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Sunday, August 01, 2010

SOUND OFF: DOES OUR BAGGAGE WEIGH US DOWN?

In a recent entry on his ethics blog, Emmanuel Tchividjian, the ethics officer of Ruder Finn, a New York-based public-relations firm, writes that Piers Morgan, a British editor and public figure, is being considered as a replacement for CNN's Larry King, who soon will leave the cable channel. Tchividjian asks if Morgan should be forgiven for the "baggage" he carries: Among other transgressions, Morgan was fired as editor of The Daily Mirror after he allowed the publication of doctored photos of troops allegedly abusing prisoners in Iraq.

But, Tchividjian asks, "Don't we all carry some baggage?" As long as we are honest, show remorse and offer an apology, Tchividjian suggests, Morgan - and the rest of us - can hope for forgiveness for the baggage we carry, though we can't demand it.

Assuming that Morgan has owned up to his errors, showed his remorse and offered a sincere apology, should he be forgiven for the baggage he carries? Or is a wrong a wrong, regardless of how the wrongdoer subsequently feels about it?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at rightthing@nytimes.com.

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing (http://www.jeffreyseglin.com/, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com.

c.2010 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

5 comments:

Patricia Selk said...

In Judaism, if a person has sincerely apologized, three times, for a wrong done to another, not accepting the apology becomes the sin. The "sincere apology" includes full acknowledgment of the "sin," an honest effort to right the wrong, and in some way showing that this is not something done repeatedly. Being sorry you were caught is hardly the same thing as being sorry you committed the offense.

That said, forgiving you for something that has harmed me in some way, does not mean that I will knowingly give you the chance to cause me similar harm again.

Someone caught embezzling should hardly expect to be offered a job in a bank, even after making restitution.

In this case, someone who has been caught twisting the facts to make a political point is not someone I would ever see as a reliable source of information. Given that words can be "doctored" far more easily than photos, there is no logic to putting Morgan in a position intended to sway public opinion, no matter how many mea culpas he has made.

If his apology is, indeed, sincere, he should be forgiven. But forgiveness does not obligate me to hire you. If CNN (or some other news source) wants to hire him, perhaps they should consider putting him in the advertising department.

Anonymous said...

Emmanuel Tchividjian, the blogger and Ethics Officer at Ruder-Finn, doesn't hesitate to load up the question of whether Morgan's past controversies should disqualify him from the job. After summarizing the baggage carried by Morgan (who h...e refers to by his first name), Tchividjian asks if we, the readers, haven't also in our past done something we regret and are ashamed of. Then, just in case this less than subtle prompt isn't sufficient, Tchividjian resorts to the 2X4 upside the head by posing the question as, ". . . should Piers (and we) be forgiven?"

Of course not. I think I should burn in hell with my good friend Piers right along side me. All I can think is that, when Tchividjian came up with this apologia, he must have been under the influence of the student court scene from "Animal House" where the Deltas defend themselves by extrapolating that the hearing into their drunken debauchery is in fact an all out assault on the American way of life.

At least the writers of "Animal House" knew they were playing it for laughs. The fact is I don't know anything about Piers Morgan and whether the charges against him hold water (nor does Tchividjian tell us), but if this is the best defense that can be mounted for him, he's in real trouble . . . and should be.

Sean O'Leary

Anonymous said...

Ruder-Finn's blog failed on two counts. 1. Can Piers Morgan interview as well as Larry King? I think his judgmental speech and facial gestures would soon clam up the interviewees. 2. And it's a very thin teaching on forgiveness he offers. For more depth I appreciate David Augsburger's book Helping People Forgive.

--Jayne Ryan Kuroiwa

Anonymous said...

I had a series of points to make: forgive Morgan but forgiveness does not mean being appointed to a job where he can twist the truth again. I had eloquence on my mind......then I read Patricia Selk's absolutely eloquent statement, and I could think of nothing that would come close to her clear case for why we do not want this man in a position where he can do the same thing again.....and again.......

"That said, forgiving you for something that has harmed me in some way, does not mean that I will knowingly give you the chance to cause me similar harm again.

Someone caught embezzling should hardly expect to be offered a job in a bank, even after making restitution.

In this case, someone who has been caught twisting the facts to make a political point is not someone I would ever see as a reliable source of information. Given that words can be "doctored" far more easily than photos, there is no logic to putting Morgan in a position intended to sway public opinion, no matter how many mea culpas he has made.

If his apology is, indeed, sincere, he should be forgiven. But forgiveness does not obligate me to hire you. If CNN (or some other news source) wants to hire him, perhaps they should consider putting him in the advertising department."

Well done!

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, he is being considered for the job. That means that others are vying for it as well? Here is my thinking: first, anyone can apply but that is no guarantee of hiring. Second, if he doesn't work out, get someone else. Let's face it, Larry King has been an icon of talk, like Johnny Carson of nighttime entertainment. No one else will last as long as Larry. Finally, give someone with experience a chance. This is an interview show, not serious journalism. Take this position with a grain of salt!