Service of Judgment and Reputation: Flaunting the Rules

July 14th, 2016

Categories: Judgment, Reputation, Risk


Some must feel immune to scrutiny or enjoy taking tremendous risks–even though they make a living based on equal parts image and talent and are or were top of their games. Ethics aside, they are willing to jeopardize everything for the short term and even stir the hornet’s nest.

It’s In the Bag

In “Flap over Jacobs purse in THR star’s exit,” New York Post reporter Keith J. Kelly wrote “One $750 handbag from Marc Jacobs may have hastened the exit of well-known fashion writer Merle Ginsberg from The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year.” The writer denied claims by former colleagues that she’d received other “expensive fashion items over the years.”

JudgmentAccording to Kelly, Ginsberg boasted about the handbag on Instagram. It “arrived the same day THR ran a favorable story she penned on Marc Jacobs,” wrote Kelly. “Ginsberg acknowledges the Marc Jacobs gift, but insists there was no quid pro quo in her coverage.”

The magazine’s policy for staff is that they not accept gifts worth over $200. Wrote Kelly, “Ginsberg said, ‘It’s pretty normal standard operating procedure in fashion and beauty — gift bags, etc. — and yet other editors outside of fashion raised eyebrows over that.’”

I’ve not worked in this area and don’t know Ms. Ginsberg, but can attest that there were editors in industries I cover who put the squeeze for freebies on clients/manufacturers and they were known by their colleagues and the PR practitioners in their field. Those who won’t accept a crumb or cup of coffee are also known.

How Are the Grandkids?

So your wife is running for President. One of her previous decisions—she had installed and used a private server for government business when she had a top secret clearance and handled top secret info—is under scrutiny. You see the attorney general at the Phoenix airport. Any American who has served on a jury—or has watched moves such as “The Verdict,” [1982]–knows that a juror can’t speak with a lawyer, plaintiff, or defendant during the trial: No wave, no smile, no thumbs up or down, no “hi.”  Maybe so—but you’re safe, you’re not a juror.

No rulesYou take advantage of the coincidental meeting to chat about the grandkids for 20 minutes alone with the director of the department that is examining your wife’s potential culpability. She’s an old friend. For that reason she’d understand why this wasn’t the best time to share the brilliant things an almost two year old and infant had done. Chatting isn’t illegal. What’s the big deal?

If you’re going to break the company policy by $550, why blab about it? If you’ve done it once and claim you’ve not done it before, will people believe you? If all you’re going to do is update an old friend about the family, why not wave and promise to send an email or text with a photo of the kids? Why add fuel of uncertainty to the fire of “the rules are not for us,” that exists and potentially cripple a spouse running for office?





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6 Responses to “Service of Judgment and Reputation: Flaunting the Rules”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Always followed the rules, which was a $200 limit…although there were many many others at HFN/WWD who thought nothing of hitting up companies for REALLY expensive items. The whole point was not to compromise your editorial integrity–once lost, it can never be regained.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Can’t agree more. There are plenty of PR people who beg/cajole for discounts and freebies. Nothing I like more than paying a great price which is why I haunt discount stores and outlets–always have. I stick to business with my business contacts. Easier/simpler.

  3. hb Said:

    All this is about is common sense and judgment.

    In many cultures, the rules and practice concerning gifts, bribes, truthfulness and propriety are very different than ours used to be. Obviously, in ours they are changing rapidly otherwise we would not be faced with choosing for our President this year between the two most corrupt individuals ever to have sought that formerly distinguished high office. In better times they both would have been long ago disqualified for cause.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I heard Bill Maher on Chris Mathews’ “Hardball” show on MSNBC last night. He suggested that Hillary’s email server kerfuffle was due to her age–that she didn’t know enough about servers and their significance and their potential danger to information security which is why she made that mistake. If this is true–though at her level, I would think she’d have counsel from people who knew the significance–then maybe her PR is what’s wrong. Often mentioned is that she has been under more scrutiny than any other Presidential contender. At this point, we can only hope.

    Regardless, you’d think that both the candidate and those closest to her would bend over backwards to be scrupulously careful this close to the election so as not to give ammunition to the opponent.

    Ironically, her opponent has sailed through the primary process with fewer questions and the least scrutiny of anyone in politics—or any high level job–in my lifetime.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Getting upset over those who flaunt the rules and get away with it, is a waste of time. It’s also wise to remember that not all rules make sense, and are crying to be ignored.

    Bill Maher’s suggestion that email carelessness is age related, is sheer poppycock. Such a remark wouldn’t pass muster with a computer savvy teen, let alone most users. For inexplicable reasons, I find this remark, coming from a respected political comic, much more troublesome. But now, let’s say he’s right. If so, nobody with age related problems should accept any public responsibility, let alone run for office.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    No doubt there are as many executives with salaries in the high six figures or more who can hardly print a document as there are those who troll the Internet with ease and know how to program Apps with the skill of a teen.

    The ones who aren’t interested depend on advisors, which, one hopes, Mrs. Clinton did, does and will. Nobody can be expected to be up to speed on every single issue. So that’s where Maher’s excuse loses me. Her age in this regard is irrelevant. If she’s not interested in the workings of the Internet, that has zero to do with her age.

    Regardless, the result on her reputation, because of the doubts it places in millions of minds, doesn’t look good even though everyone has pointed to umpteen other Secretaries of State and other officials who did the same thing and she has admitted that she wouldn’t do it again.

    It comes down to the headline on this post–judgment and reputation and as Donna wrote in her comment about the fired editor, “The whole point was not to compromise your editorial integrity–once lost, it can never be regained.” I think you can slip in the place of EDITORIAL any other industry and that this warning–and lesson to learn if it blows up in Mrs. Clinton’s face–is one that many would benefit by heeding.

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