Recent Commentaries

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The Nominee
How do you assess an individual for a position on the Supreme Court?  What criteria do you use? Do you focus solely on their political philosophy – conservative vs. liberal? Do you look for someone who will interpret the Constitution literally, or do you believe it to be, as some do, that it is a living document where definitions adjust...
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June 30, 2010
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Hope, Love, Peace and Tomorrow
Edith Shain, the nurse who became something of an icon along with the sailor who kissed her in a very crowded Times Square on V-J Day in 1945, died last week. Both the sailor and the nurse remained anonymous for years until Shain wrote a letter to Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. “Thirty-five years later,” The New York Times wrote, “Mrs. Shain,  » Read more about: Hope,...
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June 28, 2010
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Applying Judgment
“The primary purpose of journalism,” write Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book, The Elements of Journalism, “is to provide citizens with information they need to be free and self-governing.” However, the notion of a “free press” has taken on additional consequences with the explosion of information in an electronic age. “Certainly, the notion of the press as a gatekeeper,”...
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June 25, 2010
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Responsibility and the Press
Winston Churchill famously said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” I’m not sure exactly when he said that, but with the presence of the Internet, I’m positive the time frame has been reduced to a nanosecond. One of the best resources for questions concerning journalism’s purpose and responsibility is the Pew...
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June 23, 2010
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Dog Days
Picking up my newspapers last Thursday, I’m walking back to the front door when a front page story on the Wall Street Journal grabs me by the throat – Little Dog Caught in Big Estate Feud. Is this the Journal or an accidental delivery of The National Inquirer? What’s the deal with rich, old widows who die and leave millions to their pets?   » Read more about:...
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June 21, 2010
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The Enron Defense
Watching BP CEO Tony Hayward respond to questions by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations reminded me of Enron Chief Jeff Skilling’s testimony in February, 2002. Skilling: Congressman, Enron Corporation was an enormous corporation. Could I have known everything going on everywhere in the company? Hayward: We drill hundreds of wells a year around the world. Skilling: I don’t recall that…...
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June 18, 2010
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What Happened at Johnson & Johnson?
In the talks that I’ve given to corporations, associations and schools, one of the best examples of corporate responsibility I talk about comes from former Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke. In the fall of 1982, seven people in the Chicago area had died after ingesting Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules that were laced with cyanide. Burke’s decision-making process, leading to the recall of all forms...
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June 16, 2010
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Not Good Enough
Is there a national championship collegiate athletic program anywhere in the country that can truthfully say all of its recruiting was done entirely within the official guidelines? That’s how Roger Ebert began his review of the 1994 Nick Nolte film Blue Chips. It’s a question that inhabits practically every frame of the film; a film that, sadly, bears too much resemblance...
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June 14, 2010
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Let’s Be Honest – Talking Heads Edition (with a little help from
 » Read more about: Let’s Be Honest – Talking Heads Edition (with a little help from  »...
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June 14, 2010
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Jim’s Handy Resource Guide
From time to time, I’ve been asked about ethics resources and there are quite a few good ones out there. The Ethics Resource Center “is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, dedicated to independent research that advances high ethical standards and practices in public and private institutions.” The ERC focuses its research in the areas of character education, federal policy, national surveys,  » Read more...
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June 11, 2010