Tell the tale, even if it is complicated, author and Fortune magazine’s editor at large Peter Elkind said to a group of business, journalism and strategic communication students Tuesday.
Elkind spoke with students about his experiences reporting on the Enron Corporation scandal and Steve Jobs’ role with Apple.
“People are flawed and scandals are complex,” Elkind said. “Emotions and personalities define success and conflict stories, and in those stories, it is not just about the numbers.”
During the presentation, Elkind also spoke about how to identify unethical situations, drawing on his experience covering the Enron scandal.
“Enron remains today’s shorthand for corporate business scandal and evil,” Elkind said.
Warning signs for unethical situations included things that were too good to be true and hard to explain by executives, he said.
Students from the media ethics classes had watched a documentary based on Elkind’s book “The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron,” prior to his visit, Jacqueline Lambiase, an associate professor of journalism, said.
Lambiase said she wanted to give students exposure to ethical dilemmas that existed inside corporations.
The story of Enron was historic, and students needed to learn lessons from it, she said.
Lennesha Morgan, a junior accounting major, said the presentation reinforced the importance of honesty in one’s career.
Another story Elkind reported on involving Steve Jobs also raised questions about business ethics and journalism, he said.
“People considered Steve Jobs the Thomas Edison of our time and he is responsible for Apple’s success,” Elkind said. “But employees thought he was controlling.”
Elkind said he did not get an interview with Steve Jobs at first, because Jobs only talked to a select group of reporters he trusted.
Jobs’ control of information created a controversial situation when he did not inform investors of his health, Elkind said.
Junior accounting and Spanish double major Heather Martin said she was surprised a demanding person like Steve Jobs was able to lead a successful company.
She was most interested during that part of the presentation and attended the event as extra credit for her business ethics class, she said.
The Neeley School of Business and the Schieffer School of Journalism benefitted from the event, Karen Blumenthal, a financial journalist for The Wall Street Journal and an adjunct journalism professor at the university, said.
Since both classes watched the documentary based on Elkind’s book, it was a great opportunity to have him speak, Blumenthal said.
Fifty students listened to Elkind in the media ethics classes in a casual, lecture hall setting. Elkind also spoke to two Schieffer School business journalism classes earlier Tuesday morning.