more wound on the culture that Trump has inflicted with his luxury ego trip, with the assistance of his irrational supporters, of course….

“This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action. Many Americans might find this vision appealing, but the Globe’s editorial board finds it deeply troubling,” the editor’s note reads. Then follows an editorial urging the GOP to stop Trump.

The editorial is fine. The Globe could have even chosen to place it on its real front page instead of creating a National Lampoon imitation and been well within journalism ethics standards. Publishing fake news stories about what a theoretical President Trump might do? This is a spectacular  failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue.

(Gee, I really called the news media’s eventual total abandonment of journalism ethics, didn’t I? Where are my bouquets? My Pulitzer?)

That was the end of my regular reading of the Boston Globe. This is the end of my regarding it as a newspaper. The correct term is “rag.” Come to think of it, that may be an insult to rags. Continue reading

When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Boston Bank Ad

Yes, Dorchester is a community dominated by exactly the people you think it is. The ad says to the public, “If you bank with us, we know you’re white, and if you get robbed, we both know the thief is black.”

Nice.

Social media was on this like a shot, and TD Bank apologized, saying

“We are sorry that an ad that appeared in one of our stores was insensitive to the Dorchester community.The ad, which was removed today, does not reflect our core values around diversity and inclusion.”

This is a lie, and an obvious one. If the bank really had such core values, someone at the bank who saw the ad in production would have said, “Wait, are you out of your mind? We’re insulting Dorchester with this, and the message implies that our customers are likely to be robbed by blacks!”

What made it worse for the bank is that Samsung got burned in Boston just two years ago by trying an almost identical ad, which was also condemned as racist.

Yes, Mattapan has demographics similar to Dorchester.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/2019: “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore!” Edition

Good Morning!

Time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again, when I’m in this kind of mood…It helps.

Fridays have been discouraging of late. The already diminished traffic here, which always slowed to a crawl on Saturdays, is now almost as weak on Fridays and Sundays too. I have no idea why this is, but it gets old devoting two to four hours a day on weekends producing blog content that I think is worthy of readers’ time and thought while knowing that it will be largely ignored. Of course, running a home ethics business, weekends have meant nothing  for many years, holidays as well, and I don’t know what this “vacation” thing is that my friends keep blathering about. To be clear, I love doing what I do, or I wouldn’t do it. I just wish I were more effective at persuading others to care about the topic of ethics as much as I do.

1. How to beat Facebook! I tried something this morning: I posted an essay without including a photo, and tried to post it on Facebook. It took! No error message! Then I added a photo after the link was on Facebook. The link still worked! I’m going to see if this was just a fluke or not, and I’m going to post a few things without graphics or videos to see if readers have the same luck posting and sharing them. If the photos being removed actually does get around whatever it is causing Ethics Alarms to be unsharable on Facebook, then I’ll have a decision to make. Obviously the photos and videos enhance the posts, and are sometimes essential. Is it worth the trade-off to stop using graphics if it allows more circulation on social media? My choices are…

  • Refuse to compromise the integrity of the blog to satisfy Facebook. (You know this is my default reaction.)
  • Leave photos off posts until I’ve put them on my Facebook page. This will allow people to access Ethics Alarms using that link.
  • Leave photos and videos off all posts.
  • Leave photos and videos off selected posts that I think are likely to be shared.

All of these, of course, assume that I continue to investigate and try to find out why Facebook won’t accept Ethics Alarms posts as they are.

2.  You don’t get business from an ethics company by lying in your introductory pitch. Just got an email beginning thusly…

We would like to share our observations pertaining to your website. Though, your website is great and has all the information that prospective customers of your niche will search for. However, it has a lot of scope for getting optimized in line with Search Engine Guidelines so as to come on the first page in search results.   We have conducted a meticulous SEO audit of your website and found that it can give you more return than it might be giving you at present.

Right. It is obvious that you have NOT read this website, because if you had you would know that it is not seeking “potential customers” (though my other website is) and that you currently have no clue about Ethics Alarms, its scope or its “niche.” This is a form letter, pretending, and badly, not to be. If you are this incompetent in your own marketing, why would I trust you to advise me regarding mine?

Go away. I hate you.

3. Watch “Network” again, if you haven’t lately. TCM has been running movies about journalism on Thursdays this month. Why do I suspect the network was lobbied to do this as CNN et al. try to make the false case that journalists are noble, ethical, devoted and trustworthy as a public defense against President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and the “enemies of the people”? Well, most of the journalists portrayed in movies are like that. One reason I question the motives of the series is that it left “Absence of Malice” out, one of the very few negative (and  accurate) Hollywood portrayals of journalists.

