Now I have to go see Pearl Jam (boss does not want me to go)

Now I have to go see Pearl Jam in Asheville, N.C. on Oct. 6

From a e-mail sent by the boss today …

But speaking of ethics, here’s one situation worth noting now. Political contributions, activism, etc. are not advisable for newsroom staffers, whether donating to a campaign or sporting a candidate’s bumper sticker on your car.

“Vote for Change” is a group of big-name musicians touring, but the concerts also urge people to vote for John Kerry. Concerts will be this fall in key swing states, including one concert planned for Asheville, N.C. Buying a ticket to this concert actually is a political donation to the group promoting the concert tour, and thus, newsroom staffers should neither buy tickets to this or attend the concert, even if someone else has bought the ticket. Please see me if you want to discuss this further.

From a company-wide e-mail …

Editors say it may not be a popular decision, but the overt politics of the “Vote for Change” concerts are in clear conflict with newsroom ethics policies barring political activity and contributions. Staff members, editors say, should not attend the concerts.
SKIP PEREZ, executive editor at The Ledger in Lakeland, addressed the issue in a memo to his staff last Wednesday.
“My belief is that attending any of these concerts runs the risk of tarnishing the newsroom’s reputation because these events have a clear political aim,” Perez wrote.
With headliners that include Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam and R.E.M., “Vote for Change” is promoting the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by staging concerts in key states - including Florida and North Carolina - where the presidential election will likely be decided.
Ticket costs are considered political donations, with purchasers required to provide their address, occupation and employer. Money generated from the concerts will go to America Coming Together, which promises on its Web site to “derail the right-wing Republican agenda by defeating George W. Bush and electing Democrats up and down the ticket.”

This is a New York Times policy. Who says the media is liberal :slight_smile:

So no reporter should cover the Republican National Convention? While the RNC may not be selling tickets, doing so costs the reporters employer for travel expenses, etc.

Springsteen, Matthews, post-“Fables” REM?

And they want to collect money to see this? :confused:

Maybe they plan on “derailing the right-wing Republican agenda” by placing pennies on the tracks.

Whatever.

Clearly the isssue is not covering political events but participaiting in them.

How would they know if you went or not, assuming you haven’t told everyone already?

Also, what could happen if you went and got found out? I’d like to see any organisation try and fire someone for going to a rock concert.

Hafta agree with gatopescado, though - banning people from going on the grounds of taste would make a lot more sense.

I don’t think anyone would know. The concert is 60 miles away. I doubt they would fire me over such a thing.

I wasn’t going to go, but now I am going just out of spite. I don’t like the idea of someone telling me what I can or can not do on my personal time as long as I am not breaking the law.

My feeling is that logically by you going you are paying the artists to see them, and the artists are donating the proceeds to a political cause. It isn’t a donation on your part, as you are receiving something of value for the money handed over.

But aren’t they already doing that in much more fundamental ways that telling you you mustn’t go to a particular rock concert? They’re telling you that you mustn’t engage in political activity or make political contributions. No offence, but it seems to me you’re swallowing the horse and straining at the gnat.

If you accept that they have a case for discouraging political activisms, your gripe with them must be that they are construing attendance at the concert as a political act and/or a political donation. They don’t seem to be alone in that perception; the concert organisers require ticket buyers to provide their names, addresses and employers, presumably to comply with the law on political donations, so it seems your employer’s view is shared by the concert organisers and, I infer, the electoral authorities.

Could your employer reasonably ask you not to attend, say, a $500-dollar-a-plate fundraiser for a candidate? If they could, how is paying for food a political donation or political activism, while paying for the performance of music is not?

Your motive in going to the fundraiser/attending the concert is no concern of your employers. They are prohibiting activities which are presented or construed as political, regardless of whether you have a political motivation in engaging in them.

Consider the reverse position; could your employers defend a policy of barring attendance at fundraiser dinners, while permitting attendance at fundraiser concerts?

How much do these concert tickets cost? Are they consistent with ordinary ticket prices, or obviously inflated because of the politics?

