“Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” (Potter Box)

This past week, we studied the Potter Box Theory.   Created by Ralph Potter, a Harvard Theologian, the Potter Box Theory helps one make an ethical judgement through a four step process.

  1. Understand the Facts of the Case
  2. Outlining the Values
  3. Applying the Philosophical Principles
  4. Articulating the Loyalties

The case I studied was 4-B “Where Everybody Knows Your Name:Reporting and Relationships in a Small Market.”

In my opinion this case was pretty simple to come to an ethical decision.

  1. The facts: a small town in which a journalist and police officer form a relationship.
  2. The Values: Are they willing to risk their jobs to be together?  Is work or their relationship more valuable?
  3. Philosophical Principles…The Questions needed to be asked: Will there work be influenced by the other’s work?  Will the police officer leak information to the journalist?  Will she then spread information that is confidential?  Did the resigning of the Police Chief have anything to do with this couple?
  4. Loyalties:  In my opinion as a journalist, I would not find this story to be very news worthy.  It is a small town and there is a relationship formed between two influential workers, but they appear trustworthy and there has never been a reason to question either.  I would not publish this news just because I don’t find it very news worthy, but if someone wanted a story on it, it would not cause harm to anyone involved.

Both the journalist and police officer appear to have trustworthy and honest qualities.  There time in Sunnyside, Washington never raised a question as to whether or not their relationship was for work gain.  The reason they kept it on the down low was to keep from initial controversy.  Once they knew they wanted to continue a relationship they made it public and were honest the whole time.  In my opinion there is no harm done.


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