A few years ago, Justin Timberlake had one of his huge hits with I'm Bringing Sexy Back. Now, I think Timberlake is a massive talent, perhaps the best of his generation. But, I wasn't aware that America needed to have "sexy" brought back. I wasn't aware that we had a dearth of sexy. It seemed to me that America had sexy in spades.
What we need brought back isn't sexy. It's honor. That's what we as a nation are missing right now; honor on an individual level from coast to coast. A quote which has been widely misappropriated to Alexis de Tocqueville (myself included), America is great because America is good. And if she ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. While Tocqueville apparently never said that, the idea still has merit. We cannot be a great nation if we are not made up of good people. You can't be a good person, if you have no honor. So, to paraphrase JT, I'm bringing Honor back. Those other boys don't know how to act.
I'm going to start with this little gem. No matter what it is you do, doctor, lawyer, teacher, waiter, politician or journalist, if you don't honor the ethical code of your profession, you dishonor yourself. Right now, there are a lot of journalists who are dis honoring themselves and it's time to bring honor back.
For many years, conservatives have complained that the major media has not treated them fairly, that there is a double standard between the how the press treats democrats and republicans. This election cycle, members of the press have finally come out into the open to actually advocate for treating Donald Trump differently than they will treat Hillary Clinton. Earlier this month, New York Times reporter - not opinion writer, but journalist - Jim Rutenberg wrote an article saying that it's ok to treat Trump differently than any other candidate in American history. He said, "if you view a Trump Presidency as something that's potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you've ever been to being oppositional."
Ok, let me read to you from the Society of Professional Journalists code of Ethics. "Journalists should... support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant." How can you do that if you allow your reporting to become, as Rutenberg put it, "oppositional." How could the New York Times, supposedly the bastion of true journalism in America, allow any of its reporters to become oppositional in their reporting, or worse, publish an article that says opposition to Trump is ok because the personal opinion of its reporters finds Trump to be repugnant? That's unethical. When you do not honor the ethics of your profession, you dishonor yourself. Is it any wonder that the Times is losing readership, circulation, importance, respect, and ultimately, money?
It's not just the Times. This idea that it's ok to ignore the ethics of journalism in favor or personal bias is spreading across the national media. Here is Univision anchor Jorge Ramos in a recent exchange with Fox News' Megyn Kelly discussing why he will cover Trump differently.
No, neutrality is not an option. It is a requirement. If you are a journalist, then you must remain as neutral as humanly possible. Because if you don't, you end up calling out Trump when he says something that might be racist, but you don't call out Hillary Clinton when she does something that is corrupt. Now, for Ramos himself, neutrality is not an option because he is ethically compromised. His daughter works for the Clinton Campaign. He and Univision both acknowledge that when he's reporting on Hillary Clinton, but not when he reports on Donald Trump. That's unethical. Actually, it's unethical for him to report on any aspect of the presidential campaign at all. His daughter's employment with the Clinton campaign means that Ramos is ethically compromised when it comes to covering this election.
Back when I was working in television news, a local judge issued a series of orders that effectively shut down a local charity. It was outrageous. It was a huge controversy. I was angry about it, but I couldn't report on it. Why? Because my wife had just started working for that charity. I was impacted by the story and that meant I was ethically compromised from reporting on it. I told my bosses of the conflict and handed the story off to two other people in our newsroom. I gave them some contacts they could talk to, and then I had to step away. I couldn't go with them to the interviews. I couldn't feed them questions. I couldn't help write the stories. I certainly couldn't report on the issue on air. I had to stand in the corner of the news room and watch my professional partners do their jobs. Neutrality wasn't an option. It was a requirement.
Ramos is not honoring the ethical standards of profession of journalism in two different ways and that means he is dishonoring himself in two different ways. If I could figure out those ethical issues in my 20s and 30s, why can't these people figure it out in their 40s, 50s, and 60s? Because they have no honor. I'm bringing honor back because those other boys don't know how to act.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinkley, Jr. The bullet lodged within millimeters of the president's heart. He was rushed to George Washington University Hospital where doctors worked to save the President's life. In the operating room, as Reagan was lying on the operating table, he removed his oxygen mask and said to the medical team surrounding him, "I hope you are all Republicans." It was a great line, a brief moment of humor from a man who was millimeters away from death. But, the better, and more important response came from the lead physician, Dr. Joseph Giordano who replied, "Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans." Here's why that's so appropriate to this discussion. Giordano was a Democrat. Not just that, he was a liberal Democrat. He hadn't voted for Reagan the previous fall. But, that day, he saved the president's life. The ethical responsibilities of his profession were more important than his personal political views. He honored his profession and as a result, he received honor to himself.
Teachers, you've all had at least one kid in your class that has made you decide never to name your own future children that name. But, did you dishonor your profession by writing that troublemaker off, or did you continue to honor the ethical standards of education by believing that every child can learn? Lawyers, did you ever have a client who you thought might be guilty so you didn't honor your profession by providing a diligent defense? If everyone approached their jobs they way Jorge Ramos and Jim Rutenberg say journalists should approach theirs, then Ronald Reagan would have died on March 21, 1981. Kids all across America would be written off by teacher after teacher because they don't know how to behave. Innocent people would go to jail because their lawyers thought they might be guilty. When you place your political views or personal biases above the requirements of your profession, you damage not only your profession, but the rest of the nation that needs your profession to function. And while you are hurting your nation, you heap shame upon yourself. It's time to bring honor back. That's not an easy thing to do, but it's necessary.
Let me finish with this one idea. You've probably had someone in your life say, "Respect has to be earned." Maybe you've said that yourself. I know I have. Turns out, I was wrong. Honor has to be earned. Respect has to be given. You earn honor by giving respect. You see, it's not about what the other person does or says. It's about what you do and say. You earn honor for yourself by freely giving respect to others whether you think they deserve it or not. Jorge Ramos is operating in the idea that Trump has to earn his respect before Ramos will honor the ethical standards of his profession. As a result, Ramos be-clowns himself before the entire nation. He's not the only one, but he's setting a horrible example that others will follow.
I started this post by joking around with a Justin Timberlake song. I'm bringing honor back. Those other boys don't know how to act. Turns out the way to do that is through an Aretha Franklin song. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to you.