On a + note


Rupert Murdock: Ethics and Information. #28: 2011

Posted in on a + note by Admin on August 22, 2011

We live in a world of information and so I think we have early lessons to be learned for the News of the World / Rupert Murdock phone-hacking scandal in the UK.

Over the last 15 years employees of the News of the World have been repeatedly accused of engaging in phone-hacking (from the royal family to celebrities and children), bribery of politicians and police and ultimately exercising improper influence in the pursuit of news.  Allegedly the hacking at News of the World was done on “an industrial scale”, throughout the organization, from the boss to the reporters, with one goal in mind, selling more newspapers. As a result of bad management and declining revenue after 168 years News of the World ceased publication on July 10, 2011.

Particularly in library land the scandal raises important questions about: privacy, freedom of speech, confidentiality and the ethics of journalists in 2011. It also brings into public scrutiny the gradual shift away from traditional journalism to the smut raking  journalism of gossip and sensationalism now published under the guise of ethical news. Is the colour of The Duchess of Cambridge’s pyjamas really news?

The phone-hacking mess is still unfolding however, there are some leadership lessons library land could embrace and learn from. For example:

  • Saying “I didn’t know that was going on”, is no excuse. An out of touch CEO, who doesn’t know what staff are doing is unacceptable and a slippery slope to the unemployment line. The trick is staying in the leadership position without micro managing.
  • Honest communication with staff and customers is not an option it is essential.
  • When in a crisis, respond quickly to the media, public, board, and staff. Confusion and blame set in quickly as anxious people wait to find out what happened and what to do next.
  • It is the smart leader who knows enough to; apologize quickly, explain what happened, describe the steps the library is taking to correct the situation, and move on!
  • If the library CEO bends the rules, so will the staff.
  • There is no excuse for unethical behaviour; it is always, always, always wrong.

As the whole sordid mess unfolds, I am sure there will be more learning opportunities for us all!

Have a great week.

Kitty Pope                                                                                                #28 August 2011

kpope@library,guelph.on.ca

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