Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who knows? Who Cares?

T.L. Schilling

Who knows? Who cares? Who should know and who should care? Can a CEO of a large conglomerate or even the President of the United States be expected to know everything that goes on with the people they have working for them? Sometimes I think that the answer is yes simply because someone has to pay.

According to website mediamatters
, in a rush to get the “exclusive” on the terror attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi in 2012, CBS appears to have taken some unethical approaches to reporting it. It is said that many, if not most employees get their ethical approach to do their work from the top management of the organization. If this is truly the case in this instance then why were only reporter Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan put on indefinite leave for their role in reporting the story. Finally, CBS did admit that it failed to disclose that the supposed eyewitness of this whole story, Dylan Davies’ book was published by Simon & Schuster, which by the way, is owned by CBS.

                                                       Courtesy of Media

So, with the long standing issues that people have always had with business ethics and accountability, we developed a term to help justify it; plausible deniability. According to, it can be used by anyone from you and I at home to the President of the United States. Can it used to protect those at the top so they can legitimately deny knowing what went wrong? Yes. Can it be used to describe a lack of accountability within an organization and those at the top? Yes.

It may be plausible to even think that since the time when humans first started roaming the earth, someone has been denying knowing the truth about something or maybe just not disclosing all the facts. We see it sometimes when trying to get to the bottom of a situation with our children. We ask 20 questions about who broke something in the house. When it’s all said and done, sometimes the child will just look at you and say “well, you didn’t ask me that.”

The technological age is upon us and with that comes being viewed by many more eyes than before.  People have developed many theories as to why even “good” people make some of the poor ethical decisions that they do. In a 2011 issue of The Public Relations Strategist they suggest reasons anywhere from unrealistic goals being set for them by management or fear of losing their job. Demands put on them to continually beat the competition to management’s willingness to overlook the smaller infractions as long as the employee is meeting goals and expectations. Personally, I think those are crutches for people to use while trying to rationalize their actions to others.

There are numerous guidelines out there for journalists and media to follow, such as the code of ethics set forth by the SPJ that lead the way for responsible and ethical journalism. The Whistleblower Act of 1989 protects those people who choose not to participate in unethical or in some cases, criminal activity.

Someone once said that with authority, comes great responsibility and that speaks volumes as to what true journalism is. They are afforded the opportunity or authority to report the news, but they must be responsible in how they do it.

 The bottom line is that each person, guided by their own moral compass throughout life, makes good decisions and bad decisions. In the end, who really knows?

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