One aspect of broadcast journalism ethics that the Old Guard—Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Huntley, Thomas and the rest— observed and respected was a neutral demeanor. They knew (and today’s hacks know as well, but with different results), that tone of delivery, body language and facial expressions can convey a journalist’s personal views and biases as clearly as a direct statement. Their practice, therefore, was to maintain a poker face and a matter-of-fact delivery. When Walter Cronkite brushed away a tear while announcing JFK’s death in 1963, it was considered newsworthy because Walter did not bring his own feelings into the news. The consensus was that hee could be forgiven this one time.
If that professional practice is taught in journalism classes any more, it is ignored. Now broadcast journalists and reporters deliberately use every tool at their disposal to signal to viewers what they think, and thus what the viewers should think as well. The election of Donald Trump represented a full-on, industry wide rejection of objectivity by the broadcast media, as many reporters allowed themselves to appear in mourning, or close to tears. Unlike the assassination of JFK, however, this was not an excusable exception, or, as we have learned, an exception at all.
Look at the faces of last night’s CNN panel reporting on what had been built up as a bellweather election in North Carolina that, should a Democrat have won, would be string sign that President Trump and Republicans were in trouble nationwide. Is there any doubt who they were rooting for?
This is not only unethical journalism, it’s incompetent journalism.
Of course not. But if it comes to a point where that is the dilemma, attention must be paid.
From Fox News (you wouldn’t expect CNN to report this story, would you?):
The former boss of a bartender who earlier this week filed an explosive lawsuit against CNN host Don Lemon, accusing the newsman of a strange, sexually charged assault, told Fox News he witnessed the incident and corroborated his onetime employee’s claim.
In an exclusive interview, George Gounelas, who managed Dustin Hice at the Old Stove Pub in July of 2018, detailed what allegedly occurred on the night of the bizarre encounter at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern, which is located in the prestigious Hamptons area east of New York City. Gounelas is named in the suit filed by Hice.
Lemon, through CNN, has vehemently denied Hice’s allegations.
“Dustin worked for me as a bartender [and] we went out after work one night. We were standing there and he said, ‘Hey, that’s Don Lemon,’” Gounelas said. “Murf’s is a place you go to drink after you’ve been out drinking. We had just gotten off of work. So that’s why we ended up there, because we worked in the restaurant business. So by the time everything is done, we can only hit a late-night spot.”
Hice approached Lemon to strike up a conversation but the newsman declined, according to Gounelas, who said he and Hice then offered to buy Lemon a drink, which the CNN host also declined.
Gounelas said that a few moments later, Lemon came up to them. “Don Lemon has now come around the corner and is standing face to face with us. There is a beam, a pole, in the place. Don’s standing up against the pole, face to face with Dustin, I turn around and I’m standing right there between the two of them,” Gounelas said. “He’s saying, ‘So you like me? Is that why you’re bothering me?’”
Hice responded, “Nah, man, I just wanted to say, ‘What’s up?’” according to Gounelas.
Gounelas told Fox News he couldn’t recall what Lemon said verbatim, but it was “along the lines of, ‘Do you like me? Is that why you’re bothering me, because you wanna fuck me?’” Gounelas said Lemon appeared “pretty drunk” when he confronted the duo at the wee-hours watering hole.
“He put his hands down his pants, inside his board shorts, grabbed his [genitals], and then came out with two fingers and, like, clipped Dustin’s nose up and down with two fingers asking ‘do you like pussy or dick?’” Gounelas said….
Gounelas said he isn’t sure if Lemon, who is openly gay, was being confrontational or simply flirting. “I guess it’s a little of both. If someone had done that to me, I probably would have punched him. But I think it might have been flirting. I think Dustin was more in shock… If someone was flirting with me like that I’d say, ‘alright man I’m not gay,’” Gounelas said. “I wouldn’t go up to a girl like that. It could be his way of flirting.”
Hice continued to work for Gounelas at the now-shuttered Old Stove Pub for the duration of the summer, where his former boss said the bartender was regularly teased about the incident.
A question to the New York Times’ “Work Friend” column this month raised an issue I’ve considered but never written about regarding sexual relations in the workplace. The columnist botched it badly, but I’m pretty sure my answer would be extremely unpopular. Well, so be it.
The question came from a female employee about to attend a conference at a “fancy hotel with a swanky pool,” She wanted to know if she should pack her bikini, or if wearing a skimpy/revealing/sexually provocative bathing suit around her boss, co-worker and industry colleagues was inappropriate.
