(Fall 2014 Addendum: See Matt Bai's recent book on Fiedler and the scandal, All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, for more information about the tabloidization of American journalism, as pioneered by this particular journalist in this particular event, and for a real shock read or view any of Fiedler's comments about Bai's book in September and October 2014 to see that, even today, he apologizes for none of the things he did nor sees anything wrong with having done them. (If it matters, and it really doesn't, Fiedler falls back on the Nuremburg defense of saying he was only doing what others told him to do so don't blame him for what he did. The old ethical pass-the-buck defense of blaming others for his actions.) Tabloid, gotcha journalism is clearly the kind of journalism he still believes in practicing. That's the BU way, and those are the values he wants passed on to students in his teaching and mentoring.)
This is the sensationalism and trivialization of journalism that the Watergate scandal and television shows like 60 Minutes inspired, as practiced by reporters who would rather “investigate” who a politician slept with than what the effect of his policies will be—and a quintessential example of the transgression of every normal and customary standard of human decency and respectful treatment that American and British journalists (and executives like Rupert Murdoch) so proudly and self-justifyingly feel their profession entitles them to. Cheaters has become the standard of excellence for the new journalism. It’s not about ethics; it’s about getting a big headline you can cite on your bio sheet (as Fiedler cites his proud participation in the stalking of Gary Hart and his girlfriend, Donna Rice, on his to this day) and try to win an award for. (See the related discussion of journalistic ethics in the blog posting titled “L'Affaire Rappaport: A case study in faculty treatment at Boston University.”)
Actually, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Appointing administrators with shady backgrounds, abundantly documented ethical lapses, and a lack of respect for personal privacy is an old story in the Boston University College of Communication (read the first part of this blog posting, "Part 1: Ten years of Administrative Retaliation for Speaking Up to Defend the Freedom of Academic Expression Inside and Outside the Classroom," to learn about earlier examples of characters with shady backgrounds and a lack of ethical values being appointed to the Dean's office). The problem is that the appointments to the Dean's Office have had (and continue to have) major consequences on what is taught and who is hired and promoted in the College. But still I have to admit that I am shocked and dismayed that a university would reward such well-documented, unapologetically unethical professional conduct by granting an administrative title and journalism professorship to such an individual.
On top of that, in my particular case, Fiedler went beyond asserting a theoretical right--not only reading emails I wrote to third parties (unconnected with the performance of my duties, if that matters) but distributing copies of them to other faculty members and administrators to indict my character. That's where tabloid values lead. That's where a cavalier disregard for privacy leads. Why would my privacy matter, why would the right to confidentiality of a mere faculty member be respected, when a Presidential candidate's wasn't? (Respect for faculty speech has always been a little thin on the ground at BU Several years before my emails were read and circulated, my Dean and department Chairman had already threatened making negative internet postings about me that would have the effect of destroying my professional reputation if I didn't toe the line and continued to speak my mind freely and openly.)
To read a much briefer and slightly more up-to-date (it covers the three years since the above account was written) summary of the past decade of financial and bureaucratic punishments, pedagogical failures, violations of academic freedom, verbal harassment, threats to destroy Prof. Carney's reputation via web postings and to bankrupt him with legal actions, and a variety of other forms of administrative misconduct and academic misbehavior at Boston University, see: “A Summary—Ten Years at Boston University,” available under June 2014 in the side menu on any page.