The Insider Analysis – Team 22

Hi Team #22,  Good organization of post. Excellent writing style, very good images, clear analysis and structure of answers, excellent points throughout the essay. Clear, persuasive arguments. All in all very well-done! I don’t know exactly who is responsible for which portions of this assignment so I am giving all the same grade. I hope you worked well together and found this experience a positive one.


How We Know What We Know

Spring 2019


Group 22

Writer, Editor: Ursula Muñoz

Writer: Andrea Vacca

Writer: Chabelis Leal

Writer: Paula Rivera

Writer: Gabriella Gabino

Writer: Emily Bustamante

1. The mainstream media often face enormous challenges in trying to give audiences an accurate picture of the world. For individual journalists, there are extraordinary pressures and obstacles to getting at the truth and telling the stories audiences want and need. You may select Jeffrey Wigand, 60 Minutes host Mike Wallace, producer Lowell Bergman, executive producer Don Hewitt, the Wall Street Journal editor who helped stop the smear or the NY Times reporter who exposed the inside story on how CBS handled the Wigand affair. Your essay should focus on how the principles and values of concealment and revelation apply to the tobacco case or the case at CBS News. 500 words.

The principles and values of concealment and revelation apply heavily to the tobacco case. Brown and Williamson (B&W) had a non-disclosure agreement with Jeffrey Wigand which impeded him from providing information that was confidential to them. Unfortunately, there is a hidden story to be told here, as Dr. Wigand experienced personal and institutional pressures. Under such circumstances, what we hide and what is hidden from us is concealed, kept as a secret so that the public never finds out. This is exactly what B&W did to Wigand’s  story, and it violated the ethics of concealment. The revelation of this information was to bring to light the tobacco tampering that B&W committed, but the company disguised the facts and decided to keep them from seeing the light of day, leading them to commit deceit among their many wrongful actions. As CBS general counsel Helen Caperelli says in the film, “The bigger the truth, the bigger the damage”. B&W’s motive and their reason to conceal the information Dr. Wigand had to tell the world didn’t justify their actions in stifling this information. It was highly unethical and unprofessional on their behalf.

Another important principle that is shown throughout the movie is revelation. This took a major role in the tobacco cover up and the journalistic ethics seen towards the end of the movie. An act of revelation represents honesty in one’s character as the divine truth is being communicated. In The Insider, we see how Wigand is conflicted by the principles and values of revelation as he acknowledges his possession of important information dealing with the tobacco industry that may lead the company to a possible lawsuit. By exposing the long-tissue of lies from B&W laboratories to a mass audience, Wigand was afraid of the actions the company may have against him. However, upon the company threatening him to lose his job and take all benefits away from his family, he felt that he had nothing more to lose. It was then known that the presidents of seven cigarette companies had denied under oath before congress that the nicotine in the tobacco was addictive and that other additives were used to make it even more addictive. Although Wigand did sign a confidentiality agreement with B&W, he felt that he was not being disloyal to the company,but rather to  but people as since they were the ones who were dying because of the consumption of tobacco. By exposing the misleading information the company was giving and how they ignored the health concerns caused by tobacco, Wigand felt a sense of loyalty in taking ethical responsibility in protecting those that would consume these products. Despite knowing that the more truthful his statements were, the more damaging they would be in a lawsuit, Wigman chose to be sincere. Therefore, through Wigand’s acts of integrity and courage in revealing these truths we can see how highly he values the principles of revelation in his character. (good!)

(start at 1:48:00, end at 1:51:00)

2. How does Jeffrey Wigand’s non-disclosure agreement (NDA) affect the flow of information in The Insider? What legitimate argument, if any, could Brown and Williamson (B&W) make in support of the agreement? What NDAs have recently been used in the public sector? Using the critical perspective, what are the implications of NDAs for government employees? 300 words.

Jeffrey Wigand’s non-disclosure agreement affected the flow of information throughout the entire film. At the beginning of The Insider Dr. Wigand is troubled between doing what he believes is ethical versus doing what the law requires him to. The non-disclosure agreement Jeffrey Wigand signed with B&W prohibits him from disclosing information he acquired while working for the company. Ultimately, Jeffrey decides to give Mike Wallace the interview. By doing the interview he would be informing millions of people that executives at B&W knowingly approved the addition of chemicals to their cigarettes that were known to be addictive and could cause cancer.

Although Jeffrey sat down with Wallace and gave 60 Minutes the exclusive, CBS corporation decided not to air the complete interview. CBS was afraid of a possible multibillion-dollar lawsuit from B&W for interviewing a source with a non-disclosure agreement. Wigand was the vice president of research and development at Brown & Williamson which most likely meant he knew how their cigarettes were manufactured. B&W could argue that Jeffrey knew how their cigarettes were produced which is why they required him to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

In October of 2017 The New York Times reported that dozens of women accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse over the period of 30 years. Many other women who were also abused by Weinstein were afraid to come forward because of the legal repercussions they might face since many of them had signed NDAs. In March of 2018 The Weinstein Co. canceled all NDAs that Harvey Weinstein had with the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct allowing them to speak freely and share their stories.

