This week Eyewitness News 4 (NBC) broke a story about a family who claims a Santa Fe suicide is the result of workplace bullying. I’m not writing about whether that claim is true or not – both sides haven’t been heard yet and none of us know. This is about how the media and advocates often frame these stories. In 2010, I interviewed Ed Wasserman about the way journalists cover suicide for my documentary, What Killed Kevin? which is about the tragic suicide of Kevin Morrissey. Kevin’s death turned out to be the pivotal event that turned workplace bullying into a ‘hot topic.’ Wasserman is the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University and he addressed this case in his bi-weekly column for the Miami Herald.
The Workplace Bullying Institute’s blog blasted Wasserman accusing him of “trivializing” Morrissey’s suicide and that “Wasserman’s denial of the reality that bullying could drive a person to suicide seems indefensible.” But, Wasserman says he never denied that a person could be driven to suicide — he was questioning the link in this situation and the rush to coverage by the media. These interviews show that, far from trivializing workplace bullying, Wasserman takes the topic very seriously and feels the media doesn’t dig into the story deeply enough. He argues that the way the story is framed by the media hurts the possibility of a real dialog that would help bring about change. Watch these two clips and decide for yourself.
(Note: the interactive web version of this documentary will soon be available to the public and allow site visitors to hunt through the interviews and clues to decide for themselves, What Killed Kevin? and join the dialog about how best to prevent and address workplace bullying.)
Within weeks of Kevin Morrissey’s suicide, advocates and journalists quickly pinned the “bully” label on his boss, Ted Genoways. The story went viral and turned workplace bullying into a hot topic with Kevin the “poster child” for the Workplace Bullying Institute’s legislation. But, was Ted really a bully? And, who should decide? This provocative film, What Killed Kevin?, challenges common misconceptions and forces the viewer to decide for themselves. Featured are Ted Genoways, Kevin’s co-worker Waldo Jaquith, Kevin’s sister Maria, journalist Dave McNair and advocates for the Healthy Workplace Bill. What Killed Kevin? is currently available for purchase by public and university libraries for educational use. Here’s more information:
Here’s one of the short documentaries from our site that features Marlene Braun. “What began as a policy dispute — to graze or not to graze livestock on the fragile Carrizo grasslands — became a morass of environmental politics and office feuding that Braun was convinced threatened both her future and the landscape she loved.” LA Times, August 20, 2005″ Continue reading →
[This article was published in May 2012. See our recent posts below]
Two weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article, “Documentary faults ‘bully’ label in U-Va. suicide,” about my film, WHAT KILLED KEVIN. Shortly after the reporter amended the actual article to include allegations from Waldo Jaquith, who is featured in the documentary, that I had “cherry picked” my interview with him to fit my “agenda.” [Note: Jaquith has never seen the film and you can see his video clip and my agenda below] In an unusual move the editors of the Washington Post have since removed all of his allegations and restored the article to its original form with a notice at the top apologizing for their editorial “lapse.” Why the controversy? My film dares to take a neutral stance in exploring the incident that put the term “workplace bullying” on the map by allowing the alleged bully to tell their side of the story. Within weeks of Kevin Morrissey’s suicide, Waldo was featured in a report by the Today Show that linked Kevin’s death to actions by his “bully boss,” Ted Genoways. As the WaPo states: “eventually the case was embraced as a textbook example of a manager’s verbal and psychological abuse of an employee. That reading is far too simple, argues Beverly Peterson… The film ultimately portrays Genoways as a victim — of overhyped reporting, and of exploitation by advocates of workplace-bullying legislation, who have used the case as a national exemplar.
Shortly after his death, Kevin Morrissey became the “poster child” for advocates of the Workplace Bullying Institute’s Healthy Workplace Bill. So, it’s curious to see how unusually quiet they’ve been about the announcement of Ted Genoways’ resignation from VQR. In less than a week the news of Ted’s resignation generated roughly 20 google pages of articles.
Nearly two years after the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review killed himself following complaints he made about his boss, Ted Genoways, Mr. Genoways has announced that he is stepping down as editor of the award-winning literary journal. – [Chronicle of Higher Education, April 4, 2012 Robin Wilson]
This weekend I finally finished editing the long version of my documentary about the aftermath of Kevin’s suicide. It’s a revealing portrait of today’s workplace bullying movement, the lack of depth in media coverage about the topic, and a cautionary tale about the complexity of our office relationships.
The final film (hat tip consulting editor Pam Arnold) is exactly what I promised everyone who agreed to take part – a chance to tell the story from their individual perspectives. And, for the first time the POV of the alleged bully is included. The result underscores the urgent need to embrace new approaches to this topic. The long awaited web version has taken an exciting turn and will soon enter the web design and coding phase that will make it a truly interactive experience. Now it’s time to turn to the interactive version.