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Out of Our Minds
Monday, January 30, 2006 10:56 AM
The Messenger's Role
Kevin Salwen on Ethics

There are so many fascinating ethical issues floating around these days. The Ken Lay trial is starting. James Frey is confessing. Lies, little and big, seem to be appearing almost daily.

I find myself intrigued by the role of the conduit. Yesterday, the New York Times ran this piece about eBay, raising questions about what responsibility the online marketplace has in assuring that products are legitimate. In one case, Tiffany bought 200 'Tiffany' pieces on eBay and found that 75% of them were fakes. As a company making money from these transactions, does eBay have a responsibility to assure their veracity? Does the feedback system do enough (ever seen anyone with less than 85% good feeback, btw?)?

Then today, the Wall Street Journal ran this piece on Nan Talese, the publisher of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. It includes this section:
Unlike journalists, publishers have never seen it as their purview to verify that the information in nonfiction books is true. Editors and publishers say the profit-margins in publishing don't allow for hiring fact-checkers. Instead, they rely on authors to be honest, and on their legal staffs to avoid libel suits. 'An author brings a manuscript saying it represents the truth, and that relationship is one of trust,' says Ms. Talese.

What role do messengers have? What role should they have?


Julie - 1/31/2006 9:14:45 PM
I'm not going to be fooled into buying 'real' sapphire or diamonds on eBay, but the system really works for a lot of products. eBay creates a nearly perfect market -- something even Adam Smith could be proud of -- with zillions of buyers and sellers vying for items every day. Kevin is right; you rarely see positive feedback lower than 85% (so what? it's grade inflation). I don't buy anything from a seller with less than, say, 95% positive feedback. eBay can't be burdened with checking everything out. Doing so would make the system expensive, and that would ruin it.
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 1/31/2006 6:35:42 PM
Hey Shonnie, I love that you posted that about Lance. He was featured in Worthwhile in summer 2005 issue. He is also going to be the keynote speaker at the Greater Toronto Area chapter of the International Coaching Federation's Prism Award. He is doing great work. The truth is what it is and that is an uncomfortable place for a lot of people but it seems to be the best place to be if you want to live authentically. Living la vida fearless, Jan
Shonnie - 1/31/2006 11:19:15 AM
I think the larger issue to address is about truthfulness. I believe it's everyone's role to be truthful. Whether you're an advertiser, CEO, intern, author, sister, father, or friend, being honest is the cornerstone of healthy, long-lasting relationships (except sometimes when the other party doesn't really want to hear the truth).

I'm sure some who read this post will say, 'That's naive.' I know it is not always easy to tell the truth, but it is the best way. If you want to know about a groundbreaking movement to bring truth, courage, and love into the business world, check out the work of Lance Secretan at www.secretan.com/one.
farnsworth - 1/30/2006 1:09:40 PM
Ouch! You're making my head hurt. How about:

- the messenger should have 'some' role
- the author or seller should be liable
- the buyer beware.

Does anyone honestly think they're getting real Tiffany products for a fraction of their retail value off of ebay? Must we always provide safety nets for folks how are out trying to cut a corner and then complain when the fall smack on their heads?

The messenger should be accountable. But unless not held liable.


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