Rob Vaughn Delivers Keynote Address at Annual Ethics Bowl

by Janelle Hill | May 01, 2017


 How does the news business navigate ethical challenges, especially in today’s political climate? Rob Vaughn (above), longtime anchor at 69 News, shed light on the subject while delivering the keynote address at The Fleming Institute for Business Ethics competition at DeSales University.

“When it comes to issues of ethics and integrity, there are some assumptions that are always percolating in the back of what we do,” said Vaughn. He pointed to such hallmarks as the pursuit of truth, accuracy, transparency, and honesty.

Vaughn also discussed the complexities of social media for those in the news industry. Companies, like his, encourage personal interaction with viewers, but there’s a fine line to what those in the business can and cannot post. Vaughn does talk about personal things, like his family or favorite foods, on his Facebook page, but he avoids anything controversial, such as politics.

Fairness is another issue news stations face every day. While Vaughn admits to getting flak from some viewers, he says he strives to give everyone a fair shake. “I have always had a personal goal that viewers cannot discern from my stories what my personal view on the story is.”

He also challenged students to think about their own ethical decision making and what it’s founded on. “We all trace our own personal ethical commitments back to something. What's the source of your personal ethical system?” he asked. 

Students competing in the Ethics Bowl had to tap into those personal ethical systems. They played the role of CEO of a rapidly growing online auto insurance company, and had to decide whether to submit a bid for 13,000 driverless cabs knowing that the number of driving-related deaths would increase during the first few years. 

All eight teams presented their cases in the preliminary round and the judges selected four finalists. Then came the twist. “The twist deemed that the self- driving cars were the way of the future and we had to decide if we wanted to implement a new ethical framework that put an emphasis on the people inside of the vehicles – protecting them first instead of society first,” said Sean Palen ’17, a finance and accounting major on Team B from DeSales.

Team B came in fourth place, winning a trophy and prize of $500; Team F from Penn State Berks came in third place, also winning a trophy and prize of $500; Team G from Penn State Lehigh Valley came in second place, taking home a trophy and prize of $1,500; and Team D from Lafayette College walked away as first-place finishers with a trophy and grand prize of $2,500.

“It's a good day; it's a positive day,” said Martin Brett, associate professor of sport management and co-chair of the competition. “I always leave saying I wish we could get more students to have this experience, and I think everybody feels that way.”

Richard Fleming and his family foundation established The Fleming Institute for Business Ethics in 2009 with a goal to promote a culture of ethical awareness and action in business professions through the collaborative efforts of corporate and educational groups. The work of the institute is administered by the DeSales University Division of Business, in collaboration with the Salesian Center for Faith & Culture.

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