Tim Cook’s sexuality

31 Aug

Good morning,

In class yesterday, we discussed the debate over whether or not to note  Tim Cook’s sexuality in news stories about Apple’s new CEO. Within media circles there is no consensus. Some argue that noting Cook is gay helps counter harmful stereotypes, attacks whatever stigma remains for gay men in the business world and provides news consumers with a complete portrait of one of the world’s most important executives.

Here is Reuters blogger Felix Salmon’s take on the issue.

Others argue Cook’s sexuality has no bearing on his performance as Apple CEO, that Cook himself has been reluctant to talk about his sexuality and that continuing to focus on sexual identification issues, in fact,  perpetuates stereotypes.

In developing a media ethics case study out of the Cook controversy, we have to begin by identifying the central question. There are any number of ways to frame the question and context does matter. Noting Cook’s sexuality in a profile presents the issue in a somewhat different light than arguing it is relevant in a news story about Apple earnings.

For purposes of the classroom blog, this is our central question: Should journalists report Tim Cook’s sexuality in stories about his leadership of Apple? Note the question encompasses all sorts of stories, from news briefs to feature profiles. So response to the question has to address context.

In class, we would boil this question down to a conflict of values.

As a journalist I might believe and argue that individuals, even powerful executives, are entitled to some privacy in their personal lives. But I also might believe (and hold the value) that news consumers deserve to know all the relevant facts of a story, that I am obligated to tell people what I know when I know it.

How we resolve this values conflict leads us to an answer to the question that is ethically defensible.

So, JAMM 341 students, weigh in. Consider how you might answer the question as an individual based on your personal values and beliefs vs. how you might answer as a journalist, obligated to accept the values of the profession. Do you come to a different answer?




12 Responses to “Tim Cook’s sexuality”

  1. kise5805 August 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    I’ll have to admit, this is a tough one — I’m a little on the fence about it. And judging by all the comments Reuters blogger Felix Salmon received, this is definitely something that needs to be discussed.

    Like Steve said, context definitely does matter here. The fact that Cook is gay makes him who he is as a person, but does not affect his ability to be a top businessman or CEO. On that note, reporting about Cook’s sexuality in a personality profile — or something of that nature — would make sense. However, reporting about it in an article about Apple’s performance as a company would not make sense. This is all, of course, based on my personal values and beliefs.

    From a journalistic standpoint though, I somewhat agree with Salmon. Sure, consumers deserve to know all the facts to a story. Sure, we might be perpetuating stigmas and stereotypes associated with being gay by not reporting about Cook’s sexuality.

    As journalists, that’s all we should do — report it — and move on. To be completely honest, being gay isn’t THAT big of a deal anymore. With the growth of my generation and as time progresses, I think it’s become more and more acceptable. It’s great that Cook is “the most powerful gay man in the world,” and he deserves some recognition for that. There’s only so much you can say about a person being gay though. Just like there’s only so much you can say about a person being black, or married.

    Cook is not over-the-top open about his sexuality, and until he is, I don’t think we should be over-the-top about reporting it.

  2. jcorona0108 August 31, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    I again happen to agree with Britt Kiser. I think that the fact that Cook is gay should not and does not in any way shape or form affect the way Apple functions. I don’t think that journalist need to report on the fact that he is gay and how the company is doing it has not correlation. On the other hand, as journalist we do have to report things, whether they are good or bad. I think that is our job, but like it was mentioned before we should just do that , report that fact that he is in fact is a “gay” man running a multi-million dollar company. But that is all we should report, there is no need for journalist to included personal facts or sexual behaviors. That is his personal life and if he is not making it public then neither should we. If we went out of his way and exposed these behaviors then sure right about but if he is keeping to himself them we should respect that. I guess I am just going off my personal believes and attitude towards the whole thing. I am a strong believer and that everyone deserves the right to privacy. No matter who you are, and if you choose to keep it that way, then is should stay that way. But if you let it known, or you record something and it leeks out and I believe it is fair game, But regardless of your sexuality, we all should be held to the same standards.

  3. bradleyneal August 31, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I think it was also be strange for a reporter to mention Cook’s sexuality. However, if maybe the journalist put it in a section of the article that gave a little bit of personal background it might make sense, but if the reporter randomly just threw a sentence in the story that just mentioned his sexuality then it would be a poor choice for that reporter.

    In the end though if it was reported, and Cook had already admitted his sexuality, then in this case it would be appropriate to mention his sexuality in an appropriate type of article because Cook is a public figure.


  4. lucia1025 August 31, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    Lucia Sanchez

    Based on my own personal beliefs: Tim’s sexuality has nothing to do with his work ethic. What he does in his personal life is his own business and if he doesn’t want to share it with the rest of the world he shouldn’t have to. Although it may give props to the gay community no one should be forced to talk about their personal life if they don’t want to. As a journalist based on my own ethics I wouldn’t call Tim out on his sexuality.

