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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Ethical Courage - Andy Rooney RIP

Journalism was once a profession where people sincerely believed what you said or wrote or reported in the news, books or visual media.  Of course, "belief" did not necessarily mean "agreement", but reporting the news is not supposed to be about being popular.

Andy Rooney and Daniel Shurr were among those highly respected ethical news observers who sincerely reported, with courage of their convictions, regardless of what other people or advertisers thought about them or their messages.  

Now, both are deceased.  With them passes an era when ethical courage was a noble attribute rather than a character trait people "took you out" on with labels, slander or electronic bullying.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop on courage sponsored by MaineBiz and Key Bank, held in Portland Maine.  I went because the concept of courage has always fascinated me.  It was also a nice way to enjoy lunch with 300 business colleagues.

Motivational speaker Cindy Solomon spoke to us about "The Courage Challenge". She humorously (and Andy Rooney would have appreciated her candor) explained four kinds of courage:  "Role" courage; "Core" courage; "Blind" courage and "Crisis" courage.  In a nutshell, her message of self-awareness informed us how all of us in the audience probably harbored a little of each kind of courage. I would sum the 4 attributes up by saying each one calls for the person to, first, be ethically courageous.

Andy Rooney and Daniel Shorr are both spiritual comrades, sharing these 4 traits, framed by ethical courage.

I certainly don't want to paraphrase Cindy Solomon, so I'll refer you to her website

But I will say, Andy Rooney and Daniel Shorr were the journalistic equivalents of "death-drop" journalists - to use an analogy humorously presented by Solomon in her motivational talk.

Did you ever wonder what being a journalist was like when commercial interests did not interfere with reporting the news?  Andy Rooney was a World War II journalist. Yet, he didn't believe in war and said so; but, he also said, ".....I want us to win."  He was a patriot before pacifist.  He told the brutal truth.

At times, it probably pained Rooney to be ethically courageous, week after week, on his 60-Minutes essays.  It takes courage to tell the world how you "really feel" about Modern Art or your messy desk.  Rooney's ethical courage was the antithesis of political correctness, as he seemed to relish taking side aim, to miss being polite.

Nonetheless, with Rooney's death, the National Football League has certainly lost an avid fan.

Daniel Shurr was one of President Nixon's "enemies", but he never seemed to loose his ethical courage, just because a powerful man wanted him to fail.  Shurr outlived Nixon and went on to become another role model for "ethical courage".

Now that both Rooney and Shurr are no longer with us, I want to be sure their legacies are not passed over as they have left this mortal earth.  I'm looking for the next courage in ethical journalistic leadership - but I'm in need of a powerful telescope to find one. Perhaps Richard Engel can make the cut, if commercial interests don't interfere.

Respected pundits are everywhere, of course, but they reflect on public opinion.  Rooney and Shurr spoke and wrote candidly, regardless of what the public thought about them or what they reported on.  They used their Constitutional right to Freedom of Speech to spread truth, and that takes real courage - all 5 kinds of it.

Rooney spoke about death in his last interview with Morley Safer. As a realist, he courageously expressed honesty about how his days on earth were numbered. Obviously, at age 92, he may also have been experiencing poor health.  It took courage to go before the vast 60-Minutes audience one last time, without the cover of nostalgia or hoop-la, to say good-bye his way - speaking the truth about his mortality.

Global news will report on Rooney's life, the time between the dash, but I wonder how many people will truly understand his ethical courage?  Did you ever wonder what 60-Minutes would be like without Andy Rooney?

His courageous career now passed, may Rooney now take the rest of eternity to know he lived a life expressing the truth and Rest In Peace.



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