[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Jounalistic Ethics (Continued)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Jounalistic Ethics (Continued)

Much talk and debate has been going around in blog circles about the Herald's firing of Jim DeFede. An interesting point brought up by Conductor of Cuban-American Pundits contends that it is debatable whether the law required DeFede to notify Teele of the recording because Teele didn't have an "expectation of privacy".

I see it this way: If Teele was having a private conversation with DeFede, which has been supported by all accounts I've seen, then there is an expectation of privacy. The law would therefore apply. I have experience in dealing with the media, and have done more than my share of interviews with newspapers as part of my job. I am well aware that anything you say off the record in an interview can be used by the reporter, therefore I am very careful with what I say at all times. However, this doesn't excuse a reporter for publishing off the record comments. It's unethical.

In the end, this was a private conversation initiated by Teele who apparently thought of DeFede as someone he could trust in a time of duress, therefore it should not be recorded without consent.

We don't know what intent DeFede had in recording his conversation with Teele, but it is interesting to note that he turned the recorder on AFTER Teele started to lose his cool. That leads me to believe that DeFede MAY have intended to use it for a future story. Considering the circumstances during the call and what occurred after the call, it is reasonable to believe that DeFede wasn't just going to sit on the tape.

I agree with the Herald's action to fire DeFede. However, I also agree with Conductor that there is a double standard in the media. Consider this quote from the story in today's Herald linked to above:

Journalism ethics Professor Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg agreed that DeFede's action was not to be viewed lightly.

''People have a reasonable expectation to know when they're going to be taped,'' he said. ``Even if it's legal, it still doesn't mean journalists should tape people without knowledge of the other party. People need to understand how we operate. It's right for journalists to explain the rules of the conversation.''

But, Tompkins said, there are exceptions that should only be made with approval from the news organization in cases where ``the harm we would cause by the deception is outweighed by the public's need to know. I'm not hearing that in this case.''

The Herald's (executive editor Tom) Fiedler said that he supported the right of journalists to break the law only in extraordinary circumstances, where the story is of high public interest and cannot be reported without, for example, going undercover, using a hidden microphone or trespassing. In those cases, the reporting methods must be approved beforehand by editors, Fiedler said.

DeFede agreed this was not one of those cases, the editor said. (emphasis mine).


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