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By James F. Bracher
Architect for the renewal of integrity-centered leadership

on KRML Radio - Carmel, California, April 23, 2005

Radio host Mike Jacobi and James Bracher

KRML radio host Mike Jacobi invited Jim Bracher to discuss integrity-centered leadership and how our society has drifted from constructive values to actions and behaviors that erode trust and confidence. Mr. Jacobi referenced Integrity Matters (by Jim Bracher and Dan Halloran) and wanted to know if publishing the book had made a difference in Jim's management consulting business and his personal life.

Writing Integrity Matters has become a daily reminder, Jim explained, about more effective ways to conduct oneself, personally and professionally. The Eight Attributes© upon which the book was written are character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness. Articulating and discussing these constructive ideals does have an impact. To announce their importance means that those who write and speak about appropriate behaviors are obligated to model them.

Mike wanted to know how Jim prepares for the writing of his weekly newspaper column, also titled: Integrity Matters. Jim responded that the questions (and the responses) are all around us all the time. He then mentioned that to get ready for the KRML interview, Jim awakened and was watching the movie, Lean on Me about Joe Clark the high school principal-educator who found himself, and his team, cleaning up and then re-inventing a troubled high school in Paterson, New Jersey. At one point in the movie Principal Clark (portrayed by Academy Award winner, Mr. Morgan Freeman) said," discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm". This statement challenged Jim to be really clear that "boredom is not the enemy of integrity, nor an excuse to cut corners simply because it becomes tedious or demanding to maintain high standards." Friends and readers let Jim know of their integrity concerns and they often suggest books, stories, movies, music and other people who might offer constructive responses to challenging questions.

Jacobi wanted to know about the content for Jim's next column. Jim discussed a recent Integrity Matters newspaper column about the awful and sickening story about the alleged finger in the bowl of Wendy's chili and the woman who was creating a firestorm. Jim spoke with some friends who work in the TV, radio and print media. He wanted to find out if his thinking about the issue was thorough. Jim learned that when the media shines the spotlight on an issue the truth is often found. It is not always about sensationalism, sometimes it is about perseverance and fact-finding. In the Wendy's story, the media were powerful partners with the police in the search for truth.

Jacobi wanted to know how Jim assessed news programs and reporting. Jim discussed information he had gathered regarding the news that is important and essential. Over and over, Jim mentions that real news according to journalist-historian Richard Reeves is "the news you and I need to keep our freedoms." Unfortunately, much of what gets reported to us is not real news, it has to do with entertaining us and keeping us amused but not informed. Even though Jim did not mention this level of detail about real news, here are a few excerpts from a speech by Bill Moyers that may shed light on our challenges.

In a keynote speech at the National Conference on Media Reform, Moyers offered the following three quotable and important insights followed by my own commentary, presented in red:

"Free and responsible government by popular consent just can't exist without an informed public."

My observation is that a growing number of people won't seek information that might challenge their opinions. Associating only with those who are like-minded can lead to a drifting toward ignorance and even irresponsible actions. This is no way to sustain and strengthen any form of free government, most especially a democracy.

"The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it."

Most of us recall the wisdom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The challenge for those who would accept social and journalistic responsibilities is to fulfill a dual role: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When the press is free to provide each service, society is stronger, which means our freedoms are safer.

"If free and independent journalism committed to tell the truth without fear or favor is suffocated, the oxygen goes out of democracy."

One of the mysteries of a democracy and a free press is that they can exist, often at odds, without seeking the destruction of the other. The integrity of our system (economic, political and cultural) depends upon our ability, and freedom, to disagree without being disagreeable.

"Real news" reporting is always about integrity, intelligence and courage. Integrity provides the platform for truth seeking. Intelligence builds the road to insightful, accurate and thorough research. Courage is a timeless quality and becomes all the more important when the government or any other institution of power and control is tempted to suggest the legitimacy of censorship.

Demand the real news -- the news you and I need to keep our freedoms. It is important, always has been and it always will be.

Jacobi then asked Jim, "Where has the media let us down?" Jim mentioned that the media had gotten caught up with a focus, in too many instances, with sensational stories about celebrity trials, murders, sexual and child abuses, dressing inappropriately, reporting on those who gain fame by blasting foul language and using drugs. Stories such as these may be interesting but not necessarily important. Crime stories appear to have become the "news of choice" of those who might be described as having an ambulance chasing mentality. We need a thoughtful press hard at work protecting freedom of speech. Jim mentioned that constructive role models are all around us and they need to be recognized, respected and rewarded. It is time for news organizations to let go of the sensational and focus on the substantive. Honoring and celebrating stewards of culture is an important way to pass along wholesome values and increase trust and confidence in the system we need to sustain our society. As we know, integrity matters, all the time.