The Manager, The Hot Reporter, Conflicts and Professionalism

moranfarrell

It’s nice of my favorite baseball team to supply me with ethics stories, don’t you think? This one has management ethics, relationship ethics, journalism ethics, sexual harassment and professionalism.

The Boston Globe reported last week that Boston Red Sox manager John  Farrell and Comcast SportsNet New England reporter Jessica Moran, who covered the team,  were romantically involved. Moran promptly resigned. This quickly degenerated into the usual ethically muddled discussion by members of the public who watch George Stephanopoulos interview Hillary Clinton and see nothing amiss, and have been so badly taught the ethics basics that they couldn’t identify a conflict of interest if they tripped on one, and members of the news media, who, if anything, are worse.  Among the questions being floated, and their somehow elusive answers…

These are consenting adults. Why aren’t they free to have a relationship?

Because they are professionals, with special duties to their constituencies and stakeholders, and the relationship between a reporter and her subject undermines independence, loyalty, trust and competence.

Why is it always the woman the one who has to lose her job?

It isn’t. The journalist has to lose her job, because the journalist breached the basic ethics of the profession. The baseball manager’s conduct is wrong,  but comparatively tangential to his duties at worst. It is still seriously unethical, however, and undermines team culture and the status of other women who have duties involving the team.  Farrell, by dating Moran, was sending a message to his players and other team personnel that these women are legitimate targets for sexual courtship rather than workplace colleagues.  The relationship may have constituted third party sexual harassment, making other women feel as if team leadership had sent the message that they weren’t to be taken seriously as professionals.

Why is everyone making a big deal about this? She’s a beautiful young woman, covering a team of men. Isn’t this to be expected? Continue reading