Ethical work in a bottom-line time
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This framework we have now can help us explain changes we're observing with our eyes. Journalism has gotten better aligned in the past month. How long that will stay is anyone's guess. There's no question journalists feel more energized. They feel legitimate. The pressures of making money are being diminished in favor of making sure everyone knows what's going on in the world.Skip to next paragraph
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On 'teaching' ethics:
We take a look at a very senior person in [a given profession]. Take Edward R. Murrow - we look at his students, and his students' students.... We believe the most important things about good work are transmitted from one human being to another. They're not in books, they can't be picked up by a computer program. It's about rubbing elbows with people who themselves are good workers. People may be inspired by reading about them. But really it's the people who get to work with them, who are trained by them, who breathe in their atmosphere.
On the importance of faith:
We were struck by how many of our subjects talked about religion as being very important when they were young.... Some of our subjects are very much involved in contemplative and meditative practices, and seem to find this a source of strength in their work.
Maybe when market forces are so powerful, you need a counterforce to balance them. What's been unprecedented in the past 20 or 30 years is there isn't any counterforce. The market has always been powerful in America, but there were [sufficient] religious or ideological counterforces until very recently.
On catalysts for change:
If you have a personal crisis in your life, it might very well make you turn toward good work. Malcolm X was in jail and could certainly have become a member of the Mafia, but he had a personal crisis, and sometimes this Damascene experience can set someone on the road toward good work. Or toward bad work. Bin Laden is clearly the opposite example.
If you think journalism is about truth and objectivity and fairness, and you find out it [seems to be] about 'if it bleeds it leads,' you've got a choice. Some people fight it, and those are the heroes in our book. Or you can have a society crisis, which we're going through now.... A society crisis throws things into sharp relief.
On the 'three M's' for workers:
What's your mission and why did you go into it? Who's your mentor - who do you admire? The mirror test: When you look at yourself in the mirror are you generally proud of what you're doing as a worker?
On meeting resistance:
You have options. You can stay in your job and put up with everything. You can go do what you believe is right and risk being fired. You can try [back-channel approaches] - sometimes it works, professions and organizations have been turned around. The most admirable thing is to try and start a new institution, with other people, that really does reflect what you believe in. Many people have gone into nonprofits.
On his hopes for the project:
I'd like people to be talking about good work. I would like people to be saying to people, 'Is he or she a good worker?' and for that to be the way in which we judge people at institutions.