Ethics Hero (Animal Lover Division): Janet Sinclair


Janet Sinclair used United Airlines’ “PetSafe” service to fly her beloved greyhound Sedona cross-country from San Diego. The service assures flyers that their pets will make the journey safe and sound, with responsible care and personal handling. Sinclair, however, became alarmed when she saw a United employee kick Sedona’s crate six times to shove it under the shade of the plane’s wing instead of carefully moving it. She then began documenting United’s pet care. Her video  shows her dog being left outside in 94 degree heat at a mid-journey stop (in Houston), and not placed in a temperature-controlled vehicle as she had been promised. When Sinclair landed at Logan Airport in Boston, her dog was barking at death’s door.

“Sedona’s entire crate was filled with blood, feces, urine,” Sinclair told reporters. “Sedona was in full heat stroke. All of the blankets were filled with blood. She was urinating and defecating blood. She was dying, literally, right in front of me.” The veterinarian who saved Sedona diagnosed her with heat stroke, urinary tract infection and liver dysfunction, all arising from the over-heating the dog experienced during the United Airlines flight. The airline, for its part, claimed that the dog’s distress was due to pre-existing conditions, though Sinclair’s vet had declared Sedona healthy following a pre-trip exam. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Critic Ethics

How I love critics...

How I love critics…

This is a delicate one for me; the names have been omitted and details disguised to protect…well, for a lot of reasons.

Last week I posted about the mixed-gender version of “I Do! I Do!” I directed for The American Century Theater, which I co-founded and where I am the artistic director. The show met all my objectives and expectations, even surpassed them, and until today, all of the reviews have been raves.

Today, though, a non-rave came out on a local theater website. It is the kind of review I detest, where the standard of the critic is “why didn’t you do it this way? That’s what I would have done.” The answer to that is, bluntly, “Direct your own damn show, then.” Snap judgments from one-time viewers, even extremely sophisticated ones, about what they would do if they were the author, actor, director, or designer of a stage production—when if truth they never have been or could be—are inherently unfair, incompetent and also obnoxious. After considering and experimenting and testing various artistic approaches to any problem over months of preparation, meetings and  intense rehearsal with a large production and artistic team, any production deserves the respect of being assumed to have considered and rejected for cause other solutions, which for various reasons didn’t work.

This is not, of course, a professional reviewer, though a reader could only know that from the quality of the review. Among other tells, the critic misidentifies which performers sing what, and the whole concept of non-realistic sets seems to be alien to him: yes, dear, we could have afforded a four-poster bed; the director felt the show would be better without one, and in fact, it is. Okay, the reviewer is a boob: that’s fine; most theater reviewers are.  I would not make an issue about one sloppy and badly reasoned amateur review, because if I did, I’d be in a padded room.

However, after the review was published, I learned that our company had a prior experience with this reviewer: he had been on the crew of a show last year, and we had to fire him. In 17 years and over 80 productions, he is the only person to be fired from that particular job.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz with a theatrical bent:

Does a critic who has a past relationship with a theater company whose production he or she is reviewing have an ethical obligation to disclose it as part of the published review? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Disclosing Information We have A Right To Know But May Not Want To Know

Travel blogger Margie Goldsmith has a provocative post about a nightmare flight she experienced on American Airlines. You can read it here. The plane had one problem after another, all of which were

How much about what's happening in that cockpit do we really want to know?

described in terrifying detail by the captain, who cheerily informed them that:

  • The plane’s hydraulic system was leaking and had to be repaired
  • During the delay, the pilot was going to watch a video about how to take off from that airport, which was especially tricky.
  • The new plane the passengers were later moved to had been really foul-smelling, and needed to be completely cleaned and deodorized
  • The new plane’s hatch wouldn’t close properly, and..
  • They finally sealed it with duct tape, and were going to fly that way.

Goldsmith ends her story with this: “The next time I’m on a delayed flight and the Captain does not announce the reason for the hold-up, I think I’m going to be one happy passenger.”

Your Ethics Quiz for today poses this question:

“Is it more ethical for an airline pilot to detail all the problems an airplane is having in the interest of candor and full disclosure, or should he or she just deal with the problems and not increase passengers’ anxiety over matters that they neither understand nor can do anything about?Continue reading

Fired for Applauding: The Warped Ethics of Sports Reporters

I missed this story, because I regard auto racing as interesting as beetle mating, but it is an important one.

"Yeah, I report on it, but I really don't give a damn."

Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 last month, and the unexpected victory of the youngest Daytona champion ever provoked audible glee in the press box. One of the reporters on the scene, Sports Illustrated freelancer Tom Bowles, explained on Twitter and his blog why his applauding for a sporting result, considered a cardinal sin in the sportswriting profession, was not a sin after all.

He was fired. Continue reading

A Code of Ethics For Each Blog

Health and science writer Maryn McKenna has a provocative post on Wired exploring the question, “Do old  ethics apply to new media?” Although the short, obvious and accurate answer is “yes,” she concentrates on the legitimate problem of defining what ethics standards we should require of bloggers and blogs, particularly regarding disclosure of sponsors and other potential biases. Continue reading

Rebate Ethics

I  hit the roof yesterday when I found out that we had missed the deadline to apply for the promised $100 rebate on my son’s fancy cell phone. To make myself feel better, I checked with Consumers Reports and some other sources: sure enough, the Marshalls are not alone. It is estimated that 40%-60% of all rebates go unclaimed, to the tune of 4 billion dollars. What a deal for retailers! They lure you to the store with low prices. When you get there, you discover that the price will only truly be low after you mail in a rebate request and get a check in return. But you’re in the store, and have made the emotional commitment to buy. Later, you may find out that the various hoops you have to jump through to get the rebate back are annoying and time-consuming, and easy to botch. If you are busy, you may put it aside—and ninety, sixty, thirty, or even just seven days later, the rebate offer expires.

Are rebates ethical, or are they a particularly insidious form of consumer fraud, using the well-document human characteristics of impulse buying, inattention to detail, short attention span and procrastination against consumers to make millions of dollars in money that was supposed to be discounted but never was? Continue reading

One More Reason to Distrust Banks

National Public Radio did a feature on foreclosure auctions, following one real estate investor as he sought a bargain at an auction in Boston. The auction held a surprise for the investor, the reporter, and me. After the young man who was being followed by the NPR correspondent won a lively bidding battle for a $300,000 house at the bargain price of $84,000, the bank refused to sell it to him. The reason: the auction was a “reserve” auction rather than an “absolute” auction, meaning that there was an unpublished price at which the bank would sell the property, but winning bids below that amount could be rejected. The investor was angry. The NPR reporter was confused.

The auction was rigged. Continue reading