By and large publishers do not share journalism's ethical sense.
Instead they apply business ethics.
While a journalist's ethics, like that of any other claimed profession, may hold them well short of what's illegal, businessmen must go right up to the legal line, even risk crossing it, to stay ahead of the competition. Businessmen who don't think that way are easily crushed by those who do.
In journalism, business ethics often push journalists over lines they should not cross. Robert Novak practices business ethics. The National Enquirer practices business ethics. Those who choose to believe Novak or the Enquirer accept it.
And Fuat Kircaali (right), CEO of Sys-Con Media, has apparently chosen to apply business ethics in the Maureen O'Gara scandal. (He has hinted at this before.)
This weekend this blog was told that Kircaali accepted the resignations of three senior LinuxWorld editors -- James Turner, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, and Steve Suehring, rather than personally release and renounce O'Gara.
UPDATE: "We were unpaid editors but we devoted a lot of time and energy to it," according to Suehring's blog. This makes sense given Kircaali's business model, as we will discuss later on.
Apparently, Kircaali even approved O'Gara's assault on Pamela Jones of Groklaw in advance. Here's what he told Free Software Magazine.
"The language of the story is in the typical style of Ms. OGara, generally entertaining and easy to read, and sometimes it could be regarded as offensive, depending on how you look at it. I decided to publish the article. It was published because it was an accurate news story."
More after the break.
Sys-Con is one of the most powerful computer publishing companies in the U.S. While rivals Ziff-Davis, CMP and IDG have fallen on hard times while paying editors well and preaching the value of ethical journalism, Kircaali has become the industry's low cost provider.
In the poverty that is 21st century computer publishing, Kircaali's strategy has made business sense. He has delivered large quantities of papers and low ad rates.
Readers and advertisers must now decide how they feel about this. Kircaali says Maureen O'Gara, the Robert Novak of the computer press, is A-OK by him. After all, she's delivering highly readable content at a very low cost to Sys-Con, bearing the editorial costs at her own G2 Computer Intelligence.
Personally I will not write for any Sys-Con publication, I won't read one, and if I knew their advertiser list I'd boycott the lot of them. That's just my personal feeling, as a consumer, as a writer, as a journalist. When a business offends me I can choose not to trade with them.
This is the risk any business runs when it applies business ethics in the face of a professional scandal. Often the market is forgiving . CNN still uses Novak and is still on the air. The Enquirer is still being published.
How do you feel? More important, if you feel strongly, what do you plan to do about it?