Ethical question

Stumbled upon this quandary recently. Figured I’d open it up for some smart discussion. (NOTE: It involves possible sexual assault of a minor, so be forewarned…and be sensitive).

Here’s the situation:

A woman called me and said her significant other (who is accused of assaulting her teenage daughter…charges I wrote about) is innocent.  She said her daughter (who has mental disabilities, the mother claims) made the story up. The woman wanted to get this story across to exonerate someone she believes is innocent. To do so, I would of course need to ID her as the mother of the alleged victim in the story, so as to give weight to the claims. This also inevitably identifies the alleged victim, since it’s pretty easy to connect mother to teenage daughter. And it is the standard practice at most news organizations to not identify victims/alleged victims of sexual abuse, rape and the like. There is sound reasoning behind this: being identified publicly as a sexual assault victim can be humiliating and stigmatizing.

But is it different if a victim wants to identify him/herself? I would say so. If someone wants to talk about their experience in a public forum, who’s to keep a reporter from printing it? However, is it the same when a mother wants to essentially identify her teenage daughter, either as someone with a disability, a sexual assault victim, or both? Or does the rule of thumb (“don’t identify sexual assault victims/alleged victims”) hold true?

Uneasy subject for many, but I would love to hear your (respectful) thoughts.


On top of the world

For a few short hours on the morning of March 19, I got to do my job 262 feet up in the air.

That was the high-point of the Austin-area wind turbine I climbed around 10 a.m., following two turbine technicians up into the sky as part of a unique jobs feature I am working on. (It’s right here.)

The climb was tiring, but fortunately the interior of the turbine was divided into platforms, allowing climbers to stop for a quick rest. For an experienced pro, the 80-meter climb takes about 10 minutes, but I went a little more leisurely, allowing tired muscles to regain strength before taking to the ladder again.

Me on wind tower

That's me, on top of the tower, 262-feet in the sky. Whoa.

However, I did reach the apex — a small, cone-tip compartment only accessible by climbing on the exterior of the turbine more than 200 feet in the air, than shimmying forward (in the picture above, it’s inside the hatch door you can see open directly behind me). Though always fastened down, that final stretch was harrowing, as chilling winds blew by at 20 mph and shook the entire structure.

Turbine technicians typically do maintenance work at various points along their climbs, but a large amount of the work is at the top, where a complex array of gears, breakers and pumps keep the large blades functional. A typical turbine check-up is a two-day job, and given the efficient design of the tower, this requires working in many tight, cramped positions.

Me, very safely attired, before the climb

Both guys I climbed with — 20-somethings Eric Andersen and Matt Penkava — said getting used to the height doesn’t happen overnight, but rather takes a few climbs. However, the seasoned pros said they now don’t really even think about the height and have no problem looking down while they climb.

“Yeah, you have a little bit of nerves the first time,” Penkava told me. “But it’s safe. That gives you a lot of peace of mind.”

More interesting tidbits:

  • Many of the platforms inside the tower are not bolted into the wall, but rather are secured by very strong magnets. Scary thought, I know.
  • Some towers, including the one I was in, have small but functional elevators that can take technicians up. However, some of the towers only have service lifts, which carry equipment but not people.
  • The company Matt and Eric work for has roughly 240 towers in southeastern Minnesota and across the border in Iowa.

Urban blight

Let me establish from the onset of this post that I understand 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds still have worlds to learn and should be given some leeway as they mature. Heck, that even applies to 22-year-olds like myself (I hope).

But Urban Meyer is way out of line for confronting Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler for his use of a quote that came from wide receiver Deonte Thompson (see here for video of the Meyer/Fowler confrontation at practice). Thompson was discussing how the change at QB could benefit of him, and the young man (unintentionally?) criticized Tim Tebow somewhat (here’s the quote that started this whole mess).

Meyer’s strong reaction included a rant about how Fowler unfairly took advantage of a young man (Thompson) and used his quote out of context. Meyer proceeded to tell the reporter that if it was his own son in the article, the two would be coming to blows.

Here’s where I differ significantly from Meyer: Thompson is a young man, but he is also receiving public money (in the form of an athletic scholarship) to go to a public institution for free (I am assuming this is the case…I have not checked Thompson’s specific scholarship status). Because of this fact, Thompson is not a typical “young man” who should be coddled and protected. He is a public figure, and with that status comes the responsibility of dealing with the press…and the consequences of your quotes. Even if you’re 18, 19, or 20.

Meyer too needs to understand that he’s a public figure, and his team is largely a public entity because it represents a public university. So to lash out at the press–and threaten to cut off their access–is an embarrassment. Mr. Fowler took an accurate quote, used it in a story, and attempted to give it some context (again, see the blog post that started the whole thing, which is linked above). Urban, if you think your team and you personally deserve public money in the form of scholarships, contracts and endorsements, then please respect the First Amendment and treat the press with some respect.

Now I’m going to return to being an irresponsible 22-year-old. Too bad a college football coach won’t coddle me.

