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Jul 22

“Click” goes the moral moment

Three seemingly unrelated tweets gave me pause today….

First, “Boston University independent student newspaper apologizes after making light of rape.” It seems that BU’s student newspaper’s police column had a habit of creating witty, pun-filled headlines for entries on assault, breaking and entering, and racially motivated vandalism. After one student called the newspaper out on its tendency to make light of serious crimes with real victims, the editors issued an apology and promised to change their ways. Evidently, it’s only funny until someone points out that it’s not.

But these are just kids, right? Adult kids, to be sure, but students nonetheless. We can expect more of our educators, correct? “Middle school principal plagiarizes Forbes column” suggests perhaps not. It’s a rough time for plagiarism and cheating in generally. Studies over the past few years have determined not only that more high schools students engage in some form of academic dishonesty, but that they don’t really see it as a moral or ethical issue. If their middle school principal doesn’t see a problem with lifting 12 lines from a Forbes column to introduce herself to the staff, if huge groups of teachers in Atlanta can change test scores (although to be fair, they’ve been caught and face fraud charges), then why not lift a few lines from Wikipedia to make that paper work?

My Twitter feed did offer up a ray of ethical sunshine today — from a British tabloid photographer. Yes, you read that right. If you’ve noted the date of this post, the world right now is holding its collective breath for the very pregnant Duchess of Cambridge (and if you aren’t, the Guardian has thoughtfully created an alternative online presence for those who believe there might be other news today). Jesal Parshotam was the photographer camped out at the hospital who saw the royal couple arrive and broke the news that the next royal was due to appear. Despite what I’m sure was a fair amount of photographic equipment, he had no image to share of the expectant couple. He explained:

“We had decided in advance we were not going to take a photo of her,” claims Parshotam. “I made that decision — she’s a woman in labour. I just wanted to photograph the commotion and convoy of cars. That was a personal decision we both made. To take a picture of her would have been over stepping the mark.”

Granted, the paparazzi and the royal family have not had a solid relationship, with good reason. Perhaps that’s what established the need to recognize “a mark.” Regardless, it was a good call. That last waddle into the hospital, gasping through labor pains and trying not to think about the next few hours is hardly a Kodak moment, especially one that would likely make it around the world in less than an hour.

“A middle school principal, a world-class university and a British paparazzo walk into a bar…” sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but honestly, which would you peg as a designated driver?

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