Blog

Note from Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 22, 2012, 6:24 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 22, 2012, 6:25 AM ]

    After a year of publication, this blog has run its course, and this will be my last entry. I thank the Foundation Board and my readers for their support.
    It’s fitting that this last blog discusses how ethical companies are more sustainable and profitable than others because it’s a theme that has run through my writing for the past 12 months. It’s a lesson that is well worth teaching to those just starting their business careers and as a reminder for those whose careers are well under way.
    In today’s frenzied media environment when ‘quick and dirty’ often replaces ‘respectful and thoughtful,’ I have opted for the latter category. I hope you enjoyed my approach.

World Most Ethical Companies List Shows Good Behavior Pays Dividends – Once Again By Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 22, 2012, 6:19 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 22, 2012, 6:22 AM ]

  It’s that time of year when companies pepper news media outlets with press releases touting that they’ve made the list of The World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2011 as ranked by the Ethisphere Institute. The group calls itself “the leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability.” I’m not here to dispute this list with cynical blogger jibes. I actually think that Ethisphere does a pretty good job and I applaud their transparent methodology.
    My interest is how ethical companies do profit-wise compared to others. I have always maintained that ethics pays off and the WME report bears this out once again.
    The following chart shows that ethical companies make more money than those in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. What’s of particular interest to me is that during the recent down financial downturn ethical companies did better than others and as the economy recovered they’ve been doing even better as the spread in the graph shows.


    Why is that?
    Several reasons. Ethical companies rarely break down during tough times so they are ready to move forward when the economy improves. During tough economic conditions, unethical companies cut corners; ethical companies do not and that stands them in good stead when upturns occur. Last, ethical companies naturally lead the profit pack and as the economy improves these companies are better able to exploit positive business conditions.     
    This year there are 145 organizations on the list. Thirty-six are new and 26 companies dropped off mainly because of “litigation and ethics violations, as well as increased competition from within their industry,” according to the report. Forty-three winners are outside the United States. 
    Twenty-six companies have made the list all six years of the study including Aflac, American Express, Fluor, General Electric, Milliken & Company, Patagonia, Rabobank and Starbucks, among others.
Here’s the complete list:


 Aerospace
Indra Sistemas                                                          Rockwell Collins Inc.
The Aerospace Corporation
Apparel
Adidas
Comme Il Faut
Gap
Patagonia
Timberland
 Auctions
eBay
Automotive 
Cummins
Denso
Ford Motor Company
Johnson Controls
 Banking
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
National Australia Bank
Rabobank
Standard Chartered Bank
The Westpac Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Business Services
Accenture
Dun & Bradstreet
Noblis
 Chemicals
Ecolab
JM Huber
 Computer Hardware
Hitachi Data Systems
 Computer Software
Adobe Systems
Microsoft
Salesforce.com
Symantec Corporation
Teradata Corporation
  Construction and Engineering
CRH
Granite Construction
Parsons Corporation
 Consumer Electronics
Electrolux
Ricoh
Xerox
 Consumer Products
Colgate-Palmolive Company
Henkel AG
Kao Corporation
 Diversified Industries
General Electric Co.
 Electronics and Semiconductors
Freescale Semiconductor
Premier Farnell
Texas Instruments
 Energy and Utilities
Encana
Statoil
NextEra Energy, Inc.
Northumbrian Water
Vestas Wind
Wisconsin Energy Corporation
 Engineering and Design
AECOM Technology Corporation
CH2M Hill
Fluor Corporation
 Environmental Services Waste Management
 Financial Services
American Express
Housing Development Finance Corp
NYSE Euronext
The Hartford Financial Services Group
 Food and Beverage General Mills
PepsiCo
Solae
Stonyfield Farm
 Food Stores
Kesko
The Co-Operative Group
Wegmans
Whole Food Market
 Forestry, Paper and Packaging International Paper
Stora Enso Oyj
SCA
 Health and Beauty
Natura Cosmeticos
 Healthcare Services Baptist Health South Florida
Hospital Corporation of America
Premier
 Hotels, Travel and Hospitality
Kimpton Hotels
Marriott International
The Rezidor Hotel Group
Wyndham Worldwide
 Industrial Manufacturing Caterpillar
Deere & Company
Eaton Corporation
Milliken & Company
Schneider Electric
 Insurance
Aflac Incorporated
Sompo Japan Insurance
Swiss Re
Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Co.
 Internet Zappos
 Media, Publishing and Entertainment
Thomson Reuters
 Medical Devices
Becton Dickinson
  Metals UmicoreRoyal Phillips
 Real Estate British Land plc
Jones Lang LaSalle
Unibail-Rodamco
 Restaurants and Cafes
Starbucks Coffee Company
 Specialty Pharma Medicis
  Specialty Retail
Best Buy Co.
Hennes & Mauritz
Sonae
Target
Ten Thousand Villages
 Staffing Manpower
Telecom Hardware
Avaya Inc.
Cisco Systems
Juniper Networks
Telecom Services
Singapore Telecom
Swisscom
T-Mobile USA
Transportation and Logistics
Autoridad del Canal de Panama
East Japan Railway Company
Nippon Yusen Kabushi Kaisha
UPS  
 