Big Ten tourney picks

I wanted to blog tonight. And because I couldn’t think of anything overly insightful or meaningful, I decided to make my picks for the upcoming Big Ten men’s basketball tournament (starts Thursday in Indianapolis):

Michigan(8 seed) 70, Iowa (9) 54

Iowa is terrible. And I’m not just saying this because I’m a Gophers fan. They truly looked bad when I saw them on Sunday, and they just honestly don’t have much talent.

Northwestern(7) 62, Indiana(10) 64

I’ll take the de facto home team in a small upset.

Minnesota(6) 73, Penn State(11) 65

I think the Lions are better than both the ninth-seeded Hawkeyes and the tenth-seeded Hoosiers. But the Gophers are more talented and will survive a scrappy test.

Ohio State(1) 82, Michigan(8)65

The Buckeyes may be the best team in the country. They definitely have the best player.

Wisconsin(4) 66, Illinois(5) 50

Illinois is reeling and the Badgers should have no trouble beating them like they did easily just a few days ago.

Purdue(2) 74, Indiana(10) 56

Nice first round upset, but Purdue is too good for IU. Easy win close to campus.

Michigan State(3) 67, Minnesota(6) 69

Gophers almost beat Sparty twice this year, and with MSU struggling a bit lately, a minor upset here.

Ohio State(1) 68, Wisconsin(4) 60

The Badgers will slow Turner and crew down some, but OSU is just too good.

Purdue(2)65, Minnesota(6) 63

A good game the last time these two met, this will also be a close one. But Purdue knows how to win big games, while the Gophers seem to know how to lose them.

Ohio State(1) 73, Purdue(2) 68

Good effort toward the end of the season without Hummel, but again, OSU is just really that good. A legitimate Final Four contender, the Buckeyes will win the Big Ten.

Have we really gotten to…

…such a point of sensitivity where shock jocks get suspended for poking fun at an outfit?

Such was the fate for ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, who was shelved for some comments he made about fellow ESPN employee Hannah Storm’s outfit.

Now I understand that it’s mean to pick on someone’s wardrobe. It’s even meaner, perhaps, to pick on a co-worker. Especially publicly, like Kornheiser did on his radio show. But that’s this man’s JOB…he gets paid to push buttons and incite conversations. And he’s been good at it, good enough to land his own show that’s focused squarely on jawing, Pardon the Interruption.

Here’s how I would have handled it: First, as a company, I’d have approached Hannah Storm. Find out just how offended she was. Now maybe ESPN did this, but I have to go with what’s been reported, and no one has reported that this happened.

If Storm said she really didn’t mind the comments, then you probably let Kornheiser stay on day-to-day. Maybe he apologizes on-air. Or maybe, if Storm is a good sport, she comes on the show and rips Kornheiser’s wardrobe…or baldness. But straight out suspension? Seems extreme to me. This wasn’t Imas making racially inappropriate comments. It was a professional agitator having a bit of fun with someone’s clothes. Get over it, America.

Tiger Woods to put on a sham

Tiger Woods is soft and owes the public more.

I will say that on this blog. I would say that at a water cooler. Or at a bar. Or to Tiger’s face, even if he probably would kick my ass with a seven-iron.

And I say this with confidence because tomorrow’s “press conference” is a sham, and the world’s greatest golfer should be ashamed.

Let me say that I understand the desire to keep your private life closed-off (as Tiger has his whole career) when you’re one of the most recognizable people on the planet. I can only imagine the stress that goes along with that. I don’t necessarily like this tactic (personally, I feel if you owe your wealth to a public that watches you golf and buys products you endorse, you should be more open with this public), but I can deal with it. That’s Tiger’s call.

However, once you declare that you’re “opening up” and having a “press conference,” please do it right. Respect the integrity of the press, and the honor of coming clean about something. That means if you’re having a “press conference,” invite the press — not just a few close pals. And allow more than one camera. And for God’s sake, answer questions.

Maybe Tiger will do that someday. Maybe he’ll sit down with Katie Couric, or write a book, or go own Oprah. Again, I’m not saying he has to…that call is his, and his alone. But if Woods thinks his actions tomorrow equate to anything like that, he’s sorely mistaken. Instead, it will be a shallow attempt from an apparently shallow man to apologize without having to answer for his actions — or, essentially, not apologizing at all.

In the end, it comes down to a simple lesson my mom (and probably yours, too) always preached: If you’re going to do something, do it right. So, if you’re going to have a “press conference,” do it right. If you’re going to open up, do it right. Anything else is soft. Tell Tiger…and tell him he can bring his seven-iron if he’s mad.

Oh brother…

I’ll be brief. The Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Darko Milicic. Somewhere, Luc Longley chuckled to himself. And Paul Grant rolled his eyes. And Ndubi Ebi…

Need I go on? How about I just post this ESPN column from 2003…boy was Darko good. Before he played a game, of course.

In the words of Twitter, #fail. #EpicFail