A non-disclosure agreement signed by a government employee will most likely not hold up in court as most things the government does is public information. Moreover, federal employees have free speech and whistleblower rights. Critical perspective as described by the Frankfurt school “seeks human emancipation from slavery, acts as a liberating influence, and works to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers of human beings”. Using the critical perspective government employees have a moral responsibility to let the public know if there is illegal or unethical coercion within the government, despite having signed a non disclosure agreement. As seen in The Insider, whistleblowers often face retaliation from the organization they are exposing yet they feel as if they have a moral responsibility to inform the public of illegal or unethical actions.


3. John Scanlon and Terry Lenzner were hired by B&W to attack Wigand’s reputation. Jack Palladino and his team of investigators were hired by Richard Scruggs to counter their allegations. Using McLuhan as a lens, analyze the forms of media used by both Scanlon/Lenzner and Palladino. If this war over Wigand’s reputation had occurred in 2019, would today’s media have made things different? If so, how? 300 words.

“They are gonna look under every rock, dig up every flaw, every mistake you’ve ever made,” Lowell tells Wigand in The Insider. “They are going to distort and exaggerate everything you’ve ever done.” Using media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message” theory, we can assert that B&W benefitted from cable news’ exploited coverage of Wigand’s personal life, as television and its news channels’ extensive reach and credibility provided ethos to Scanlon and Lenzner’s smear campaign. What goes around comes back around however, as Palladino’s cooperation with 60 Minutes’ Lowell Bergman led to the famous Wall Street Journal news story that eventually gave Jeffrey Wigand credibility over B&W. In similar fashion, the Wall Street Journal’s reputation as one of the most credible newspapers made the message stronger and added ethos to Palladino’s argument.

Funnily enough, the way that social media being such a predominant part of our lives today, tells us that a smear campaign like this would probably wind up being a whole lot more successful in 2019. The flow of information caused by the stream of social media and news sites would be at B&W’s disposal to further get the word out about Wigand’s wrongdoings.

A couple of years ago, Facebook videos surfaced of United Airlines passenger Dr. David Dao being violently dragged off an overbooked flight. Everyone seemed to be on the doctor’s side until deeply personal details of his private life—from felony charges to engagement in prostitution—were uncovered. Through Reddit forums and Twitter debates, people went from defending him to arguing whether or not he had it coming, all because he was now less sympathetic.

Though not a whistleblower, the case of Dr. Dao shows how quickly an online smear campaign will damage the victim’s credibility and distract the public from the issues at hand—in this case, American Airlines abusing its passengers. Scanlon’s findings of “shoplifting” and spousal “abuse” would have fared the same way in an online trial of public opinion, making it more difficult for Palladino to combat the dossier in court even though it was reportedly exaggerated and misleading.


4. In the film, Bergman, Wallace, and Hewitt attend a meeting with CBS Corporate.  CBS general counsel Helen Caperelli informs them of “tortious interference” and its implications for the 60 Minutes Wigand piece. Provide a detailed analysis of the rhetoric used by the participants in the meeting. For each speaker, who is their intended audience, and how do they use the modes of rhetoric? 300 words.

In this particular scene of the film CBS general counsel, Helen Caperelli, has a different perspective than that of Bergman, Wallace, and Hewitt. Her intended audience is the three gentlemen and anyone who is a part of their 60 Minutes team, and she uses logos to support her argument on why they have to be cautious with airing this segment. Her argument is very logical from the start and she gives a through explanation of the legality of it all. Her character uses exposition by explaining in detail what tortious interference means and by analyzing what could potentially happen to CBS if they do get sued.  

The character of Bergman uses argumentation towards his intended audience, Caperelli and anyone involved at CBS, by justifying why they can air the segment. He says, “It happens all the time. People are always telling us things they shouldn’t.” Although it is a weak argument, it’s still worthy of analysis because of how he is trying to get his point across to CBS corporate and prove that the segment should be aired. He supports his argument with pathos, as he is very emotional and passionate about this segment. There is anger and frustration in his tone when talking back to Caperelli, such as when he sarcastically quips “Is this Alice in Wonderland?” upon her descriptions of the hypothetical growth and reduction of damage depending on how true Wigand’s statements are

Wallace is very sure that they will get their way and that their segment will be allowed to be aired, so his character also argues against Caperelli. He has the same perspective as Bergman and argues the same point—as long as the information is true there should be no legal issues airing the episode, segment included. Wallace supports his argument with logos, explaining that at 60 Minutes they always corroborate their information and run a “classy show.” This can be seen as logos because logically if the story is corroborated then the information being said is true, therefore there should be no issue airing the segment, as well as ethos because it speaks to the credibility of 60 Minutes.


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