TCM could not credibly neglect to show “Network, ” however, Paddy Chayefsky’s  wild satire of TV news that was a runner-up to “Rocky” as Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, and is now on Broadway in a stage adaptation. (I agreed with that award then and do still: “Network”is intellectual and satiric, “Rocky” is visceral and emotional, they are both classics, but if they are both showing at the same time, I’m choosing “Rocky,” which makes me feel good, over Network, which makes me want to jump into the blender.) Watching it all the way through for the first time in many years, I realized that the film should be required viewing for all American citizens. What seemed hilariously cynical and over-the-top 40 years ago seems depressingly prophetic now.

The film (Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was the sharpest and most flamboyant of the great quartet  of Golden Age TV writers; Rod Serling, Reginald Rose and Abby Mann were the others) portrays a TV network culture that is amoral and ruthless, willing to breach ethics, taste and decency, not to mention journalism ethics, to pursue ratings, dollars, and power. I don’t know if he was making a prediction, warning us, or just trying to be entertaining, but by brilliance or chance, Chayefsky was giving society a preview of what would constitute “news” in 2019. The result is that what was funny in 1977 is horrifying now.

The TV shows “UBS” puts on the air all have direct avatars today in reality shows and other genres that didn’t exist pre-cable. The veteran newscaster-gone-nuts whose live rants become a sensation, Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, no longer seems like an outrageous invetion. We have seen many “mad prophets” in alleged newscasts since “Network.” Glenn Beck may have been the closest to Beale, but Bill O’Reilly was in the ballpark, and Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and a raft of MSNBC talking heads  routinely say things at least as outrageous as Howard, before he would suffer a seizure in his passion and collapse at the end of every broadcast.

Moreover, the iconic moment in the film  where Beale spurs people all over America to run to their windows, open them, and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” is another excellent metaphor for the 2016 election (though I like teh parade in “Animal House” best). The network executives are the personification of the smug, arrogant “elites” who were (and are) so, so confident that they knew what was best for the public, while they lied, manipulated, postured and profited. Donald Trump was elected less as an individual than as the physical manifestation of shouting out the window, and it was a symbolic and necessary message that the two parties and the news media  still haven’t received.

I am proud of Americans for sending it, and the unethical alliance of elites who refuse to understand are playing with dynamite.

Lunch time Ethics Warm-Up, 3/19/19: Madea, Plan C, And More.

Yum yum!

Winging off to San Diego in a couple of hours, so be on the alert for an Open Forum while I’m in the air. It’s amazing: I’m going to spend two and a half days of air travel and hanging around a hotel and airports to give a 75 minute legal ethics presentation, albeit to a mob of over 600 lawyers.

1.  From the Ethics Alarms double standards files…

Let’s see: this film has gross black stereotypes and a man in drag, but not in a good, transgender way. I assume nobody will disagree that if this film was made by a white man, it would be received with horror and declared racist, and the white filmmaker would be apologizing to everyone and everything in sight.

2. The return of Plan C! As most recently noted here, Plan C is the obscure and outdated Emoluments Clause. In a series of tweets reviving the specious accusation  President Trump is violating the Constitution by owning businesses while he is President, something never anticipated by the Founders and an issue that was barely discussed by the news media during the campaign, Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics who long ago declared himself a “resistance” ally,condemned the Embassy of Kuwait’s decision to celebrate its National Liberation Day at the hotel on Feb. 27. He wrote,

 “Kuwait got the message. Turkey got the message. Saudi Arabia got the message. The Philippines got the message. The question is: Which of our allies will stand with the American people, and which will seek to enrich our corrupt President? We will watch. We will remember.”

Oh, eat a bug. Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 8) stipulates that no federal officeholders “shall receive gifts or payments from foreign state or rulers without the consent of Congress.” But payments obviously means pay-offs, and payment for services isn’t a gift. Not are Trump organization receipts payments to the President. I note that Shaub is now a fellow at The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which I used to write about more before I got sick of it. It is the political equivalent of Media Matters, posing as an ethics watchdog when it’s agenda and biases are flagrantly partisan. I regard Shaub using his prior position as authority a breach of ethics: he’s posing as an objective analyst, and he’s not. Indeed, resorting to the silly Emoluments Clause to attack Trump is signature significance. Continue reading