The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

Silicon Bloggers Cash In; I Guess I’m Old Fashioned By Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 22, 2012, 6:00 AM by Unknown user

    When I was a reporter at Business Week magazine we were not permitted to accept even a modest lunch from a company we covered. It was considered a conflict of interest. If a PR firm sent us an unsolicited gift – a bottle of expensive wine or some other trinket worth more than $25 – we had to send it back. We had to inform our boss about anything we received and had to call the sender and tell them not to do it again. This practice was called journalistic ethics and it seems mighty old-fashioned compared to what’s going in Silicon Valley these days with some high-tech bloggers.
From spj.org

       Here’s how it works: A blogger becomes influential by doing strong work, breaking stories and doing what I would consider real reporting. Then, he or she decides to cash in by establishing an angel fund that collects money from venture capitalists. The money is used to invest in start-ups that the blogger knows about before most anyone else because he or she covers the industry. The blogger keeps writing stories – supposedly unbiased stories – that tout the company. If other bloggers write negative stories about the startup, a verbal fistfight ensues and some have gotten pretty ugly. The end game occurs when the company either goes belly up of its own volition, gets bought or goes public and the blogger and his fund, in both of the latter cases, make a veritable mint. 

    Blogger Dan Lyons has dubbed this the Silicon Cesspool and explains how some VCs willingly throw money into a blogger’s fund because a few hundred thousand is ‘a rounding error’ and it couldn’t hurt to have an influential blogger on their side.
    Some might consider this just another form of PR, but it’s not. PF flaks tell you who they’re working for. These bloggers present themselves as independent journalists and readers believe that what they write is fair, unbiased and accurate. “In fact this is a new version of an old racket that used to be practiced in the tech space by guys who called themselves ‘independent analysts,’ writes Lyons. “Their deal, back in the day, was this: ‘Pay seven figures a year to buy a corporate subscription to my newsletter and I’ll say nice things about your company, and when the press needs a quote, I’ll be there to puff you up. Or, don’t buy a subscription and I will bash you relentlessly.’ Most big companies paid up and considered it a cost of doing business.”
    I remember this newsletter scam (and various offshoots employing a ‘pump and dump’ scenario) as well but this new incarnation makes for an even sadder state of affairs because of the internet’s enormous reach and low barrier to entry. This kind of activity will just make readers more cynical than they are now about the media and drive honest people away from what I consider a noble profession which, in the end, should be about public service and not money.

    I guess I’m old fashioned.


   The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

Upper Class Tends to be Unethical… It’s a Learned Behavior By Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 22, 2012, 5:55 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 22, 2012, 5:56 AM ]

    We all have a love/hate relationship with stereotypes. On the one hand, they allow us to quickly size up someone we just met based on their dress, accent or mannerisms. On the other hand, stereotypes are often inaccurate, perpetuate wrongheaded beliefs and discount individualism.
    One particular stereotype concerns money and it’s this: Rich people are less ethical than others. The corollary is that poor folk are more honest and ethical. These are stereotypes that are ingrained in most cultures across the globe. It’s even become part of current election rhetoric in the U.S.

Well, there’s new research that shows this old saw may be true.




    The study is titled Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior produced by Paul K. Piff of UC Berkeley and others. Unfortunately, I cannot offer you a link to the study for free as I usually do due to copyright issues but you can click here to buy a copy for $US10 or use your school, corporate or local library account to download it. The article will appear in the upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed publication.
    Here’s what the researchers wrote: “Seven studies using experimental [under controlled situations] and naturalistic [in the field under real life conditions] methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower class individuals.” The studies looked at how people reacted while driving and then how they acted in lab studies making decisions which looked at lying, cheating and stealing in work and non-workplace scenarios.
    What did researchers conclude was the reason for unethical upper class behavior? “Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.”
    Hello Gordon Gekko.
    But it’s not that simple. While many will read the headline and a few lines about the research - and take from it what they want - the last part of the study was the most revealing and the most important. It’s a nuance often missed in our quick-paced, shallow-thinking web world.
    Attitudes toward greed are learned and people can be ‘primed’ to act unethically. When participants in the last part of the study were prepared to think about the advantages of greed and then presented with opportunities to act badly such as stealing cash, accepting bribes and overcharging customers they indeed acted unethically – and it didn’t matter to which socio-economic group they belonged.
    In other words, upper class people, in general, have been primed to see that greed is good and lower class people have been taught the opposite. As Piff put it in a prepared statement: “These findings have very clear implications for how increased wealth and status in society shapes patterns of ethical behavior, and suggest that the different social values among the haves and the have-nots help drive these tendencies.”
    The question that researchers do not answer is why upper class people believe that greed is good? Is it because, in their experience, unethical behavior has paid off or do they subscribe to the notion because their parents and peers think so? Or is there another reason?
Piff’s study is the latest in a series of UC Berkeley investigations into the relationship between socio-economic class and prosocial and antisocial emotions and behaviors. I hope my question is explored in future studies. It may be the most important question of all.


The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

Companies Should Reveal Who They Really Are By Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 22, 2012, 5:51 AM by Unknown user

As a journalist, I’ve always appreciated lawsuits. Not only because of the very American idea that we all deserve our day in court but for the little nuggets that fall when reading these court documents. The additional secrets that come from discovery are even sweeter and all of these public records expose actions, behaviors and activities few of us knew were going on.
You may know that Apple has been a in protracted court battle with Proview Technologies over the right to use the trademark iPad on its products. In a complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on February 17, Proview accused Apple of hiring law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge to establish a company – that kept an arm’s length distance from Apple - solely for the purpose of trademarking the name iPad.
The Original iPAD

The company was called IP Application Development. Say the first letter of each word out loud and in sequence: IPAD.

Reading the lawsuit gives you a front row seat to watch how some companies operate just shy of legal and certainly over the line ethically. Clearly, this is only a lawsuit and the facts may be disputed in court but clearly there is merit to some of Proview’s claims. For example, it’s obvious that Apple was trying to hide its identity by not disclosing that the law firm was acting as its agent. Companies have made the case that doing business through shell companies helps prevent attention until they’re ready to make something public. I don’t buy it.
From the lawsuit we learn that Proview has been producing iPad-like products since August, 2000 when it announced its product called the iPAD which it produced jointly with National Semiconductor. It was described as an “all-in-one internet terminal with a built-in 15-inch monitor.” It does not look like a tablet but that's not the point of the complaint.
Apple has claimed in previous lawsuits that it purchased the iPad name trademark from Proview but Proview officials deny it. Instead Proview has argued in lawsuits in China that it sold the global rights excluding Chinese distribution. This is why you’ve been reading about some Chinese government officials seizing IPads made by Apple or not allowing them to be sold because of court injunctions while the suit is in progress. Now, the fight has extended to the United States with this latest complaint.
I won’t venture how this latest complaint or the ones in China will play out. To me, the real story is how companies try to obfuscate their actions, cut down on transparency which is a hallmark of free enterprise and ethical behavior. In previous blogs I’ve noted how companies use legal loopholes, like allowing a subsidiary to take a fraud rap so they can keep government drug contracts. Unless you read the court papers you would never know that big companies, like Johnson & Johnson, have used this ruse.
In other instances, drug companies routinely pay off generic makers to keep their drugs off the market in a pay-for-delay which amounts to legalized extortion. The payments are couched as patent payments.
I’ve also outlined how consortia buy up patents in a attempt to keep competitors from innovating new products. Sometimes these groups are not clearly labeled as to who is behind them until you dive deeper into the court papers.
For companies to act legally is one thing, but we should demand that they act ethically as well. The letter of the law is not good enough. As a reporter, I am prohibited legally and ethically to misrepresent who I am when dealing with people. Why should companies be any different?


The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

How Do You Fix Your Reputation After An Ethical Lapse? By Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 6, 2012, 12:17 PM by Unknown user

    In this blog I try hard to keep everyone on the right side of ethics, but sometimes we falter. We’re only human. So the question becomes: How do you rebuild your reputation after an ethical or even legal lapse in judgment?


