[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: The Herald: Ethics and Bad Taste

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Herald: Ethics and Bad Taste

In the wake of the dramatic death of Art Teele yesterday, one of our local fish wrappers, the Miami Herald, has done a few things that have both angered and pleased me.

Let's get to the good first: Their firing of Jim DeFede was the right thing to do. What DeFede did was ethically wrong, and of course illegal. Some people might say, "But DeFede himself told his bosses he taped the interview without consent". That doesn't absolve him. If I were to kill someone out in the street and then called the police to let them know what I did, do I get the right to walk away free? Of course not. The analogy may be extreme, but I think I made my point.

It's so ironic that a person such as DeFede, a journalist who prided himself on standing up for the little guy, who "supposedly" stood for right and just causes, would try to wiggle himself out of this jam. I realize the tough situation he must have been in when he received Teele's calls, however I expect a professional in any field to perform at his/her best and do the right thing when the situation gets tough. No exceptions. DeFede is not above the law. Good thing Tom Fiedler and Jesus Diaz realize that.

Now the bad: The Herald's decision to publish the graphic picture of Teele lying on the floor with a large trail of blood pouring out of his head on the front page was terrible. Awful. Deplorable. Just as bad was the lame disclaimer by executive editor Tom Fiedler below the picture, stating that the graphic nature of the picture would be disturbing to some but that it was an essential element in the reporting of the story.

No regards whatsoever was made to the feelings of Teele's family and friends, as well as to the many children (like my own) who read and look at the pictures in the newspaper. If they felt the compelling need to publish the picture, an generously edited version would have sufficed, or perhaps the unedited version buried somewhere in the back of the section with a warning to those who don't wish to see it.

Back to the firing of DeFede. George Moneo has posted on Babalu about a blog called Journalists for Jim DeFede started up by some of DeFede's colleagues which displays an open letter to the Herald publisher and executive editor expressing sadness and disappointment at their decision to fire DeFede. It is signed by a few dozen journalists, most of them either current or former Herald reporters.

The website claims it may not have been a technical violation of the law. The link to the statute provided on the site is a bit fuzzy, but regardless of the technicalities, it is a "real violation" as stated by Paxety in the comments at Babalu and most definitely an ethical violation. Professionals are supposed to follow the code of ethics in their job.

What's really disappointing to me is the relatively large number of people who've signed the letter, including several current Herald reporters whose work I've been reading for quite a few years now. Here's the list of the Herald reporters:

Elinor Brechner - Dave Barry (!) - Frances Robles - Michelle Kaufman (Mrs. Barry) - Ronnie Green - Linda Robertson (yech!) - Andres Vigilucci - Nicholas Spangler - Jordan Levin - Leonard Pitts, Jr. (what a shock!) - Patrick Ogle - Alejandro Armengol - Rui Ferrera

Shame on you all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well be desappointed. The list is now more than 300 names, including the vast majority of the Herald newsroom. ha,ha...

8:45 PM, July 30, 2005  

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