    Based on a journalist point of view: Tim is considered a public figure whether he likes it or not. If I was asked to write a story about his sexuality I would. Although this goes against my personal ethics, Tim should know what he got himself into, and should therefore expect that the media is going to ask about his sexuality not only because his is a powerful gay man, but because it is interesting to the public.

  5. brandoncary23 August 31, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    I agree with a couple of the above posts. I think it depends what the story is about though. If the paper is doing a personality peice on Tim Cook then mentioning the fact he is gay is relevent. Describing his at home life and things he enjoys doing will probably include his significant other so just because he is gay doesnt mean those things shouldnt be mentioned. I feel like that would be just as offensive if they treated his personal life like it is some kind of taboo just because he is in fact gay. On the other hand, I think if the story is about apple and what to expect with the new CEO, his sexuality shouldnt have much to do with it and is irrelevent.

  6. Amelia Poole September 1, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    The sexuality of Tim Cook is a slippery slope. I think it is a great thing that Cook is a gay man who is now in charge of one of the most powerful companies. Thinking about last year with all of the suicides of the young gay teens and children. It sends a really powerful message to them that it does get better and they can become something as well. But then again Cook’s sexuality has nothing to do with him as a business man. But I believe the good of the young gay community can know about life begins after high school.

  7. Shandy Lam September 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Tim Cook’s sexuality or personal life should be handled just like any other persons. It should only be relevant if a story is being written about his personal life. This should not be hidden or unveiled on any level that would be different than a straight person. If we were writing a story and would mention a straight person’s significant other, we should do the same here. This should not be given any special treatment, whether that is sweeping it under the rug or writing a piece about his sexuality. It is not our job to spread gay pride, no matter what we believe in… it is our job to report the facts. If at any time his sexuality begins effecting his ability to do his job or makes the company millions, we can write a story.

  8. katysword September 1, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    I have to agree with most of the other postings. Cook’s sexuality is not something that needs to discussed. While he may be a public figure, we do not announce that people are straight, being gay should be no different. His sexuality might be something of controversy, but it should not matter. If he wants to let the world know he is gay, then it is his right to do so. But no matter how much of a public figure he is, it is not something pertinent to the public and does not need to be reported.

  9. Elena Harrington-- Media Relations September 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    When a company as well-known and successful as Apple changes its CEO, it is public interest to know all about the change. However, it seems someone’s work ethic and experience ought to trump any aspects of their personal life, regardless of the traditional basis of these aspects or lack thereof—if only we lived in a world where people in the eye of the public were truly able to keep their private lives private. But, we do not.
    Instead, we are immersed in a world where, due to extensive media coverage, very little can be hidden when it comes to those submersed in the world of public opinion. So, Tim Cook is gay—should that fact be shared or highlighted while reporting on his newly acquired position? That depends.
    It is mainly dependent, in my opinion, on what exactly the story in question is about. If it is a personal profile and extensive look into the life of Cook, it ought to be mentioned. However, if it is a news story solely highlighting Cook’s educational and professional achievements qualifying him for the takeover of Apple, it seems a mention of his sexual orientation would be unrelated and unnecessary.
    My opinion of sharing the sexual orientation of Cook is largely contingent upon the nature of the story. His sexuality should be treated as a CEO with a spouse and kids—if those details would be shared, Cook’s sexuality is also allowed a mention, I’d say.

  10. rachellane9 September 2, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I honestly believe that the sexuality of the CEO of apple has nothing to do with the job that he’s doing or has any relation to him not working there anymore. I think that this is something that doesnt necessarily need to be confidential but doesnt need to be something that is brought up in the story covering him. I feel like this topic is touchy because there are people out there that dont agree with this subject and I can only see it causing controversy. Now, I know that no matter what there are always going to be people that dont agree with what is written but I just cant see the point in publishing his sexual orientation especially since he isnt denying his sexuality.
    On the other hand I also find myself agreeing with the fact that if his sexuality is put into the story it could gihelp tear away the stigma about gay men in the business world.

  11. jacobthedyer September 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    My thought on this subject is, “Where is the real conflict?” If you were writing this story, would it be that his sexuality is going to be an internal conflict? Is Cook fighting with his own sexuality? Clearly not…are there other employees who are making a fuss about it? Maybe, but apparently not on a large level.
    While you could find groups outside of the company who would complain…I am sure we could all come up with a few…how relevant would they be to the story and more important to Apple? Without conflict there just doesn’t seem to be a real story here, unless like previously stated, it depends on what kind of story this is.

  12. sarahyama September 15, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Well, there will be people that say the fact he is gay doesn’t matter. There will be some who say that this is a victory for people within the gay community. The fact is, the guy really doesn’t want to talk about his sexuality. Now, I would say a quick blurb would suffice. Now, if he felt open to talkign about his sexuality and maybe the trials and tribulations he went through to get there as a gay man (if any actually existed) then great. Let’s write the story. Why make it a big deal if he doesn’t feel that it is something he really even wants to talk about.

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