Miami Herald President Resigns, Rehires Flack Reporters
The president of the Miami Herald has resigned effective immediately and reversed the firing of three reporters who had been secretly taking money from the government to crank out anti-Castro propaganda.
JesÃºs DÃaz Jr. will resign today as president of the Miami Herald Media Co. and publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. The action comes amid a widening controversy over payments accepted by some El Nuevo Herald journalists for participating in U.S.-government broadcasts on Radio MartÃ and TV MartÃ.
DÃaz’ open letter explains his reasoning and the policy going forward:
We also discovered that over many years, our conflict of interest policies were poorly communicated and inconsistently applied in the El Nuevo Herald newsroom. Of the six newly identified employees who took payments, four tell us they had permission from the late Carlos CastaÃ±eda, then the executive editor of El Nuevo Herald, to appear in Radio and TV MartÃ and to be paid for those appearances. In interviews prior to their dismissal, the two employees who were terminated said that while supervisors who are no longer with us knew of their work on Radio and TV MartÃ, they did not recall discussing payments. Some of the employees who worked for Radio and TV MartÃ recruited others within the El Nuevo Herald newsroom to do the same, indicating a general pattern of acceptance for this type of behavior.
While I still believe that the acceptance of such payments by the nine journalists was a breach of widely accepted principles of journalistic ethics that violated the trust of our readers, our policies prohibiting such behavior were ambiguously communicated, inconsistently applied and widely misunderstood over many years in the El Nuevo Herald newsroom. It has been determined that in fairness we should extend an amnesty to all involved and enforce our policies more forcefully and consistently in the future. Those who were dismissed will be allowed to return to El Nuevo Herald, and the six newly identified employees will not be disciplined. They cannot accept money from Radio or TV MartÃ, and their executive editor must expressly approve any future appearances in writing.
Effective immediately, the policy on conflict of interest for Miami Herald Media Company employees will be strengthened and rigorously, consistently enforced. Among other things, we will require advance, written permission by an editor for any journalist who wishes to perform any outside journalistic work, whether paid or unpaid; annual signed statements by each employee attesting to their understanding and adherence to our conflict of interest policies; increased training related to these policies; and the understanding that a violation of these policies can mean immediate dismissal.
It seems obvious from this vantage point that what the reporters did violates the basic ethics of the journalistic craft. Apparently, though, a very different culture had grown up at El Nuevo Herald and it’s understandable to give a second chance to those who might have thought they were playing according to the house rules.
That the guy who tried to enforce principals otherwise universal in the business is the one that can no longer stay, though, is quite bizarre.