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.

Jesús Díaz 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 Martí and TV Martí.

Díaz’ 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 Castañeda, then the executive editor of El Nuevo Herald, to appear in Radio and TV Martí 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 Martí, they did not recall discussing payments. Some of the employees who worked for Radio and TV Martí 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 Martí, 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.

Previously: U.S. Paid Miami Journalists for Anti-Castro Articles

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Burgess says:

    I think this is more a problem of an older standard’s continued practice while the world changed around it.

    During the Cold War, it was certainly not unusual for a journalist to be paid for writing pro-US pieces in USG media. Only over the past 20 or so years has a brighter line separating the two been around. The Cold War isn’t over yet when it comes to Cuba (nor, likely N. Korea).

    I think Diaz realized (or was pressured to realize) that he was using a new yardstick to measure old practices which was, in fact, an error. Having committed the error, it was a matter of his pride and professionalism that he had to take the hit. I doubt that it was punitive on the part of the publishers, though most don’t take kindly to editors who create plunges in circulation no matter the cause.

    The Miami Herald piece doesn’t appear to draw any causal linkage, nor does Diaz’ letter suggest one.

  2. While I think it is good practice to disclose conflicts (how about a few reporters confessing which party they support), I think it is not written in stone that it has to be that way (e.g. John Burgess comments above).

    Based on what the article saying the management was not consistent and clear, I think it is somewhat refreshing that when a management mistake is made that a senior manager steps down.

  3. madmatt says:

    So they shill for the govt. and they covered up foleys emails….this must be the liberal media you go on about so!

  4. Madmatt,

    Do you think the Foley scandal would do more to hurt the GOP in November of 2005 (when I understand the MSM first got a hold of the emails) or October of 2006? If they held of until greater damage could be achieved against the GOP, can you explain your logic that this disproves the “MSM favors the democrats” idea.

  5. madmatt says:

    John,

    Then why didn’t hastert and boner and FOX news release the information last spring so all of this could of blown over by now?

  6. Duzpe says:

    NPR reporters sure get alot of government money when they leave; not that they weren’t already -and NPR keeps alot of dems happy.

  7. Madmatt,

    Look at the emails. “How did you survive Katrina? Let me know how you are doing. Send a picture” (I’m paraphrasing but that is pretty close to the content). Do you really want to live in a world where you could lose your job for sending such an email. Or do you only want gays to lose their jobs for such an email.

    Based on the emails, and I emphasize the emails, there really isn’t a story. What would the MSM have run “Foley sends friendly email to ex-page”? What would the censure charge have been “Foley nice to ex pages”.

    If they had the IM, then I think it would have been a totally different story. Who was sitting on the IM until October?

    The emails were in the hands of the MSM and they didn’t run it. Despite what your conspiracy fantasies might entail, Fox is really just a fair and balanced news channel. They don’t run stories just to help the democrats, they run stories based on content. The emails are not a story, the IM is the story. If the GOP leadership had access to the IM, then they should have moved quickly to censure Foley.

  8. James Joyner says:

    john: The combination of “send me a photo” and discussion about some other dude’s body is a bit more than disturbing, no?