Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Global B.C. anchor, Chris Gailus. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. CBC Radio personality Jian Ghomeshi. Fox anchor Lou Dobbs.
Perhaps not ALL of these names are familiar to you but at least one of them certainly will be. These are some of the news personalities who have been formally and publicly accused by co-workers or colleagues in recent years of sexual harassment and misconduct. Please understand that this is by no means an attempt to disparage or cause further embarrassment for anyone but there is an issue here that bears examining…over and above the obvious ones of misconduct in the workplace and the treatment of women.
Take for example the most recent case of Bill O’Reilly. According to USA Today, in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, “[a]utomakers Hyundai and BMW, financial firm T. Rowe Price, insurer Allstate, drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and online marketing firm Constant Contact said … that they have joined Mercedes-Benz in pulling their ads from the show.” After all, these companies have their own shareholders and stakeholders to answer to, not to mention their own employees. No other expression of that accountability could be any clearer.
Admittedly, news and media outlets have to walk a narrow line between attracting the audience’s attention and holding it long enough to pass on information in which they then see enough value in that they return for more. On the other hand, that information still needs to meet a very strict and specific set of criteria and it must be delivered to an open and receptive audience. Can this not be said for any organization?
Media is a business and like any other business, there is a degree of interconnectivity: financially, socially, ethically…and the list goes on. More to the point, there is also a strong element of interdependence between advertisers, corporations, employees, and consumers alike. Integrity takes time to build and requires only the briefest of moments to erode.
Some might argue that if there hadn’t been some measure of celebrity status involved here, any issues regarding impropriety would never have come to the surface. That is possible but regardless, this incident and those like it, have managed to highlight the value that consumers of the media place on the behaviour of those who deliver it.
It seems appropriate to recall words spoken by the late Walter Cronkite, who was the CBS anchor during the 1969 coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when he said, “The least of us is improved by the things done by the best of us…and they’ve led us further and higher than we ever imagined we were likely to go.”