Responsibility in the News

Image of responsibility-in-the-news exerciseWhat do you learn about personal responsibility from reading the newspaper? The answer might make you change your mind about requiring your kids to keep up with current events!

Twice in recent weeks I’ve asked groups of professionals to scour major daily newspapers for articles, columns, and editorials reflecting on the topic of responsibility. The first time was in our own Global Educators Academy™. And the second was with a client group in a Fortune 500 company. Why would I assign such an exercise? Because my purpose with each group was to help them learn about the Responsibility Process™ by confronting how it shows up in everyday use. Another reason I would assign such an exercise can be inferred from ourImage of Responsibility Redefined logotype brand—Responsibility Redefined. Our research strongly suggests that there are at least seven popular ways that responsibility is defined in-use by our culture (as well as other cultures). Six of the seven uses might help people cope with problems, but only one of them helps us actually face our problems, solve them, and grow as a result.

The newspapers included multiple issues across a week or two of (among others) the:

Image of news collage

  • Austin American Statesman
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Dallas Morning News
  • Detroit Free Press
  • Detroit News
  • Houston Chronicle
  • Los Angeles Times
  • New York Times
  • San Antonio Express News
  • USA Today
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Washington Post
  • a Mandarin-language daily from Beijing (brought to Global Educators Academy by a participant)
  • a Spanish-language daily from Monterrey (Nuevo Leon, Mexico, brought to Global Educators Academy by a participant)

Image of news collageSo what did we find?

Not surprisingly, the collages were overloaded with articles, columns, and editorials expressing Denial, Lay Blame, and Justify. In debriefs of both groups participants told me they had to stop cutting out articles of these types and look specifically for articles expressing what we define as true personal responsibility. Those few samples told of courageous citizen-heroes for the most part. One notable exception was the full-page advertising letter from Jet Blue’s executive apologizing for Jet Blue’s lack of service during a recent weather crisis. We thought the Jet Blue letter was a fine example of true problem ownership, contrition, problem-solving, and re-commitment.

The take-aways from both groups can be summarized in three terse statements:

  1. Drama sells newspapers.
  2. Denial, Lay Blame, and Justify are chock full of drama.
  3. The content we absorb daily from the media are very likely programming us to deny, blame, and justify.
Posted in Responsibility on 03/10/2007 09:33 am
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