Updated July 13, 2012
Trust is critical in all professions. So are appearances. But two developments now raise shocking concerns about trust and appearances in the rule of law and quality of journalism in Wisconsin.
Why? It appears in Wisconsin you can’t get a fair trial in nearly three dozen courts, and you can’t get objective reporting from a major news media company.
Lawyers are traditionally the butt of jokes. Now, 29 circuit court judges risk being similarly stigmatized in Wisconsin.
For decades, journalists have been accused of having a liberal bias. Now, there’s lots of evidence that tends to confirm the perception at least in Wisconsin – involving 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
What do the judges and journalists have in common?
The 29 circuit court judges and 25 Gannett journalists signed political petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
Yes, you read the sentence correctly. Twenty-nine circuit court judges and 25 journalists signed petitions that would lead to the recall of the governor.
Admittedly, I’m not a legal expert regarding the ethics of judges in Wisconsin. But as a lifelong journalist, I’m very familiar with the principles surrounding these disgusting acts of the journalists. We’re not talking about just citizen journalists and bloggers. It’s an outrage and does harm to the professional image of journalists.
The good news is that the newspaper realizes the dangerous implications from such actions of its journalists.
“It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett’s principles of ethical conduct,” wrote columnist Kevin Corrado on March 23, 2012.
“Our journalists are expected to provide you with the clearest picture of the news as it develops – with objectivity and impartiality,” he added. “And, as readers, you must be able to trust that your newspaper is providing you the most complete picture, without bias of any kind.”
Strangely, many of the journalists told their bosses they saw nothing wrong – that signing the petition was tantamount to casting a ballot on Election Day. Great, the journalists can’t connect the dots.
Further, the problem is much bigger than the ethics violations in signing recall petitions. People are consistent. If so-called professionals display questionable judgment and behavior in one area of their lives, they are guilty of similar behavior in other ways. Count on it.
So the petition signings raise questions about the cultures in Wisconsin courts and newsrooms.
Mr. Corrado indicated that the Gannett journalists violated six of 32 company policies:
» We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report.
» We will maintain an impartial, arm’s length relationship with anyone seeking to influence the news.
» We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content.
» We will take responsibility for our decisions and consider the possible consequences of our actions.
» We will be conscientious in observing these Principles.
» We will always try to do the right thing.
Actually, the six principles are transferrable and applicable for any sector or industry.
But questions remains: What about the 29 biased judges? What’s been done about their bias? If Gov. Walker hadn’t won the recall election so convincingly, his opponents would have filed all kinds of legal objections. What then? The governor has the last laugh.
From the Coach’s Corner, here are trust-related resources for business:
“I never trust people’s assertions, I always judge of them by their actions.”
Columnist Terry Corbell is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services (many are available online). For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule Terry Corbell as a speaker, why don’t you contact him today?
If you’re in the business of communicating financial data, don’t succumb to the charm of state-of-the-art technology, especially online video. In choosing a messenger medium, a conservative approach is best. Trust is paramount.
That concept was underscored by a 2012 academic study that concluded the use of online video by CEOs to release a financial restatement will not be fully trusted by investors, especially when blaming others for accounting errors.
The study’s researchers: Frank D. Hodge of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, W. Brooke Elliott of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Lisa M. Sedor of DePaul University.
A headline for the article regarding the study at accountingtoday.com read: “Study Examines Use of Video for Financial Restatements.” The site explained the study was published by the American Accounting Association in The Accounting Review.
Apparently, it’s OK to use a YouTube video when management is contrite for reporting errors. But such contrition for errors and a restatement raises suspicious eyebrows when management points the finger at outside accountants.
“Video announcements of this kind require very special care,” said Dr. Hodge, according to accountingtoday.com.
“Managing the response of investors to events as negative as restatements (which, according to the GAO, reduced market capitalization of companies by $36 billion over a three-year period) is a formidable undertaking,” he explained. “Doing so via video over the Internet makes it all the more formidable.”
The study reveals a CEO who apologizes in online video for the need of a restatement – on a rating scale of 1 to 7 – receives a 6.15 rating. But a CEO who attributes the errors to outside accountants only gets a 4 rating. On the other hand, such CEO statements in print were accorded ratings of 4.75 and 4.55, respectively.
The use of such online video also affected the amounts invested by fund managers. The amounts only decreased 3 percent if the CEO accepted fault. But if the CEO pointed fingers, the investments dropped by nearly 26 percent. If the same information was presented in print, the decreases were 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Methodology for the fictional scenarios: The researchers compared the opinions of 80 managers who had an average nine years experience. They were divided into four groups.
“Restating financial statements is inconsistent with investors’ positive expectations regarding an investee firm and its management, thus damaging investor trust,” the researchers wrote.
“Although excuses can be effective, individuals who deny responsibility for a failure (i.e., excuse their behavior by blaming others) risk being viewed as more deceitful and as possessing lower character than are individuals who accept responsibility for the failure,” they explained. “Beliefs about another’s character are key components of trust, and once violated trust is difficult to repair. Even when the violator issues an apology, accepting responsibility by making an internal attribution repairs trust to a greater extent than does denying responsibility by making an external attribution.”
The study makes sense. However, my view as a business-performance consultant is that a video should only be used to direct viewers to the source of information – not conveying the full information.
From the Coach’s Corner, suggested reading:
- What Should You Divulge When Asking for Investment Capital?
- Primer for Best Practices in Preparing Financial Statements
- Are Accounts Receivables a Problem?
- Public Relations Expert Provides Crisis Management Tips
- Management Strategies for a Successful Turnaround
“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”
Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.