    Some answers come from a report titled The Recovery Of Trust: Case Studies Of Organizational Failures And Trust Repair published by the Institute for Business Ethics. Authors Graham Dietz And Nicole Gillespie studied ethical breaches that occurred at six companies: Siemens, Mattel, Toyota, BAE Systems, The BBC and Severn Trent. Each case was different as was each response. What I like so much about the report was just that – each response was unique to that case. Many reports try to produce a list of ethical “do’s and ‘don’ts” gleaned from the case studies, but the authors here treat each incident individually showing how the response worked or didn’t work.

    Interestingly, the authors link trustworthiness to ethics and suggest that they share a common foundation. I like this idea because we all understand what it means to be trustworthy even if we’re a little fuzzy about the meaning of ethics. They write:
    “Trustworthiness and ethical conduct share many common themes, including the centrality of values such as integrity, actions matching words, promise fulfillment, trying one’s best, showing genuine concern for others and fairness.
    Principles of ethics underlie and inform our expectations of what constitutes trustworthy behavior.
    To abuse another’s trust suggests an ‘inauthenticity’ in the way we have portrayed ourselves that, in many situations, would be unethical.
       A reputation for trustworthiness and strong trust relationships are founded on a robust ethical culture, supported by leaders, systems and policies that are designed to nurture employees’ trustworthiness and trusting relations at work.
    Thus, as part of a robust ethical culture, trustworthiness needs to be fostered.”

    The report suggests a hint of commonality in the reviewed cases, most notably that there is no magic bullet, no one thing that rebuilds reputation: “…trust failures typically take years to resolve, and can be both debilitating and very costly. A clear implication is that it pays to invest proactively in designing an organizational system that encourages and supports trustworthy conduct.”

    These are great stories and well worth reading.

The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

Business Leadership Requires a Balancing Act By Larry Kahaner

posted Mar 6, 2012, 12:05 PM by Unknown user

    A colleague challenged me to offer a simple description of strong leadership, and I responded as I have for years:

    Leadership is the ability to balance your own vision of where the company should go with what customers and others want from the company.
I stress the word balance.

    If management only listens to customers and takes the attitude that ‘we should give them what they want,’ they can run into trouble. McDonald’s listened to customers who said they wanted more than hamburgers at the fast food restaurants. Does anybody remember McPizza? In the mid-90s, focus groups screamed for pizza and McDonald’s obliged, but it was a failure because real paying customers didn’t associate McDonald’s with pizza and the idea was a disaster. Franchises were left with expensive ovens and widened drive-thru windows to accommodate the large pizza boxes. Afterwards, McDonald’s executives admitted that pizza was too difficult to produce, too time consuming and too expensive. It didn’t fit within McDonald’s vision of what it did best. (I never tasted McPizza but those who have say it was pretty tasty.) 

    On the other side are managers who rarely listen to others and arrogantly push ahead with their own ideas. Witness everyone’s most recent favorite bad-guy CEO Reed Hastings who unilaterally was responsible for Netflix losing more than 800,00 customers when he decided to split the company into a streaming video side and DVD side while raising prices. Even though this only happened in November, it has become a classic ‘what not to do’ case study. In an interview with The New York Times Hastings said: “I think it was a mistake in underestimating the depth of emotional attachment to Netflix.” The company may never recover.

    When it comes to listening to customers, Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs may have put it best when he told Inc. Magazine : “You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”
    Successful business leaders are expert at balancing their vision for the company with the wants and desires of customers – and by customers I’m including the board of directors, employee and shareholders. It’s not an easy task to maintain an even keel. It entails compromise, humility, confidence and patience. It requires communication skills to sell a vision, ideas and management style (see my blog Why Every CEO is a Salesperson in Disguise.
    In a recent essay from Bernd Beetz, CEO of 100+ year-old cosmetic maker Coty, he discussed the importance of branding and how it has made the company a worldwide force in beauty products. He stressed the importance of balancing the company’s vision of itself against what customers want.
    “I am not implying that you shouldn’t respond to what your consumers are telling you, both the positive and the negative. But the crucial point here is not to let the consumer change what you believe about your brand. Learn to extract the useful information from each negative review - but don’t let the negative define you. There is a fine line between making positive change based on constructive criticism and making change for the mere sake of it based on malicious information.    And the only ones who will be capable of recognizing the difference are those who have a clear conception of what their brand is and what it stands for.”
    Like I said… balance.
   

