The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, July 29, 2005

Our Marvelous Media: Teaches Ethical Practice

The Miami Herald fired a reporter who secretly recorded a conversation with a man who fatally shot himself at the end of his phone call. It is illegal to record conversations in Florida without the person's permission. Of course, that didn't stop the Herald from publishing the content of that phone call recording in its paper. Hmmm, lessons from the ethically challenged.

MIAMI, July 28 - It seemed like a throwback to "Miami Vice": an eccentric politician, recently accused of money laundering and soliciting male prostitutes, fatally shoots himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald after an anguished phone conversation with a star columnist.

But the storyline grew even stranger on Thursday as employees of the newspaper reacted with outrage after learning that the columnist, Jim DeFede, had been fired for secretly taping his conversation with the distraught man - a possible violation of state law.


After talking to a Herald reporter who wanted to interview him for an article about the shooting, Mr. DeFede was transferred to Mr. Díaz and Mr. Beatty, whom he told about the tape. With their permission, Mr. DeFede said, he transcribed it before bringing it to The Herald building and sitting down to write about the conversation. He was fired hours later. Even after knowing Mr. DeFede had taped Mr. Teele without his consent, the newspaper published portions of the conversation as described by Mr. DeFede.

Tom Fiedler, the paper's executive editor, said the decision was wrenching but that he, like Mr. Díaz, saw no choice.

"We expect our people to act in a highly ethical way, and Jim admitted that he had crossed that line, and I really didn't see an alternative," Mr. Fiedler said. "If we have that expectation and someone fails to abide by it, knowingly fails to abide by it, regardless of that person's talent it means they can no longer be a part of The Herald."


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