Category Archives: Boss Encourages Unethical Conduct

In Trump’s Locker Room Culture, Billy Bush Caught the Fungus

By Casey Bukro

Usually, a journalist at the center of an explosive story would be congratulated. Not Billy Bush.

Billy Bush.
Billy Bush suspended in wake of Donald Trump making lewd comments. Wikimedia photo

He’s the one cackling and giggling in the background of the 2005 tape as Donald Trump brags about kissing and groping beautiful women. “I just start kissing them,” Trump says. “It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

Egged on by Bush, Trump adds the remark about grabbing women by the genitals, using an obscene term, saying, “I can do anything.”

Released on the eve of the 2016 elections, the tape has been played countless times as commentators speculate about its likely impact on Trump’s chances of being elected president as the GOP contender.

No need to wonder about Bush, Trump’s enabler in that episode. NBC suspended him as a co-host of the “Today” show.

Bush was co-anchor of “Access Hollywood” at the time the tape was made. NBCUniveral Television Distribution, with NBC-owned station KNBC, has been solely responsible for producing “Access Hollywood” since 2004.

Bush was a rising star until the video train wreck. It might be a stretch to call him a journalist.

Television personalities often consider themselves entertainers or performers who want to put on a show. Brian Williams, for example, gave himself credit for doing things he did not do, making his reports more exciting until NBC learned of his fabrications, then suspended and reassigned him. Makes you wonder if these guys ever heard of journalism ethics.

William Hall “Billy” Bush is the nephew of former President George H.W. Bush and cousin of former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush.

The website MediaShift says Bush’s story “should serve as a cautionary tale for our modern age of journalism, where social media and reality television have oblitered the line between reporting the news and becoming part of it.”
Continue reading In Trump’s Locker Room Culture, Billy Bush Caught the Fungus

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Ailes’ Legacy Lingers: Truth and Reconciliation at Fox News

By Casey Bukro

Television bosses normally like stories involving powerful men, beautiful women, sex, intrigue and big money. But the Roger Ailes story hits too close to home.

Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes

The longtime chairman of Fox News resigned in a sex scandal while Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox investigated accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

Ailes was sued by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson for sexual harassment. That triggered more allegations against him, from both named and anonymous sources.

Now add questions about Ailes’ use of company funds “to hire consultants, political operatives and private detectives who reported only to him,” according to a New York magazine report, as part of a campaign to discredit Ailes’ personal and political enemies.

“Highly placed sources” tell Gabriel Sherman that in 2011 Ailes established a “Black Room” to conduct public relations and surveillance campaigns against people he targeted, including journalists. The article asks how Ailes was able to spend millions of dollars quietly to settle sexual harassment claims.

In reporting on the magazine’s allegations, CNN Money suggests the operation could violate of rules against corporate executives using company funds for personal reasons. “If true,” reported Dylan Byers, “such actions could make 21st Century Fox liable to its shareholders.”

Shelley Ross
Shelley Ross

Powerful men leave big trails. Vanity Fair contends that unnamed staffers still fear reprisal if they discuss Ailes.

Ailes cut a wider swath than anyone realized and now could become a poster boy for fixing what has been described as deep-seated sexual harassment habits at Fox, and maybe the rest of the television industry.

Shelley Ross, described as once one of the most powerful women in TV news, offers her “big idea” for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

It’s patterned after the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After the official end of apartheid in 1994, victims of brutality were invited to speak publicly about their experiences. Attackers were invited to testify and ask for amnesty from civil and criminal prosecution.

Ross wrote about her idea in The Daily Beast “after watching, dodging and experiencing sexual harassment for 30 years.”

Too bad she did not speak up while in power.

Continue reading Ailes’ Legacy Lingers: Truth and Reconciliation at Fox News

AdviceLine gets SDX Award for Navigating Murky Ethics Waters

SDX Awards
The Sigma Delta Chi Awards are presented June 26 at the National Press Club (Catherine Trifiletti photo)

By Casey Bukro

Ethics: The word can make you feel drowsy, or start your heart pounding.

It all depends on whether you are suddenly tangled in a job-threatening dilemma, or one that might destroy your credibility.

Ethics: Distinguishing between good and evil in the world, between right and wrong human actions and between virtuous and non virtuous characteristics of people.

Sounds lofty and maybe even remote from our daily journalism lives, until it’s not so remote anymore.

Seated next to me at the Sigma Delta Chi awards banquet in the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. was the editorial writer of a Midwestern newspaper who was waiting to collect his award. A fellow winner at the dinner table asked the editorial writer how his publication had gotten embroiled in a highly controversial ethics issue.

The newspaper had revealed the names of two alleged women rape victims. Typically, publications avoid naming rape victims.

Off-the-record, the editorial writer explained the difficult process of arriving at the decision to name the women. Then he added that the newspaper had no ombudsman or other trusted source to discuss the difficult decision before publication.

At that point, I reached into my pocket and handed him several Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists wallet cards, explaining how to reach AdviceLine in the event of a similar need for ethics counseling. Call toll free, 866-DILEMMA.

The editorial writer seemed grateful, and said he would carry the cards back to his newspaper and hand them out to management.

SDX Award
Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Robert Leger presents the Sigma Delta Chi Award to AdviceLine’s Casey Bukro (Catherine Trifiletti photo)

Back to the banquet. The award dates to 1932, when the Sigma Delta Chi journalism fraternity honored six individuals for contributions to the profession. The Society of Professional Journalists continued the honors as its Distinguished Service Awards, then with a nod to its fraternal roots as the Sigma Delta Chi Awards for Excellence in Journalism.

The awards recognize the best news reporting in print, radio, television, newsletters, art/graphics, online media and research. The contest is open to any U.S. media outlet.

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists has been guiding professional journalists through ethical minefields since 2001 – more than 900 cases. AdviceLine counsel went online early last year with an expanded ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org website.

AdviceLine’s blog won a 2014 SDX award in the Online Column Writing (Independent) category. The blog comments on current ethics issues and describes the kind of questions it gets from professional journalists on ethics.

Here’s what the judges said in naming the AdviceLine blog the winner:

“Ethics, unfortunately, can be an afterthought in a 24-7/digital-first/anyone-can-publish-content environment. In an area that sometimes has no right or wrong answer, the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists helps media pros navigate murky waters. They are doing a public service and helping shape the way forward for our industry, and that deserves recognition.”

Also deserving recognition are the AdviceLine ethicist consultants: David Ozar, Loyola University Chicago; Hugh Miller, Loyola University Chicago; David Craig, University of Oklahoma; Nancy Matchett, University of Northern Colorado and Lee Anne Peck, University of Northern Colorado.

Fellow bloggers Stephen Rynkiewicz and David Craig are named with me on the SDX award plaque.

Probably fair to say each of us has an ethics hero. So as a bow to those who came before us, I’ll mention one of mine: American media critic Walter Lippmann, who said in 1920, “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.”