Maybe the angry mob in Blazing Saddles didn’t need any “stinkin’ badges”, but we certainly do need ethics. Ethical principles provide us with a set of rules that are effectively the checks and balances system for our actions. When our moral compasses fail to point to true north, a code of ethics helps calibrate those compasses and provide a reminder of what needs to be done to find true north again. What is “true north” in ethical terms? In absolute terms, “true north” is the right action which is most commonly the openly honest one, and it is not necessarily the same thing as “legal”, socially acceptable, or what you believe your heart tells you to do. Colleges and universities teach many courses that focus solely on ethics, so my practical definition may be slightly different from what some of you may have been taught, but I’m fairly confident that I’ve got a decent working definition.
At least, I hope that my practical definition is good, because it is the one I apply to things like my contributions to this blog. To be perfectly honest, I probably only concern myself with ethics for fear of doing something wrong. That fear of breaching the generally accepted code of ethics is a healthy one to have, although it might be better to follow the code as part of a great desire to do what is right. Regardless of how I arrive at the end result, the fact is that I somehow manage to arrive at it or at least believe I have done so. However, an issue has just recently come to light which has forced me to re-examine the inner workings of my own moral compass.
A member of the Rangers clubhouse staff who wished to remain anonymous recorded Ron Washington’s clubhouse speech which was given prior to game 7 of the World Series. A copy of the recording was leaked to Matt Sebek over at Joe Sports Fan, and Matt published the audio clip on the JSF website. I should warn you that the clip is most certainly not suitable for work, small children, or farm animals. You have been warned. The clip is here.
For the record, I don’t take issue with anything that Ron Washington said in the clip, because his speech was definitely not intended for public consumption. We all say things in private that we would not like to have broadcast on the internet. I may enjoy talking to our dogs and referring to them as “big fluffeh lovies”, but I don’t necessarily want that information to be public (oops). Regardless, any conversation that takes place under the expectation of a high degree of privacy is one that I have to react to differently than I would that same conversation taking place in public. It’s sometimes difficult to modulate that initial reaction to information that has been leaked, but different rules simply should be applied. The contents of the leaked audio clip are not the issue here, though.
The real issue is about whether or not the code of ethics was violated by the clubhouse employee or anybody who made use of the clip (audio or transcribed form). This is where the issue gets really complicated for me, so I’m open to hearing from anybody who can provide guidance. Let me begin by making something clear, though. I am neither condoning or condemning anybody involved with this issue, because I am not qualified to cast the first stone here.
Now, the Rangers employee may or may not have committed an ethical violation. It’s pretty much certain that he violated company policy at least twice. He should not have recorded the speech, and he should not have released the audio clip without permission from the organization. However, violations of company policy may not necessarily constitute ethical violations. Ya’ dig?
The second part of this is probably even more difficult to assess. Did Matt Sebek commit an ethics violation by publishing the ill-gotten audio? Also, did Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch commit an ethics violation by publishing a transcribed version of the speech? I don’t know, but I probably should. If either is guilty of a violation, then there but for the grace of God go I. Why is that? Because I would not have thought twice about publishing the audio, if someone had contacted me with it. As a matter of fact, I would have done some Photoshop work, created a huge banner, and passed the news along to every single person I’ve ever known or spoken with for more than 15 minutes. Braggadocio, thy name is Dennis.
Does that make me a horrible person? No. I may indeed be a horrible person, but it has nothing to do with my decision-making regarding what to publish. Would it make me a violator of one or more ethical standard? Some might say “yes”, and some might say “no”. Presented with such a situation, I should take a step back before creating that huge banner. Would I do so now? Most definitely.
Lesson learned. Ethics? Apparently we do need those “stinkin’ ethics” after all.
TIDBIT: I am the unintended blogger, and I am certainly not a journalist. All opinions expressed in my articles are strictly the product of my own semi-lucid brain. I am not a role model. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Anyhoo, it is worth noting that while I am not actually a journalist, I sort of play one here on the blog. That means that all 4 of our loyal readers should hold me to the same ethical standard that applies to true professionals like Derrick Goold.
MORE BITS OF TID: It is probably inevitable for me to ask a simple question of myself. Knowing what I know now, would I have published the clip (either in audio or transcribed form)? Probably, but I would consult with the ManFridge first. Would you have published the clip?
FINAL TID: I don’t know Derrick Goold or Matt Sebek personally, but based on my familiarity with their work, I do truly believe that both would err on the conservative side when faced with an ethical dilemma.
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