Happiness with Sensitivity
A few months ago, we witnessed the sad story of some of the leadership of the Platinum Partners hedge fund getting investigated and ultimately charged with running a Ponzi scheme. My point in this piece isn’t to rehash the Platinum Partners saga, give an update on any of the impending trials, or discuss The Commentator’s decision to even publish an article in the first place, but rather to share a story—and hopefully a universal message for all of us—that occurred along the way.
When the news was first circulating about Platinum Partners, The Commentator WhatsApp group—generally a medium of constant discussion—quickly started humming with even more activity than usual. The element of excitement was clear in the group, where we debated whether to write a news brief on the topic, tried to decide who would write it, and how we could get the news out as fast as possible on our website. When the article ultimately was posted on the site, congratulatory messages were shared in the group, with staff members giving accolades to the writer, commenting on the expediency of the breaking news article, and generally feeling pleased with how we quickly rose to the occasion to get the article out. It wasn’t just a few message or a few of us involved in sending the messages—rather, there was a real sense of joy and accomplishment that permeated the group that night.
In the following hours and days, our article was quoted by a number of online news sites and publications, and even linked to on a few of those sites. With each new publication that quoted or linked to us, someone would proudly relay the news to our WhatsApp group, which prompted numerous excited responses.
I was a bit bothered by this. While I was certainly proud of the work that had been done, both as a group and specifically for the writer who wrote the article, I was also bothered by how we handled this situation. The entire saga with Platinum Partners resulted in people’s lives being ruined. Irrevocable damage was done to people’s families, reputations, and the broader Jewish community. And, these were families that many of us knew on a personal basis. I felt that there was no place for us to wish each other congratulations, for us to celebrate our newspaper’s achievements, given that it came in light of a terrible tragedy.
I believe that this can serve as a powerful lesson to us as a newspaper staff—but also to the entire student body. The lesson is that people are entitled to, and undoubtedly should, be happy in the face of personal or group accomplishments—in this case someone had worked hard on an article and was entitled to be proud of the work they had put in, especially given that it was picked up by other major publications. But there’s also a need to balance these feelings with a sensitivity to the situation as a whole and the various people involved, and to not use it as an opportunity for pride and compliments. In this case, the sense of accomplishment was probably better off being kept private, the messages of congratulations saved for another occasion.