The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

The Tricky Ethics of ‘Rank and Yank’ Management By Larry Kahaner

posted Feb 8, 2012, 10:25 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 8, 2012, 10:27 AM ]

    In business leadership circles ‘rank and yank’ is making a comeback. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies use a form of this system that ranks employee performance by levels, usually 1, 2, 3, although they often give it a more pleasant name such as talent assessment system or performance procedure. Other monikers are forced ranking or simply employee ranking.

    Former GE CEO Jack Welch championed ‘rank and yank’ in the mid 1980s as a way to jettison underperformers and leave only high achievers. It’s difficult for an employee to argue with metrics. Many contend that forced ranking is Draconian, demoralizes employees by turning them into a number and not a person. Some say it promotes backstabbing and can be used to promote favoritism.
    In an age when all of our kids receive trophies just for showing up to a game, a reality check on one’s performance is welcomed. It lets us know where we stand and what we need to improve.
    Unfortunately, many companies use forced ranking solely as a way to get rid of their lowest performing workers especially in times of financial crisis. The system has all the markings of a legal maneuver rather than a way to improve an individual’s performance.

    I am a proponent of ranking employees, but there needs to be some critical add-ons. I would like to see more companies employ ranking in a way that was implemented by a CEO friend who used it successfully at his company. His system is both ethical and fair.

    First, rankings should be done quarterly not annually. This fixes several problems. How many managers remember what an employee did six months ago? Also, some unscrupulous workers, especially those in sales, will underperform all year then put on a hard press during Q-4 in order to keep their jobs and ensure their year-end bonus. People and companies need continuous measurement and improvement.

    Second, managers must think of employee rankings as a way to improve a company’s overall performance and not solely as a reason to toss people out of their jobs. Management must make an honest effort to coach those in the bottom level and show them how they can move up in rank. Too many managers let bad performers continue in their jobs, flailing and underachieving, just so they don’t have to confront them. As my friend notes: “This is very cruel to employees. You’re not doing them any favors by letting them stay in a job in which they can’t succeed. If a person can’t move up even after a good faith effort to coach them, then they need to be let go to find a job that is more suitable – one in which they can succeed and feel good about themselves.”
    Bottom line: managers should look at employee ranking as a way to improve an individual’s professional growth and contribution to the company and not for any other reason.


The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering

How Lizard Lick Towing Pushed Me Over the Edge By Larry Kahaner

posted Jan 31, 2012, 8:13 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 31, 2012, 8:22 AM ]

My friends know that I’m not a fan of reality TV shows so when my pal Alan told me to watch a new one called Lizard Lick Towing, I knew there had to be a reason. And there was.


    The show features a repo/tow truck operator named Ron working out of Lizard Lick, North Carolina about 20 miles from Raleigh. He is aided by his wife Amy and a bulked-up friend named Bobby who has his back when times get tough. Let me cut to the chase: the show is so heavily scripted as to not have one iota of reality or truth. For example, in one episode an unhappy customer tears up the office after his vehicle is repossessed. Amy summons the police who, according to a yard surveillance camera, roll up to the office and just as quickly reverse out of the yard gate when she phones 911 again and rescinds her request for help after the unruly customer agrees to calm down. This breach of police procedure (a 911 calls always, always results in a knock on the door) has so enraged viewers who thought that the show was portraying real life that many have produced youtube videos pointing out why and how the show is fraudulent. These viewers are outraged at the obvious flim-flam.
    
    Intellectuals among us offer a loud ‘tsk’ and say ‘of course it’s a phony. All of these so called reality shows are make believe.’ And, indeed, they are. Some are more set up than others but none of them, not a single one, portrays actual goings on accurately. Even benign cooking shows like Chopped and Iron Chef are scripted. I understand that this is entertainment, but many people believe these shows are real and that’s the problem. I won’t add my voice to those who list how detrimental these shows can be to viewers and those in the shows themselves. Others have done it so well pointing out that the shows have been directly or indirectly been the cause of suicides most recently the husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong, who killed himself almost on cue after the couple’s crumbling marriage was a plotline of the show. “This show has literally pushed us to the limit,” he had told People. 
    
    The fallout has gotten so acute that psychologist Jamie Huysman has treated more than 800 patients who have been injured by reality, talk and court shows. “Producers … are taking vulnerable contestants and treating them as what I’d call disposable people. They don’t seem to mind, because when someone goes home and dies, it happens off camera.”

