Resevoir Blogs

PR Ethics (JOUR 4470) Lambiase M, W, F 11-11:50 GAB 317

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interest laws are certainly a necessary requirement for business and politics. It doesn't make much sense to allow an individual with so much power to accept money or donations from an organization that stands to gain from that power. For instance, an electricity provider (say, TXU) should not be allowed to donate funds to the campaign of a political candidate who weilds the power to push legislation through (say, Gov. Rick Perry). When an environmental law comes across the books that has the potential to make business very difficult for said electricity provider, who wouldn't feel an obligation to their benefactor?

Likewise, I can understand the questionable nature surronding an organization like Mothers Against Drug Driving accepting financial aid from Smirnoff Vodka. The two organizations are virtually at odds with one another. MADD weilds substantial power and influence and Smirnoff may be expecting prefferential treatment where none should be given. If Smirnoff wants to donate to a cause, perhaps they should choose another cause. And MADD should know better than to accept money from an alcohol manufacturer.

As far as the Lance Armstrong Foundation accepting money from pharmaceutical companies, however, I have to differ. LAF is built on the principal of looking out for the cancer patient. They raise money for research, medication, awareness, and other cancer-related issues and causes. The more money they raise, the more research, medication, and awareness they will ultimately be able to provide. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies stand to gain from this alliance, but so what? So does LAF. So do they millions of cancer patients and survivors that turn to LAF for help and support. How can LAF, as a non-profit organization, realistically refuse funds that they so desperately need. It's not like Pfizer or Bristol-Meyers Squib has Colombian drug cartel ties! Right?! (no, seriously...right?)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

JFK Reloaded

Tonight is the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr. As citizens of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, we are all acutely aware of the unfair stigma our fair city was given on that fateful day. "Cashing in" on such a horrific and world-changing event is just wrong. I am especially conscious of that on a night like tonight. Why, then, could Traffic Games make a game called JFK Reloaded two years ago (two years ago today in fact)?

The makers of the game claim that it was an attempt to engage the children of today in a valuable and accurate history lesson. They wanted to make it as physically and historically accurate as possible to debunk conspiracy theorists and prove that Oswald acted alone. All of these excuses are fine and dandy, downright lofty perhaps.

Why, then did Traffic Games charge $10 a head to download the game and why did they offer a $100,000 reward to the player whose shots most closely resembled those taken that day? You want it to be a history lesson for today's MTV-raised, short-attention-spanned youth? Fine, make the game a free download and partner with local high school history programs in order to foster lively discussions.

You want to debunk the "grassy knoll" and "multiple gunmen" theories? No problem. Then why offer a reward turning any disillusioned youth with Daddy's credit-card into a bounty-hunter for hire? Why allow money to play into it at all? How is that any better than O.J. writing a novel called If I Did It? It's allowing a third-party to earn money on the backs of murder victims. It's exploitation at its worst and human nature at its sickest.

I'm ALL for free speech and, as a citizen of the US, I'm comfortable with the idea that that also must include speech that you don't agree with. But I think there's something to be said for taste. Both of these ideas are just in bad taste (not to mention the Super Columbine Massacre game-that's right kids, relive one of the worst days in US history over the last decade from the perspective of murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold(tell your friends!). I don't know which of the three is more revolting). Have some respect for the dead and their families. Show some will-power and take the moral high-road. US consumers have shown that they value ethics in making their purchasing decision, they will appreciate these simple signs of good-faith.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Libba Johnson

I really enjoyed this assignment. It seems like such a simple task; walk across the room and introduce yourself to a stranger. After all, we have all chosen the PR profession. PR practicioners are known for their ability to converse, to cross all lines (gender, racial, ethnic, age, etc.) and to feel comfortable among other groups of people (and to make them feel comfortable around you). It's one of the reasons that I chose PR; I like to talk, meet new people, and generally schmooze the crowd (work the room as it were). Yet there I sit, week after week...in the same seat, surrounded by the same 5-6 classmates. I rarely emerge from that bubble and, yet, I fancy myself an extrovert.

Libba Johnson is a small-town girl from Tyler. She "escaped" the confines of this small, quaint, east-Texas town to bigger and better pastures in Denton. She met her fiance here three years ago and hopes to work in PR. She is minoring in Spanish and has aspirations to learn other languages after that. I have taken Spanish classes in both high school and college and have yet to master more than, "My name is...," and some key, unprintable bad words! She works at a country club as a self-proclaimed "beer-cart girl." She seems truly grounded and I admire her for working her way through college and, likely, finishing in the normal 4-5 year range.

I, on the other hand, dropped out of college, got married, got divorced, and generally wasted six years of my life before finding my way back to UNT. I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida and moved to the Dallas area when I was nine. I don't have the small-town mentality that Libba does, but I think we learned a lot from each other. Libba would love to travel when she graduates and I would like to do the same. Like I said earlier, we are all so comfortable in our little bubble that world-travel seems limited to Mexico (for spring break) and Hawaii (for a honeymoon, perhaps!)! That's unfortunate, and I hope Libba is able to search the globe and find her place in it. And who knows...maybe so will I!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Slave labor

Absolutely I think that comapnies should seek out suppliers and manufacturers that have more reputable backgrounds. I like what was said at the end of the slave labor article, "Slavery is the theft of life." It's really true. We like to sit back in our little North American bubble and say that slavery ent out 150 years ago but that isn't the case. We see the starving Ethiopian kids on late night infomercials and we think how nice it would be to do our little bit to help. But, how many of us actually sponsor a child? (Jacque, I know you do :)...)

