The Miami Herald's hypocrisy on journalistic ethics
By Jed Shlackman
Journal Contributing Writer
Aug 3, 2005, 22:09
August 3, 2005�The Miami Herald
has garnered national attention over events last week surrounding the death by
the apparent self-inflicted gunshot wounds of local politician Arthur Teele,
Teele was a
prominent community figure for decades who had served as a county commissioner
and had lost a run-off race for county mayor prior to recent legal woes and
allegations of corruption, illicit drug use, and seedy sexual behaviors. Teele
was also an African-American Republican in a city known for its growing Cuban
columnist Jim DeFede had come to be someone Teele confided in, and in a fateful
turn of events DeFede secretly recorded a phone conversation with Teele just
before Teele's death. DeFede openly informed his bosses at the Herald of his
actions and was shortly thereafter fired from the newspaper. This has created a
controversy in which many have defended DeFede.
In Florida, state
law forbids recording conversations without consent in most instances. While
the legal status of this matter is being debated, I would like to focus on the
newspaper's justification for their decision, as reported in Herald articles by
staff writers Christina Hoag and Jay Weaver. In a July 29 article, Hoag
Herald executives on Thursday defended
their decision to fire columnist Jim DeFede, saying that he not only likely
broke the law by taping a source without his consent but also violated the
newspaper's ethical standards.
''What Jim did was not in keeping with
the ethics of our profession. Added to that, it was probably illegal,''
Publisher Jes�s D�az Jr. told a room packed with stunned and dismayed newsroom
staff members. "We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.''
''He had broken a basic tenet of The
Miami Herald,'' Executive Editor Tom Fiedler said. "We abide by the law.
We, as journalists, operate in a world where we hold people to high standards
and ourselves to higher standards.''
In a July 28
article, Weaver reported:
D�az said that the Herald had no choice
but to dismiss DeFede because his conduct was potentially a felony crime and
''With all of our sources, we have to
treat them with respect and dignity,'' D�az said. "I don't think we did
that in this situation.''
''The public's trust is at stake as a
result of Jim's actions,'' D�az said. "We have to make sure that the
public understands that trust is the most important value that the community
bestows upon us.''
Fiedler, who was in San Jose, Calif.,
at the Herald's parent company, Knight Ridder, said the decision to fire DeFede
''Jim has been a strong and valued
voice at The Miami Herald and his departure will leave a significant
void,'' Fiedler said in a statement. "I am personally heartsick about
this. But we
must hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity if we are to
the trust of our readers and those with whom we deal.''
Now, I find all
this talk about high standards, trust, and integrity almost amusing.
Groundbreaking information often comes out precisely when someone expresses
himself without knowing it will be on the record, so to speak. Readers consult
news sources to find accurate information, not just to have a record of what
people in public positions want people to hear. Getting accurate information
often means investigating thoroughly and even gaining evidence or information
surreptitiously. The Herald has reported news items in the past where someone
made embarrassing statements that he or she wasn't aware were being recorded.
So apparently that's not a problem unless the paper's own reporter does the
secret recording and creates a legal issue for the corporate owners of the
journalistic integrity would be something that they could be trying to protect
if there were really much to protect. The Miami Herald routinely refuses to
address stories that would present genuine investigative journalism and
truthful news to the public. The succession of inside job terror incidents
epitomized by the events of September 11, 2001 have never
been honestly reported on by the Miami Herald, although I give the Herald
credit for once printing a paid advertisement by Michael Ruppert's From The
Wilderness concerning matters related to the terror attacks.
I wonder if the publishers at the Miami Herald recall a time when journalists
focused on investigating stories rather than eating up and regurgitating
propaganda that has been prepared for them.
Apparently, if you
secretly record the comments of a man and never even use them in a story it's
much more disturbing to the Herald than if you unquestioningly report as
newsworthy fact what politicians state on the record. That includes when the
politicians' comments are transparent propaganda to support an agenda that
leads to deaths of at least tens of thousands of people.
evidence of high level crimes and deception is presented to mainstream media
publications they pretend it doesn't exist. After all, the media itself is
controlled by those involved in the crimes and deceptions. So The Miami Herald
displays open hypocrisy to justify its decision to fire a popular reporter. If
I were firing DeFede myself, it would be for his failure in the last four years
to discuss the likelihood that the U.S. government was involved in orchestrating
September 11, making many other debates about partisan politics pointless. But
then for all I know Jim DeFede did wish to write about that and was silenced by
Jed Shlackman is a mental health counselor,
hypnotherapist, and holistic healing practitioner in Miami, Florida. Jed also
researches a variety of subjects related to our human existence and to ideas
concerning spirituality and metaphysics. Jed can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and through
his website at www.phinsights.com.
Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor