Jim Lehrer’s 16 Rules Of Journalism. Awww! How Quaint!

I can’t say I watched the MacNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS (and later after Robin MacNeil’s retirement in 1995,  the PBS NewsHour hosted by Jim Lehrer alone ) more than a handful of times in my life. I wish I had. (I should have: when Lehrer moderated Presidential debates, as he did eleven times, there was never any hint of bias or favoritism, unlike virtually every other debate.)   Lehrer died last week at the age of 85, and his 16 Rules of Journalism, which he often condensed to nine, were published in many news sources upon his passing.

I found myself wondering what various editors and young reporters were thinking as they read Lehrer’s tenets of his now-rotting profession’s integrity. Could they possibly think that the rules accurately reflected widely held and embraced standards of reporters today? Did they read the list with confusion, wondering what in the world this old guy was babbling about? Perhaps they regarded Lehrer’s aspirational list as an archaic and amusing reflection of a bygone era, as many regard George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility, with its exhortations like Rule #9:

“Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.”

I wonder. I do know that Lehrer took his rules seriously, though sometimes falling short of his own standards. Below is the version of his rules that he explained in a 1997 report by The Aspen Institute. It’s an excellent, excellent list, reflecting an experienced and ethically astute professional’s keen understanding of what his profession is supposed to do for our society, and the best way to do it.

How many of them do you think motivate journalists today? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “From ‘The Ethicist’: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us”

A.M. Golden asks, in his Comment of the Day, “When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?” It is an issue also raised in the previous COTD, considering the mall Santa fired after someone complained about his Facebook post showing him as the Jolly Old Elf, but wearing a red MAGA cap. A.M. understands that this is not an idle question, but an important one that raises vital concerns about the erosion of core American values, the public’s belief in our founding documents, and the acceptance of the ethical standard of reciprocity.

Here is A.M.’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Ethicist: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us.”

When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?

This goes far beyond boycotts to allow blacks to sit at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. This goes well beyond punishing companies for dangerous or illegal practices that have harmed customers. It goes against the heart of what it means to be an American. Too often, we are told that opinions have consequences. Sure, they do. They always have. Doesn’t it seem, though, that the consequences have become far more ominous than they used to be?

I have never understood ideological boycotts. I remember the Disney boycotts of the ’90s when people with too much time on their hands began seeing obscene Easter Eggs in the new animated films. When gays started congregating at Disney parks on certain days, the company was castigated for not warning people ahead of time that it was Gay Day, despite its protests that Disney had no sponsored days for any groups at its parks.

I thought the whole thing was silly then and it’s still silly.

While in college, I worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. One day, sitting in church, a woman pressed a news article into my hands that reported on health benefits being extended to same-sex partners at McDonald’s corporate offices (I didn’t have health benefits myself at the store where I worked).

I gave her a funny look as if to say, “What am I supposed to do with this?”. She whispered, “Well, you WORK there!” Continue reading

Cancel Culture Ethics: Two Gaffes, Two Polls

Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden, a husband and wife team, co-hosted the “Chuck and Julie “show  on KNUS AM TalkRadio in Denver. Riffing about the impeachment this week, Bonniwell said,  “All right, here, a little after 1:30, talking about the never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump. Then he added, chuckling, ” You know, you wish for a nice school shooting to interrupt the impeachment news….”  Julie quickly jumped in, saying, “No! No! Don’t even — don’t even say tha!. No, don’t even say that! Don’t call us. Chuck didn’t say that!”Still laughing,  Bonniwell tried a save, finishing his handing sentence with “in which no one would be hurt.”

Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder, who said that after hearing Hayden’s plea for listeners not to call their complaints about her husband’s joke, he “called anyway.” Sandy Phillips, who lost her daughter in the Aurora theater shooting, posted on Twitter: “This guy should be fired. Total ignorance. Shootings hurt us all … just ask witnesses and first responders. You don’t have to be shot to be wounded.”

Bonniwell isued an apology the next evening after 24 hours of criticism on the “Chuck & Julie” Twitter feed, saying,  “I made an inappropriate comment meant as a joke. I’m sorry it was not received that way.”  Too late. KNUS fired Chuck and Julie later that evening:

Was this a fair decision?

I’m not sure it was. As I have held here on other occasions, those who take extemporaneously for a living, especially when they are expected to be amusing, are constantly walking a high wire. Occasional gaffes, including moments when certain metaphorical landmines are tread-upon or lines are crossed, are inevitable, and the more creative and bold the talent, the more likely such events are. A no-tolerance policy is unreasonable, and it is virtually always the ethical approach to treat the first such error with a warning or punishment short of dismissal. Virtually, because there may always be single gaffes that are so terrible and potentially destructive to the talent’s employer that firing is the only response.

Thus the question here is whether Chuck Bonniwell’s comment falls in the latter category. My view si that it does not: Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Notes, 12/17/2019: Miller, Hillary and the Duke [CORRECTED]

Hark!

1. Lesson: Don’t underestimate the Duke! It looks like John Wayne is stronger than the cancel culture after all.  Earlier this year the Woke Avengers tracked down an old Playboy interview where the actor made some inflammatory remarks about blacks and Native Americans (I thought then and I think now that the Duke was deliberately trolling his liberal critics, but it was still a bad interview.) Predictions were rife that the most enduring, influential and popular screen icon of all time had reached the end of his run. It doesn’t appear so: at least two cable channels are running John Wayne film marathons on or around Christmas.

2. The ethical response: feel compassion for Hillary. There are people who get run over and squashed by life, their own failings, and bad luck. We don’t have to like all of them, but the Golden Rule argues that we should feel some pity and compassion for them, even though many have brought some of their misery on themselves.

I think about this when I see, for example, Marcia Clark, the losing prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, and her desperately tucked and altered face as she transitioned into a B-media personality. The earliest example of this syndrome that I can remember noticing was perennial Republican Presidential candidate Harold Stassen, with his dazed expression and bad toupee, who once thought he was going to be President. Dubbed the “Boy Wonder,” Stassen was only 41 when he seemed to be on his way to winning the Republican nomination for President for the 1948 election in which President Harry Truman was widely regarded as both a lame and dead duck. Stassen lost the convention battle, however, to Thomas Dewey, of subsequent “Dewey Defeats Truman!” fame. After that, Stassen ran for President in 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992 , gradually becoming a laughing stock. (He also ran unsucessfully for Governor of Minnesota,  the United States Senate twice, Governor of Pennsylvania twice, Mayor of Philadelphia once; and U.S. Representative). I just thought he was a buffoon until my father told me about his many accomplishments before his dreams were crushed. He was one of the founders of the United Nations, for example.

As I made pretty clear in 2016, when I wrote almost as many critical posts about her and her generally awful ethics as I did about our current President when he was a candidate, I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. I’ve continued to write critical commentary about her, because she continues to operate with wildly malfunctioning ethics alarms. She is stuck now, in Kübler-Ross terms, in the first three stages of grief: denial, pain and guilt, and anger and bargaining because she lost the election she was certain she was going to win. (So is the entire Democratic Party.)

Now look at her:

3. Marvin Miller makes it into the Hall of Fame. Yecchh. Marvin Miller was described in his obituary as “an economist and labor leader who became one of the most important figures in baseball history by building the major league players union into a force that revolutionized the game and ultimately transformed all of professional sports.” I have no quarrel with any of that. Miller was a labor activist who did his job extremely well. I would put him into a labor leader’s Hall of Fame—-I’m sure one would get at least a hundred or so visitors a year—without blinking. He no more belongs in the the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY than I do, but he was posthumously elected to that Hall of Fame last week.
Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: The Betrayal And Ultimate Triumph Of Dorothy Seymour Wills”

The smartest –and most ethical—thing John and Paul ever did: agreeing to share credit for every song, no matter who wrote it.

On the topic of authors being reluctant or resistant to sharing authorship credits,I wrote in a replay in a comment to the post,

I have shared the authorship credits of several stage shows where I was the initiator and the creator of 75-95% or more. There are two shows, a drama and a musical, that have made substantial money without my sharing in any of it—one because I added co-authors out of respect for their non-authorship contributions, the other for which I got no credit at all despite making the alterations that made the difference between the show being a hit and a flop. My wife thinks I’m a sap and a patsy. No, I think sharing credit liberally is the right thing to do, and that generosity should be the rule, not the exception. And I will continue to do unto others what they should have done unto me, even if the others usually don’t.

Here is a different personal perspective on the issue, in mermaidmary99’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Betrayal And Ultimate Triumph Of Dorothy Seymour Wills”:

I was a record producer in the early 1980’s. (Still am.)

In ones early 20’s it was unheard of to be a producer unless one was in the group. To be a woman in their early 20’s was shocking to most every man who would arrive to the studio to see me in charge. They often assumed my boss was coming.

The men were always respectful and helpful as I cut my teeth in those early days.

How did I get a job like that?

The label owner, who was a studio musician and had played with The Righteous Brothers and other acts, had heard 3 songs I wrote on an album (my boss chose them and was the producer) and loved them. He asked my boss who wrote them, and he said I had. (And that I assisted on production on those too) so the owner said. “have her write and produced the next record, this stuff is amazing!”

So along with my then boyfriend, I did.

Yes, later I was a mom and asked to produce for another label. (Women producers were still unheard of) and I accepted. I asked my husband to help.

I’ll never forget his reply.

He kindly declined saying. If he did, I’d not get the credit, They’d think, “Oh, she helped her husband and probably nagged for credit.”

I was hurt because I wanted him to share in it. He explained nicely again how it wouldn’t support my Dream. And he LOVED producing too .

I’ve often felt lucky he was so supportive, and reading this I realize how very fortunate I am to have had him by my side.

I’m glad this story is being told. This woman deserves credit and I can see why men would both want her to, and not. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #2 On “Comment Of The Day: ‘High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees’”

The Wisconsin Governor’s endorsement of holiday trees with science ornaments continues to pay dividends here at Ethics Alarms. Here is Ethics Alarms veteran commenter luckyesteeyoreman‘s Comment of the Day on Michael West’s concise COTD, “Comment Of The Day: “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees.”

Lucky begins with a quote from my intro, but here is Michael’s full post:

What part of Christmas do they hate? The individual and spontaneous demonstrations of generosity, spawned entirely from personal choice free from central coordination and bestowed as private individuals see fit free from oversight? Or Christ?

Now heeeeere’s Lucky!

But really, why would anyone in their right mind object to Christmas…?

Because many are in their right mind who object. Most of us here at EA might not understand such people – even more likely do not even think like such people – but, that isn’t because the objectors aren’t in their right mind.

I assert the foregoing, coming from a history as a sibling who was the youngest of the brood. Much younger than all of my siblings. As a result, I had “multiple parents.” Also, as a consequence of that “virtual only child” status, I quickly deluded myself into thinking I was the center of the universe, the sole reason why any and all of the others existed. Any circumstance or appearance of a reality that in my perception was in conflict with that delusion, became a “trigger” for me to remind everyone, by any means necessary, that, “HEY!: THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME, here.”

Despite how my comments here might suggest otherwise, I really did out-grow that delusion. I thank the humbling influence of baseball for that, at least in part. In my case, learning about the example of Christ helped greatly, too. Continue reading

The Waffle House Ethics Heroes

I increasingly find myself searching, usually in vain, for stories to reassure myself and Ethics Alarms readers that out society, in the words of the pious churchgoers of Rock Ridge, isn’t “turning into shit.” Here is story out of Alabama involving a Waffle House. I’ve never eaten at one, though there has been a Waffle Shop down Russell Road in Alexandria, VA, less than five minutes from my home by car, the entire 39 years I’ve lived here. The fact that its awning has misspelled “Waffle” with only one “f” for all that time is the reason: I figure that it you can’t spell your own specialty, I can’t trust you to make it right, either.

But I digress…

At a  Birmingham, Alabama Waffle House  on the morning of November second, an estimated 25 customers found that the restaurant had only a single employee named  Ben on duty to serve the whole mob. Apparently there had been a scheduling snafu, leaving Ben with the responsibility of serving everybody. Said one witness to the scene, . “He was just staring at the room full of people. I can’t imagine what he was thinking.”

Then one customer who had been sitting at the bar, asked Ben what was going on and received the answer. He stood up, asked for an apron, and  started washing dishes. A few minutes later a female customer left her table and began bussing those of other partons, taking and serving orders, and making coffee. Then a third customer joined the volunteer staff. Continue reading