May 21, 2003
York Times lives up to ethical obligations
The New York Times has just apologized for the fraudulent
work of one of its reporters. That is all well and good.
But the Times enjoys a public trust, and surely they
have a responsibility to spot check or verify the work
of their featured writers to ensure that such a fiasco
is never allowed to happen. At the end of the day, it
seems that you cannot trust what you see on television,
or what you read in newspapers. What do you think?
Please do not overreact to the dishonesty of
a writer for the New York Times. There are rotten apples
everywhere, and this fraud was caught. Further, in what
turns out to be thorough follow-up, the very same newspaper
confronted its errors and exposed its own vulnerabilities
for what they were and are: human. Con artists come in
lots of forms, including writers.
years ago, Johnson & Johnson, the makers
of Tylenol acknowledged that a few of their packages
had been compromised and that rather than risk any further
harm to the public, that every Tylenol product would
be removed from the shelves, everywhere and immediately.
It had taken responsibility for the crisis and avoided
permanent disaster. Today, in part because of the Tylenol
crisis, Johnson & Johnson has enhanced it stellar
position in the world of business and integrity.
The Times may have set a similar standard of honesty
and integrity with its ownership and accountability of
its own blunders: publishing materials that had not been
verified and hiring and retaining a dishonest and unprofessional
news writer. To be sure, its own follow-up investigation
and subsequent reporting of the story was hard-hitting
and offered no excuses. The Times has committed to addressing
its own vulnerabilities.
upon the definition of integrity provided by the Bracher
Center for Integrity in Leadership,
the New York
Times has thus far lived up to every promise in this
crisis that we counsel leaders to fulfill. Upon careful
reading of our definition, and assuming the Times management
team continues to follow through, they will be able to
stand tall in the arena of responsible and responsive
leadership: “Integrity is congruence between what
you say and what you do, as well as what you say about
what you did. Integrity is the keystone of leadership.
The keystone holds the enterprise together at its most
critical junction, where ideas, products and services
meet the customer.”
Based upon what the Times has done to rectify its mistakes,
which is to maintain your confidence (and our confidence)
in our freedom of the press, then we should applaud their
efforts to regulate themselves.