    To me, the problems stem from reality show producers who have traded their ethics for cash. Whatever social value of such shows may once have existed has long past disappeared. It’s all about money and nothing else. Reality shows are extremely cheap to produce. All you need are some cameras, non-professional actors (read: low pay) and a modicum of a script. You don’t need sets or even wardrobe. You push these folks to their emotional stretching point, humiliation and confrontation help, and record what happens. It’s a simple recipe, and there’s little financial risk for producers. If a show doesn’t catch on, start another. Soon we’ll be seeing two new entries: Fat Chef and Doomsday Preppers

    I am not making these up. 
    I was one of the first to say that once these shows got out of hand, when someone was killed or injured, they would end. I was wrong. Almost a half dozen people have died directly because of these shows and many more viewers have been mentally or emotionally hurt because they believe these shows depict real life. These programs distort our moral compass, make us more aggressive, reinforce stereotypes, skew our expectations.. the list goes on. 

    All of us have a responsibility to understand how our jobs can affect others. Unfortunately, we’re also excellent at denying facts and throwing the responsibility to those who produce or consume our product. Hiding by free speech and legal disclaimers help assuage guilt. 

    Reality TV producers have a right to their livelihoods but not at the expense of others. They are no different than those who produce cigarettes, weapons or prescription medicines. With production comes responsibility and reality TV producers are hiding behind their cameras while people are suffering. Producers need to think about their actions more closely and realize the consequences. Lives depend on it. 


The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

Is Paula Deen the Worst, Most Dangerous and Unethical Person in America? By Larry Kahaner

posted Jan 24, 2012, 7:50 AM by Unknown user

    Paula Deen’s admission that she suffers from Type 2 Diabetes should shock no one. Considering that her TV show features such delectables as Paula’s Brunch Burger which consists of a fried egg and bacon atop a burger served between glazed doughnuts instead of a bun, I’m surprised that she’s still alive. 

    To me, however, Deen’s story also is about business and brand ethics and her breach of these tenets.
    Responses from viewers, reviewers, other chefs, and even her own TV colleagues, are all over the map.
Some, like Anthony Bourdain call her the “worst, most dangerous person in America.” Others defend Deen. “She feels like she cooks for ‘real people,’ and for better or worse, that is how many people in this country choose to eat,” writes Virginia Willis, a food writer in Atlanta, Georgia.

    People are angry with Deen on so many levels that it’s difficult to parse. Some chide her for keeping her diabetes a secret while promoting a cooking style that contributes to that illness. Others say she acted unethically by keeping her illness hidden while cutting a deal with an insulin maker. Still others say that she blatantly uses her celebrity status to promote poor diets in the name of wealth, (she makes about $10 million annually) and doesn’t care about any fallout. Another group of detractors are livid about her backpedaling strategy only now claiming that she has always preached moderation in eating her artery-clogging recipes.

    Paula Deen has a powerful brand. She has a bully pulpit and a large audience who trust and believe in her. At the very least, she entices people on a regular basis to eat unhealthily. Even those who don’t particularly care for her demeanor, cuisine or flip attitude toward unhealthy food, were tempted by her congenial and friendly persona that celebrated excess. She snubbed her nose at organic foodies and encouraged butter and fat laden foods with an anti-intellectual and anti-science attitude of ‘what do nutritionists know?’

    What many celebrities like Deen fail to understand is that they have pull with people and that means they also have a responsibility to act ethically, honestly and in the best interests of those who admire them.

    I realize that this places a large – and some might say unfair -- onus on those in the limelight. I believe, however, that it comes with the job. It’s a de facto burden and those with followers should take it seriously. Is it realistic to think that all celebrities will be perfect role models? No, we’re all human and we make mistakes in judgment. Also, there are those celebs who claim that they owe their audiences nothing but a great performance. Their off-stage life is their own concern. This may be true for those stars who keep a low personal profile, but for those celebs who are out there every day, pushing a persona, a lifestyle, a brand, and a way of living like Paula Deen, they have an ethical responsibility to send a healthy, honest and positive message about how to live. (Take note, Charlie Sheen.)
Celebrities are selling products -- themselves. Like it or not Paula, your loyal fans –as misguided as they may be - believe what you say and do.
You have done damage, and now it’s your job to fix it.


The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.

1-10 of 38