Thursday, September 11, 2008

What They Are Expected to Do

Every Certified Public Accountant wants to have successful clients. Success means that there are usually no problems with the audit---when production, inventory, sales, and customer service systems are smoothly humming, it's a good predictor that accounting, reporting, and internal control systems are also reliable. The client pays your invoices on time, and the employees and managers are not only willing but eager to talk to you about their company.

And yet, although they may like the business and the people, CPA’s can’t get too close. Accountants’ principal duty is to the shareholders, lenders, and anyone else who reads the financial statements. There may come a time when auditors must disclose information that will damage the stock price. They have to make a choice between their client and their responsibility to the public. There is no question what they are expected to do.

Keeping their distance and independence is a must for CPA’s if they are to maintain trust and a reputation for integrity. Some accountants violated that trust during the go-go tech boom and Enron / Worldcom scandals. In order to save the profession, accountants had to reassert the guiding principles of independence and integrity. You don’t see auditors standing up and cheering at shareholders meetings.

In my idealistic youth I thought about a career in journalism. Woodward and Bernstein (of Watergate fame) were my heroes. They pursued a story that brought down an administration. Yet they didn’t make up facts; if information could not be verified, they left it out.

Today the profession of news journalism has lost its way. Opinion has leaked beyond the editorial pages to the rest of the newspaper. “Newsmen” publish unconfirmed rumors that support their stances and ignore inconvenient facts that don’t. Outside the office, they openly display their political preferences; there’s no attempt to maintain even the appearance of objectivity.
Yet when Obama emerged from a curtain on stage, the audience of more than 2,000 [minority journalists] bolted to its feet, cheered and whistled. His remarks drew repeated applause throughout the 30-minute broadcast, which CNN and Time Inc. sponsored.
Reporters, if you want to be an advocate, do both yourself and journalism a favor. Leave. Go to Madison Avenue. The pay’s better.
© 2008 Stephen Yuen

[Update 9/21 - a quiet Sunday morning, then Instalanche! Welcome, everyone.]


Anonymous said...

It is just possible that liberals are pschologically incapable of fair reporting. It is possible that they can't report the conservative side of issues because they are incapable of understanding it. Here is a reference to research on the subject in the New York Times.

But Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, “What Makes People Vote Republican?”, that it’s liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.
Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view. “Liberals feel contempt for the conservative moral view, and that is very, very angering. Republicans are good at exploiting that anger,” he told me in a phone interview.

dougf said...

But don't you understand ?

These brave souls are speaking TRUTH to POWER . How can anything they do ever then be 'wrong' ? They speak of the Greater Truth. What matter a few 'facts' here and there ?

They are the chosen of 'God'. Were it not for their dedicated efforts, who knows the ignorance thru which we might all have to wade ? Believing as we do the 'wrong' things.

It is senseless to remind these sickening 'creatures' of their professional and moral 'duties'. They can no longer remember a time when they were even resonably 'honest' and 'fair'. Maybe they NEVER were, and it has always been a giant hoax. A massive joke played on US.

Rather,let us merely fervently pray that their employers all continue along their current path to extinction. And that they take their unholy 'creatures' with them.

Every last one of them. NO EXCEPTIONS. They can say hi to Joseph, when they arrive at their final stop.

Anonymous said...

No attempt to insist journalists be some kind of scholars or scientists will succeed. Journalism isn't a scholarly pursuit and so requires no training in scholarly objectivity (which is also not doing too well these days).

Journalism isn't a science.

Journalism attracts people who wish to "help," that is, influence or mold public opinion (e.g., Walter Lippmann)-objectivity isn't a tool for shaping outcomes.

I haven't polled every CPA I know, but those who have stated opinions before me on such matters have said it's only the CPA's job to verify the corporate budget according to accounting standards, not to investigate if the numbers supplied by executives are invented.

al fin said...

It was the very power to influence public opinion that attracted them to journalism in the first place. That, and being unable to do anyting productive.

Their dreams of becoming a Woodward & Bernstein never died. They want the adulation of wannabe journo idols plus the power to take down another Nixon.

To them, everyone they disagree with is another Nixon. To demonize. To vilify. To destroy if at all possible.

Just like to a hammer, everything is a nail. The same intellectual facility as a hammer. Nice.

rick mcginnis said...

It's a great idea, but one big problem - the ad business thrives on youth, and frankly there are far too many journlists simply too old to get a foot in the door at any agency. If you could even convince them that stridently biased reporting was a) what they do and b) that it's bad for the country.

The plague will continue until they shuffle off into early retirement or a quiet sinecure at a j-school.

Billy Hollis said...

Reporters, if you want to be an advocate, do both yourself and journalism a favor. Leave. Go to Madison Avenue. The pay’s better.

Yes, but then they don't get to choose what they pimp.

Anonymous said...

I've been a proponent of encouraging the journalism profession to self-regulate and establish a charter to certify ethical, accredited journalists. Provide specializations in business, finance, sports, community reporting, etc. and work to encourage publications to move the stature of the profession up by mandating chartered positions within 3 years of employment.

Interestingly enough, every journalist I've ever discussed this has howled like a wounded animal. They ignore how most of us who deal with sensitive information that may affect the viability of an organization through the accuracy in its collection, analysis and reporting are required to have such credentials (e.g. CPA, CIA, CFA, CISA) in order to administer more than minor responsibilities. Other professions of serious responsibility require such advanced credentials - from the law to even low paid educators. In my wife's district a M.S. degree is required within five years of employment, or you're out of a job.

The need for reform in journalism is profound and more than the ethics nightmare. Ever article I have been interviewed or been involved with on behalf of an organization has been error prone. In any other field, we wouldn't retain such irresponsibly sloppy work, let alone tolerate the arrogance of the fools who produce it. From my experience on university campuses and with the talent pool employed by news agencies, they clearly have obtained a monopoly on the recruiting of the least intelligent, least ethical candidates in the labor pool.

Reform or see yourself replaced by these bloggers with professional credentials in their own fields. Writing is a skill, not a profession.

Anonymous said...

What todays journalists have done to the integrity of news reporting is akin to what pedophile priests have done to the catholic church, except there were very few pedophile priests.

Mike Kelley said...

The best way to show your scorn for the rampant bias in the media is to quit buying their products. I used to get Time, Newsweek, USA Today, our local paper, and a whole bunch of television channels. I no longer pay for any of these. It feels good. I can get much more news from the blogs, etc., and they openly admit their biases instead of pretending they are "neutral". Good blogs correct their mistakes at the top instead of hiding the correction on page 86 like the New York Times.

Ivy said...

Those who can walk, walk; those who can't, talk. Those who are intelligent enough to make big bucks in Madison Ave. or any avenues, are already there, making big bucks. Like community organizing, journalism is not an altruistic thing to do. Some journalists have integrity and ability, others have neither integrity nor ability. But they have the means to distort reality to their audience, who are unfortunate enough to believe them.

Steven Den Beste said...

I am grateful to you for putting a link to me on your sidebar. But could I prevail on you to change it so that you don't link to my favicon, of which I don't have one?

Every single hit today that you've received from Reynolds has resulted in an attempt to load it, in response to which my server has had to send back my 404 frame. It's a tremendous waste of my bandwidth.

Anonymous said...

There's an assumption that journalists are capable of working effectively on Madison Ave. I wonder if they have the intellectual firepower for that.