Media Ethics and the Fourth Commandment. The Case of Robert Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania State Treasurer. Dear God, who always watches over us like a parent, may our communities be places of charity and harmony .
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The Case of Robert Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania State Treasurer
Dear God, who always watches over us like a parent, may our communities be places of charity and harmony.
May you inspire us to make our contributions to family, media, ethics and morality both loving and just, guided always by mutual respect. AMEN.Opening Prayer
“Mother Church knows that if [means of mass communication] are properly used, they can be of considerable benefit to humanity…
During the early 1980s, Pennsylvania state employees overpaid millions of dollars in Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes.
The firm that won the contract, Computer Technology Associates, was owned by a man named John Torquato, Jr.
R. (Robert) Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania State Treasurer, was charged as part of a conspiracy to defraud the state and accepting an illegal bribe of $300,000.
In December 1986, Dwyer was found guilty on all charges, but continued to profess his innocence.
On January 22, 1987, the day before his sentencing, Dwyer called a press conference to “provide an update on the situation.”
Five major Pennsylvania television stations decided to cover the press conference live.
“I thank the good Lord for giving me 49 years of invigorating challenges, stimulating experiences, many happy occasions, and, most of all, the finest wife and children any man could ever desire…
“Since I'm a victim of political persecution, my prison would simply be an American gulag…
After reading his statement, Dwyer takes what seems to be a lengthy natural pause.
After handing out the three envelopes, Dwyer opened a fourth, manila envelope and withdrew a .357 Magnum revolver.
The video listed below is a broadcast from the point when Dwyer begins handing out the envelopes…
You are working at a local television station in Philadelphia on January 22, 1987.
All television stations in Pennsylvania aired some taped footage of Dwyer's suicide, but in three different ways:
WPVI in Philadelphia chose to re-broadcast the suicide footage in fullon their 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm Action News broadcasts…
WITHOUT A WARNING TO VIEWERS.
The broadcast of the shooting became a topic for educators and led to questioning the wisdom of airing live news broadcasts in settings with schoolchildren in the audience.
Budd Dwyer never finished reading his statement, committing suicide before explaining why he was committing suicide.
“To those of you who are shallow, the events of this morning will be that story…
“Please tell my story on every radio and television station and in every newspaper and magazine in the U.S…
Perhaps the main reason Dwyer committed suicide was one not mentioned in his statement.