1: Preface

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in media (nominally now), and I also try to adhere to my principles even when they get in the way of ‘pure capitalism’. So, I just wanted to write up this piece about ethics and media. Sure, libertarianism (or CPRMism in my case) says media coverage shouldn’t be prescribed by law, but I also know first hand the ability of media to manipulate the perception of the masses, and think those in the media should hold themselves to a standard which they don’t often do.

2: Back Story

I run my own small production company on the side. Right now I only work with a few clients that I trust and work another full-time job to support myself. But, it wasn’t always so. I used to have a slightly larger company that allowed me to eek out a living with a few other side deals. It all started when I convinced my original business partner, who had actual business experience, to partner up with me. Let’s call him Jack. Jack would do the business part while I would do all of the technical work. Even though we chose to start our business in May 2008, just before the housing collapse, we did make some headway. We were doing both professional work and client work (weddings and such). I’m a terrible salesman, and Jack was a bit too busy running his other business as well to handle all the sales stuff. It just so happened that at this time my brother-in-law, lets call him Ass, lost his job and was losing hope of finding a new way to support his family. He had worked in sales and needed work, so I suggested we bring him on to help with the sales part.

Things worked out pretty well. Jack and Ass got along very well and were expanding our business. We expanded into editing TV shows. I didn’t have to worry about the business part or sales while I was doing all of the actual production aspects. Things were good. So good in fact that to compensate Ass we gave him 1/3 of the business to compensate him, with the caveat that I as the creative got veto control over all projects.

The next demographic we started expanding into was the veteran community. My father was a disabled veteran, and we all felt this was a good cause, and it was good money. We produced videos for a lot of veteran programs, which Ass spear-headed.

3: The Dilemma

So with all the connections in the veteran community, one day Ass was contacted by the family of the only Prisoner Of War from the War in Afghanistan. They told the heart-rending story of their son who was captured by the Taliban. they wanted us to produce a documentary about him. This was a huge break for us. A documentary of this kind can launch you from obscurity to fame, bring a real face to war and inform the public.

Then Ass told me the details. The POW’s name was Bowe Bergdahl. I, along with most of America had never heard of the perils of this brave soldier. It sounded like a compelling story. And like I said, it would be our big break. The family was going to pay for the whole project, including flying out to film it. This is Oscar bait! Fuck the small TV shows we’d worked on!

So, after this call I’m excited and I start looking up news stories. It seemed there was some controversy of just how he came to be a prisoner of the Taliban. Some stories said he deserted and was captured. Some speculated he deserted and defected. After contemplation I thought as long as I was able to follow the facts and present them as they were, we could go ahead with the project.

4: Resolution

So, I talked to Ass and said we could do it, but the family might not like the film we make, how do we sell it to them? His answer, ‘That’s easy, they’re going to give us a script.’ I said there was no way I was going to do such a thing, and allow someone else to dictate my work, and that was final, as I had creative control.

His response was, ‘Fine, I won’t do it with the company then. I’ll hire some other people.’

In response to this I called Jack and said I would not work with either of them again if they went forward with the project under any guise.

In the end the differences in ethical thought resulted in my buying out the shares of both Jack and Ass just to mostly shutter the business (except for a few clients) rather than have the company I made dragged into the muck.

I don’t think many others in media would ever take such an ethical stand, and that saddens me. And far too many, like Jack and Ass, assume that a ‘libertarian’ will take the money over doing the right thing. I hope most of us are above that.