Death at McDonalds, Ethical Miscues
Part 1: When McDonald’s Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Cantalupo died suddenly on Monday of a heart attack, the Drudge Report gave the story a headline. It also accompanied the story with a photo of assorted McDonald’s fast food you know, the kind that causes your arteries to gum up if you eat them too often. Maybe ol’ Matt is on a health kick, and maybe he was just feeling snarky, but this was an inexcusably nasty way of reporting a tragedy to Catalupo’s real and corporate family while taking a cheap shot at McDonald’s products. Ethics Scoreboard doesn’t hold Drudge to particularly high ethical standards, as his web page’s very function precludes some of the basic of journalistic ethics (not that mainstream journalists do much better.) But here he is mixing news with satire, social commentary, or just mean-spiritedness without warning or cause. There is no reason to believe that Catalupo’s demise was caused by the food his company sold, and to imply so, slyly, or even with humorous intent, while announcing his death is to cause pain just for the fun of it. That’s unethical, Matt.
Part 2: McDonald’s reacted to the death in a more dignified way: it ran full page ads around in newspapers across the country with the picture of a Ronald McDonald shedding a tear, and the legend, in small print, “We miss you, Jim.” Very nice. Also completely obscure to about 99% of the newspaper’s readers, and a complete waste of corporate funds. Spend the money to establish a scholarship; spend the money to support heart research; spend the money to buy lunches for poor kids there are a million options. Spend the money to lower prices for a day. Using corporate funds to express company grief in public epitomizes the ethical myopia that infects so much of the private sector. The expenditure served neither advertising nor public relations objectives. It was nothing more or less than an extravagant use of public media for internal communications, and, of course, the consumer will foot the bill for it, one way or another. From what we have read about Mr. Cantalupo, it is likely that he would have recognized the ad for what it was: wasteful and wrong.
McDonald’s misses you, Jim.