As young journalists, we are ingrained with the fundamentals of ethics that form the basis of our careers as watchdogs of the public good. Additionally, we look to the echelons of news giants such as Lester Holt and Anderson Cooper as influencers in our daily news lives. However, there are times in our careers where some of our greatest influences betray us and our trust.
On Wednesday, Nov. 29, the American public was taken aback by the firing of esteemed NBC News anchor Matt Lauer after reports of sexual harassment and abuse by numerous women over his behavior in the newsroom was revealed. This breakthrough is only a slice in the recent wave of sexual abuse and harassment allegations that have stricken Hollywood, politicians and high-profile celebrities including Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken and Louis C.K. In a statement made by Lauer on Thursday, Nov. 30, he responded saying, “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.” While his response may come across as sincere, there is still a monumental wave of disappointment felt within newsrooms across America, as someone many of us have looked up to for decades has in fact destroyed the ethics we have promised to abide by. Without following these ethical codes as journalists, all integrity and legitimacy is lost.
Despite the fact that many of us journalists lost Lauer as an inspirational figure as a result of the recent sexual assault allegations, NBC truly made the right call by firing him shortly after these allegations were made. Even though Lauer served as one of their top journalists, earning a salary of $25 million by the end of his time with the company, NBC’s decision to fire him was a beneficial way of asserting their own standards as an organization. It will be difficult for NBC to transition, and his former co-workers will be losing a valued member of their news organization, but ultimately, through this whole process, NBC has shown that they’re a company that does not tolerate sexual harassment or assault among their employees. Had NBC chosen not to fire Lauer, this would have started a controversy over their standards as a company, so despite losing one of their top journalists, the company certainly made the best decision possible.
Lauer’s sexual assault allegations and his corresponding loss of employment with NBC are a perfect example of a company doing what’s right from a moral standpoint despite how it may impact the show’s ratings and productivity.