January 18, 2016 – Robert J. Tamasy
When an international media corporation acquired the community newspaper where I worked as editor, I was given additional responsibilities as publisher, succeeding the former owner who had left the company. In this expanded role I not only had oversight for the editorial operations of the newspaper, but also was required to interface with advertisers and the staff that operated our printing press.
In the printing business, presses are costly capital investments, so to maintain profitability they must be kept in use as much as possible. For when our newspapers were not being printed, the company would seek printing contracts for other publications to ensure our press and the pressmen remained busy.
My role was not to solicit outside printing projects or to oversee them, but the press operators would keep me informed about what they were working on. One afternoon a pressman came into my office and showed me a periodical that was being printed. “Have you seen this?” he asked. Looking through it, I could see the content of this publication was unlike anything we had done before and did not align with the values of the small community where our business had been held in high esteem over the years.
My first thought, knowing how word quickly spreads in a small, everyone-knows-everyone community like ours, was how residents, civic leaders and our loyal advertisers would respond if they discovered such a project was being produced. My second thought was that the message of this publication conflicted with my personal values as well.
“Well, what do you think?” the press foreman asked, obviously uncomfortable with the content of the publication he was required to print. I knew something needed to be done. But what? It was not my responsibility to judge the content of materials printed on our local press; my job was to make sure the work was completed to the satisfaction of the customer.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
- Have you ever been confronted with an issue at work that conflicted with your personal values or beliefs? If so, what was that situation – and how did you respond?
- How should we weigh personal and even community values against the practical importance for a business to make a profit?
- What would you have done if you had been in this situation?