September 1st, 2010

Journalism ethics professor trivializes Univ of Virginia story

Ed Wasserman was a reporter and is now a professor of journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University. He opined in his Aug. 29 newspaper column on the media about the Kevin Morrissey suicide story at the University of Virginia that would not have been a story without the “tilt of coverage toward this hot new social malady” (thanks for the back-handed compliment about awareness about workplace bullying).

Wasserman wrote “nowhere have I seen accounts of harassing behavior intended to belittle or publicly humiliate Morrissey … Nowhere is there persecution or verbal abuse … where was the bullying?” As if bullies or the institutions that harbor them would publicly disclose evidence. The details, known to the university HR folks, are all cloaked beneath the cover of “confidentiality.” That’s why an outsider would not have “seen accounts.”That’s why for years we have called bullying the “silent epidemic.”

He also makes demeaning remarks about Morrissey, the person ultimately responsible for his own suicide. Revealing his true values, Wasserman laments that the Virginia Quarterly Review, a great magazine, might suffer from undeserved media coverage. Boo hoo! Ethics professor, really? VQR over its people? Defend Genoways without evidence? Wasserman’s denial of the reality that bullying could drive a person to suicide seems indefensible.

Go here to get the background on this story.


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 at 8:08 am and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. Lana Cooke says:

    TO: Ed Wasserman
    (His voice mail box is full)
    I am calling because the legacy of Kevin Morrissey sent me. When someone commits suicide a number of factors lead to the final act. Ted Genoways actions contributed to Kevin’s death. The University’s disgraceful, inadequate response to Kevin’s pleas for help contributed to his death. The final knife in Kevin’s back was the isolation that Ted Genoways imposed upon him – that was the push over the edge. Denying this shows a lack of integrity and intelligence on your part.
    May Kevin Rest in Peace,

  2. Barbara Stallard says:

    I just read about this tragedy recently and Mr. Wasserman’s remarks. From what I read, Mr. Wasserman needs to stop protecting the university, some of its employees and get over his classist mentality of “them and us.” As a recent victim of workplace bullying, I was able to leave (not as quickly as I wanted, but soon enough)and am happy to leave such unenlightened environments behind me; however, for whatever reason, Mr. Morrisey was not.

    It would not be bullying if the people involved in the confrontation or dispute have equal power. It is impossible to protect yourself if the person with employment power or status power is abusing his/her use of power. Not being able to protect yourself for a long period of time (chemically) alters self-perception and also that of reality (for some) and allows thoughts of radical solutions to become viable. Mr. Wasserman should know that. So should the university. So should we all.

    I know that Mr. Morrisey has found the healing elsewhere he did not find here. I hope his death provokes institutions to examine the abuses they may take for granted and as “just the way things are” and with victim-blaming remarks like, “If you can’t stand the heat, leave the kitchen.” That only works if you have someplace go–or believe you do.

    And a toast to Mr. Morrisey’s colleagues at the magazine for knowing and honoring the truth about Mr. Morrisey’s life and work.

  3. Jamison Spencer says:

    It seems to me, once the initial hype died down and the real story came out, there was no bullying at all. Bosses are allowed to be unhappy with your work, and are pretty much required by their position to tell you so. It’s not bullying to ask why it took you tend days to forward an email. It’s not bullying to ask why you haven’t care out a task you were assigned. None of the emails contain any harsh, insulting, or demeaning language, nor do any of them deal with anything that is not a subject of legitimate workplace criticism. Also, the poor guy’s suicide note didn’t say anything about any workplace troubles at all. It referred to an ex-girlfriend (which is a much more common and likely cause of suicide). Also, everyone that knew this person admits that he was depressed, and had struggled with depression throughout his life.

    • Barbara Stallard says:

      Not all bullying acts take place in public. Sometimes the worse part of intimidation is that the bully is not consistent. This is seen over and over in domestic violence, child abuse, for instance. Not every encounter with a person has to be bullying to feel bullied.

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