It reminds me of the Omni Hotel decision to not offer porn in their rooms. We may not agree with their decision. Maybe it's none of their business. Maybe they should keep their opinions to themselves. etc. But they made an ethical decision, despite the financial backlash, and they are standing by that decision. They truly feel that not offering porn in the right decision. It's not going to make them money (in fact, they are loosing millions of dollars a year) they just think it's the right thing to do.

Cheap, slave labor can save companies millions of dollars as well. But it's not the right thing to do. They are making money on the backs of the downtrodden. But it's not the right thing to do. Sure, other comapnies may "get away with it," and maybe it's easy to sit back, play dumb, and say "It isn't happening to our company." I think if more companies took Omni's lead and made more decisions based on ethical beliefs and NOT the "bottom line," we'd all be better off as consumers, employees, and human beings. As future PR practicioners, these decisions will be ours one day and I have faith that we will all look beyond the "all-mighty dollar," and instead look at the "all-mighty human."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Final Case Study

Final Case Study Proposal


My final case study will center on Omni Hotel’s ethical decision to cease distributing in-room porn in their hotel rooms. This decision was made in late 1999, when Omni’s president Jim Caldwell announced that it made this decision “in response to what it perceives as a growing need for corporate America to support pro-family issues.” (PBS.com) At an estimated cost of over $4 million, Omni’s choice was not based on financial gain or the ever popular bottom-line. It was a purely ethical stance; Omni truly felt that this was the right thing to do for their customers and associates.
I think this is a good case for PR ethics because it was a decision made only for ethical reasons. There was not a “back-lash” against Omni Hotels for offering porn in their rooms. In fact, in 1996 alone, guests spent $175 million to watch “adult” movies in their rooms. It has simply been a standard business practice in hotels around the world that saw it as their duty to offer their guests what they wanted. American Family Association president Donald Wildmon noted that this decision was based on “moral principles rather than money. That’s rare for companies in this day and age.” (AFAjournal.org)
I am curious to see what sort of events led up to this decision and what sort of reaction they had from their guests. Did they gain or lose business? Did they lose any large accounts, events or conventions? Were there any contractual issues that they had to face while phasing out adult movies? What sort of ramifications have they faced since this choice? Was it considered a success or a failure? While one may not agree with Omni’s decision, the argument cannot be made that they didn’t base it on ethical and moral beliefs. The company put their neck and profits on the line in order to take what they considered to be the “moral high road.” I hope to find if their decision was ultimately the right or wrong choice, if, in fact, the choice can be labeled as such.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Enron & Skilling

I read this week that former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years and change in prison. I was greatly surprised at this verdict. Murderers and rapists regularly get lighter sentences than this. While what Skilling and his crew did was terribly wrong and hurt a lot of people, he did not take human life or commit a "violent" crime. The Dallas Morning News article did mention that WorldCom founder Bernard Ebbers received a harsher penalty of 25 years for his involvement in their fraudulent accounting procedures.

Skilling, of course, continues to profess his innocence right up until the last minute. He called the trial an "Inquisition" and was quoted as saying, "I am innocent of every one of these charges." And, "I will be vidicated," when refering to his appeals process. Luckily, Judge Sim Lake refused to allow Skilling his freedom while he waits out his appeals process. Skilling was fitted with a ankle braclet monitored by the Bureau of Prisons and will, likely, be held in medium-security prison for at least 20 years (depending on his behavior).

The most damning testimony came from Enron's former employees who were allowed to speak at the trial and direct comments and questions to Skilling. Employee after employee, all damaged financially and emotionally, hurled insults at the red-faced Skilling, who remained passive. Skilling countered with his own "character witnesses." Judge Lake was NOT moved and said that his good deeds did not outweigh the "life sentence of poverty" that Skilling had imposed on thousands of former employees.

I am glad that the jurors and Judge Lake were not swayed by Skilling and his lies. Ethics tell us to be honest and forthright at all times. Skilling lied and misrepresented his company's financial status for years. For that, he must be punished. While 24 years seemed a bit harsh to me, I will say that Kenneth Lay got off easy. Mr. Lay died of heart disease just weeks after he and Skilling were convicted. But then again, something tells me he's doing more than 24 years too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Purveyors of Porn

I wonder how many hits this blog will get simply by having the word "porn" in the title. Will people looking for naughty internet subject matter in the wee-hours of the morning find my blog entry? Interesting...
I understand what Jaque and others argue when they chastise Marriot and others for offering porn in the rooms. In a way, it is an uspecified condonement of the porn industry. They're not necessarily saying that they like it, but they're not necessarily saying that they don't either. Ok, point made.
But isn't there something to be said for offering their customers what they want? They are in the hospitality industry. Their job, their very function, is to make traveling more hospitable. You're away from home, your family, your friends, your bed, your belongings, etc. You're in a strange city or state where you don't know the area, you don't know the people, you don't know the customs, etc. Travelers are looking for something, anything, that they know. That they are comfortable with. Marriot provides that.
Since when is it Marriot's business (or mine, or yours for that matter) to say a business traveler can't watch porn in the privacy of his own room if he wants to? What's next? He can't have a drink in the lobby bar? Ask any woman whose ever been to a bar or club in her life if she doesn't agree that alcohol CAN lead to the exploitation of women! Wet T-shirt contests aren't conducted at church folks!
If we chastise Marriot for offering porn than shouldn't we also chastise Goody Liquor for selling beer, wine, and spirits? And what about CVS and Eckard's...they sell condoms and sexual lubricants? And the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders? Purveyors of porn indeed. I promise you the 60,000 guys at Dallas' homegames aren't watching them for their stylistic and impassioned dance moves. They're watching (or perhaps living) for heiney!
So, where does the line end. As a society, we were built on the very foundation that government could only impose it's laws so far. That they could only have a limited say against our persuit of life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness. Even if that happiness invloves naughty nurses, cheerleaders, librarians, French maids et al.