I agree. You could always make your point by telling your boss what a great idea this is, but that you are a bit concerned that employees who invest with Merrill Lynch are supporting Bush, since Merrill Lynch donated $520,204 to the Bush campaign. Thus, in the name of fairness, all employees should stop investing with Merrill Lynch, as doing so is tantamount to a political donation on their part, and would jeopardize their journalistic integrity.

The tickets are $50, not including Ticketmaster service fees. Tickets to a regular Pearl Jam concert are $35-$45.

If I can’t go to a concert because it is supporting a political cause, can I buy the book “Unfit for Command”? It was co-written by a member of Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth. The money I spend on the book can be used for more attack ads on Kerry. Is that too political?

I smell coercion!
Where’s Liberal gotten off to?

Jplacer, is your newspaper going to have anybody review the concert? Or is considered so overtly political that even that’s off-limits?

It is about 60 miles away. The paper won’t send anyone to review it.

Clearly, we have to be able to draw some lines.

We can agree, can we not, that a journalist can attend events, buy and read books, etc, for the purpose of providing news coverage and analysis? No problem there.

We can also agree, I assume, that it would not be appropriate for a journalist to pay to attend a fundraising dinner (unless he had to do so in order to cover it, a situation which I presume would not often arise in practice).

And we can also agree, I think, that if a journalist is interested enough to buy a political book with his own money for his own library, that’s fine too, regardless of who publishes it or what they do with the money.

So where do we draw the line? Hard to say, but I think the concert is different from the book in that

(a) participating in a concert is a collective and public event; buying a book is a private and personal matter

(b) the concert is explicitly billed as a fundraiser; the book is (presumably) not

© importantly, by community standards as reflected in electoral law, buying the concernt ticket is regarded as a political donation, whereas buying the book is not.

And is there a line between the concert and the fundraising dinner? The only line suggested so far is that the concert ticket price probably contains a smaller fundraising element. Are we saying that small donations are acceptable but large ones are not?

I think that’s a red herring, frankly. Even if there were no fundraising element at all, and the concert was more in the nature of a rally to encourage and express support for The Forces of Justice and Decency in their Struggle Against the Evil Bush and His Cronies, I think there would still be a problem. Attending the concert would still be a form of public political activism in a way that buying a book would not be. The fact that you may enjoy concert, or the organisers hope you will enjoy it, is neither here nor there.

This hits the nail on the head perfectly. What you receive in return is of no consequence, whether it’s a bumper sticker, a dinner, or a concert. I don’t know how much of the money from the ticket is going toward the artists and venues involved, but given that they’re conforming to FEC guidelines by getting certain information about you, this constitutes a political donation and, hence, political activity.

I know going to the concert would be on your personal time, but when you’re a journalist (like me) you have to even watch your personal time carefully. I can’t go to a protest on my personal time and even when I’m at a regular concert and a performer makes a political comment, I’m squeamish about responding in a positive or negative way (I also feel that these comments, regardless of my opinion, are preachy and unwelcome; only a few artists do it right).

Of course, I did let my guard down when I was attending a concert 3,000 miles away from me and in a crowd of 50,000, where even if I cheered as loud as possible, I’d be nothing more than a blip. But going to that concert didn’t require me to make a political donation, either.

Having said all that, I don’t know if I could pass up a chance to see Springsteen. Too bad I’m nowhere near a battleground state (though the polls in VA are close right now).

You’re a citizen who works in the private sector (Contrary to most publishers’ belief, the media are not, in fact, the Fourth Branch of government). The Hatch Act doesn’t apply to you. Unless you’re on the clock, your boss’s concerns aren’t exactly binding. Go see the damn concert.

I’ve just spent 15 minutes trying to find a cite for this, and I failed. I thought I heard this on Public Radio news this morning.

Didn’t a court just rule that a company was within it’s rights to fire one of it’s employees for shouting questions at President Bush during a gathering? The company stated that this reflected badly on the employer. The courts ruled that the constitution prevented the government from restricting speech, but not private companies.

I think it would depend on the state you live in. Here in Indiana, it’s an “at-will” state - meaning companies employ you at will. Therefore, they can fire you for just about any reason at all (save the typical gender, race, age, religion, etc. reasons).

That’s exactly what the NPR report said. In ‘at will’ states, the employer can fire you for supporting a candidate on your own time. Or for liking REM. Or for ordering strawberry ice cream.