Randy Cohen has written humor articles, essays and stories for numerous newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper's and The Atlantic. He's won five Emmy awards for his writing on such shows as Late Night With David Letterman, and TV Nation. He was the author of The Ethicist column in The New York Times Magazine between 1999 and 2011.
He is also the author of several books, including The Good, the Bad & the Difference: How to Tell Right From Wrong in Everyday Situations and Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything.
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How does it feel to have millions of people depend upon your ethical
You may be confusing me with Dear Abby. Or the President. Which was the one that thought the way to improve Yosemite National Park was to have lots of snowmobiles driving around?
I'm not sure that anyone actually does anything I suggest. On a good day, however, I hope I've helped the readers reach their own conclusions. My job is to make the discussion illuminating, the analysis thoughtful, and the prose lively. At least, that's what I try to do, and if I can present the questions in a way that lets the reader see them fresh, I'm pleased.
How did you come to be The Ethicist?
The idea for the column originated with the editors of The New York Times Magazine. Early in 1999, they invited me to audition for the job, along with several other people whose names they, tactfully, would not disclose. We were each given the same three ethical questions to answer. After that, I assume there was some kind of clerical error, and I was lucky enough to get the column.
Having read about thousands of ethical dilemmas, do you think people are innately ethical? Has your opinion changed since you've been on the job?
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