Preface:This is the kind of issue that can be hard to find, unless one has unlimited time to search all sources and for better or ill, I don’t. Ethics Alarms is still feeling the effects of losing the regular services of topic scout Fred, who had a remarkable reach, finding ethics issues in all sorts of places I never would (though Fred does drop by here to comment, and I am grateful for that, as well as his long service.) I really do depend on the readers for tips, particularly in the non-political arena. Even the news aggregating sites like The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, the Blaze and Huffington Post have become more politics obsessed than ever, so Ethics Alarms has to dig deeper and go farther. Some of our best discussions have arisen out of obscure venues. So please: keep an ye open, and write me at firstname.lastname@example.org/
There are many fascinating, upsettingdetails in the story of Elizabeth Holmes, but my favorite is her voice. Holmes, the ousted Theranos founder who was indicted last year on federal fraud charges for hawking an essentially imaginary product to multi-millionaire investors, pharmacies, and hospitals, speaks in a deep baritone that, as it turns out, is fake. Former co-workers of Holmes told The Dropout, a new podcast about Theranos’s downfall, that Holmes occasionally “fell out of character” and exposed her real, higher voice — particularly after drinking. One can only assume the voice will be discussed in the upcoming HBO documentary, too.
To begin with, as anyone can hear from the video above, Theranos did not and does not speak in deep baritone voice, which tells us immediately that the author, Katie Heaney, doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Neither, apparently, does Ann, who directs us to another video and describes Holmes’ voice as “a ludicrous phony voice.” There’s nothing ludicrous about it, and if she is not using a ventriloquist, it’s not phony either. Continue reading →
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wore a “form fitting dress” or a “distractingly badly-fitting dress” during her state of the State address. After some pundits and a lot of social media users leveled harsh criticism of her attire, the matter quickly entered the battlefield of the gender wars. She said in a statement,
“In my speech I was encouraging people to see the humanity in one another in this cruel political environment. In an era when so many women are stepping up to lead, I’m hoping people will focus on our ideas and accomplishments instead of our appearance. Until then, I’ve got a message for all of the women and girls like mine who have to deal with garbage like this every day: I’ve got your back.”
Anne Doyle, an Oakland County leadership coach for women, said,
“If she had been wearing something big and baggy, she would have been criticized for wearing that. We’re going to see a significant amount of this type of criticism as more and more women are in these type of powerful, leadership roles. It’s gender bias. But we have to power our way through it and ignore it.”
No question about it, female public figures are often subjected to higher standards of appearance than males. However, does this mean that no criticism of public comportment and appearance by public officials in the official discharge of their duties is legitimate? Here’s Ann Althouse on the controversy, writing that the Governor…
…wore a dress to her State of the State Address that was just way too tight. As many of the commenters (at The Daily Mail) observe, you can see the outline of her bellybutton. It’s not really fair to accuse everyone of body shaming when you wear something that fits so poorly. People talk about Trump’s tie being too long….
And his hair, AND his skin color, AND his hands, AND his weight. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s every fashion choice received barrels of ink-worth of automatic praise. The issue is, or should be, whether a public figures should be held accountable for decisions regarding they present themselves to the world. Cousin Vinny kept finding himself in contempt of court for inappropriately casual attire, which was deemed disrespectful to the court. Are supporters of the governor really arguing that all criticism of a female elected official’s attire or appearance is sexist? Seriously?
At least, that’s what I’ll be saying later today, as I arrive in the Texas capital to give my country music ethics seminar, sung by the remarkable Mike Messer, to a group of over a thousand corporate lawyers. It’s certainly better than lying around coughing, which is what I’ve been doing lately.
1. Update: Facebook still won’t accept Ethics Alarms links. This is seriously depressing me. I can’t get Facebook to respond or explain, and so far WordPress hasn’t been any help either. In the past, posts here have attracted tens of thousands of Facebook shares; most got at least a couple. Now there are none. This affects traffic, it affects everything. On one level, I’m tempted just to leave Facebook entirely. It’s not a very pleasant place these days, and the company is despicable. That doesn’t solve the problem though. After all the work and time I have spent trying to develop the blog, watching its readership and circulation go backwards is infuriating. I also don’t know how paranoid I should be about all of this.
2. State of the Union notes. The speech is always political theater, and largely irrelevant unless it is botched or something weird happens, like “You lie!” or Obama attacking the Supreme Court. I find it amazing that so many pundits couldn’t keep their cognitive dissonance in check, and give some semblance of an honest, if grudging, analysis of what one would have to call an excellent performance—and that’s all the SOTU speech is, a performance— by Donald Trump standards, and a wise performance from a Presidential perspective. At a time of near maximum divisiveness, the speech was upbeat, optimistic, and patriotic. You have to really, really hate the man to condemn that speech….and that’s how most of journalists and pundits feel. I especially liked Salon’s “Donald Trump 2019: Same lying racist he was last year.” CNN’s Van Jones was also self-indicting, saying, “I saw this as a psychotically incoherent speech with cookies and dog poop. He tries to put together in the same speech these warm, kind things about humanitarianism and caring about children, and at the same time he is demonizing people who are immigrants in a way that was appalling.” On the other side of the wacko divide, Ann Coulter called the speech “sappy” and was upset because Trump didn’t talk more about the wall. Is there anyone other than Coulter than wants him to talk more about the wall? We need a special confirmation bias clinic for these people. Also: Continue reading →
Apparently audiences were unhappy with an allegedly subpar performance of “The Wiz” at the Brown Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. An unusual number of customers called to call demand refunds, based on complaints ranging from botched lines to a bad Cowardly Lion costume (he looked like e bear) and to a cheesy projection of magical land of Oz from a laptop projector.
“The Wiz” is the hit Seventies Broadway adaptation of the “The Wizard of Oz,” but with an all-black cast, rock-style music, hip-hop dancing and contemporary slang. It was made into a successful film starring Diana Ross and Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.
Tickets cost between $35 to $65. Despite the complaints, Lavarious Slaughter, the show’s producer for Island Entertainment KC, of Kansas City, Missouri has said that there will be no refunds.
(Lavarious Slaughter? He sounds like an escapee from a Harry Potter book.)
It’s hard for me to tell just how bad the performance was based on second hand accounts. (I wouldn’t pay 65 bucks for the greatest production of “The Wiz” ever. The whole concept behind “The Wiz ” was cynical, and all-black casts are a divisive gimmick. How bad was it?
Helen Barnett was one malcontent who talked to the press. “It was terrible,” Barnett said. “Dorothy was wearing a Walmart dress. They forgot their dialogues … at one point Dorothy said she wanted to go back to Texas!” (In “The Wiz,” Dorothy is from Harlem while Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” is from Kansas.) Other complaint noted that the computer projected set kept being uninterrupted by pop-up dialogue boxes.
Yeah, that sounds pretty bad.
One of the actors, Kori Black, who played the role of the Good Witch of the North tried to explain, “The three o’clock show ended up being pretty much our dress rehearsal because we didn’t have enough time to do the show full-out at the venue before we performed it.”
I have mixed feelings about this, as a former professional theatrical producer and a long-time director and performer. There is no excuse for a badly rehearsed, done-on-the-cheap production that isn’t aimed at giving the audience genuine entertainment. On the other hand, one of the features of live theater that TV and movies lack is that nothing is guaranteed. Stuff goes wrong; things don’t work, actors botch line and entrances, costumes rip, props break, lights blow out. The show goes on. Going to the theater is the ultimate caveat emptor—“Let the buyer beware.” I’ve demanded refunds when projectors broke down in movie theaters, and I’ve given refunds or rain-checks to theater audiences when a performance couldn’t be completed. (Among the causes for those catastrophes: a power outage, a smoke machine that went crazy and blinded everyone, and a lead actor who got knocked cold on stage.) I’ve also had to open shows that were not as ready as I would have liked, but that is a common occurrence everywhere. You can’t give refunds for missed lines. Getting Dorothy’s home wrong is bad for sure, but if that ruins the show for someone, they weren’t going to like anything. One of the most popular and best reviewed productions I ever directed was Orson Welles’ adaptation of “Moby Dick.” One night, the actor playing Ishmael forgot the first line of the play, which is “Call me Ishmael”–one of the most famous opening lines in literature, and also the character’s own name. I got some flack, but the rest of the show recovered.
I fear that audiences are so unfamiliar with live theater that they expect movie-like special effects and the slick perfection that digitally created, multiple take filming provides. Live theater’s imperfections are part of what makes it dynamic and exciting. On the other hand, those pop-up dialogue boxes sound like the work of a production staff just trying to make a quick buck off the locals and then get out of town.
My policy would be that if a patron asked for a refund, I’d approve it. In 20 years, however, not one of our audience members demanded one.
Now, your poll. Vote for as many answers as you like: