Friday, July 29, 2005

Miami Herald - hypocrites?

The New York Times says that a reporter for The Miami Herald, Jim DeFede, was fired for recording, without permission, what may have been the suicide statement of Miami Commisioner Arthur Teele, Jr.. Teele called DeFede at his upstairs office from the downstairs lobby of The Miami Herald. During a rambling and anguish filled conversation, DeFede became concerned for the mental state of Teele and pushed the "record" button on his phone. Teele hung up but called him right back and said that he was downstairs and had left a manilla envelope for DeFede in the lobby. What Teele left was his body. He committed suicide a few minutes after this last conversation. Teele had been indicted for a long list of alleged offenses, including 26 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The week before, another newspaper, The Miami New Times, had published this sordid review of police surveillance reports of Teele's activities under the headline, "Male prostitutes and multiple mistresses, drug money in Gucci shopping bags, bribery and extortion conspiracies. And you thought you'd heard it all about Art Teele."

Teele's main concern voiced during the conversation with DeLede was the effect on his son of the male prostitute story. When DeLede, at his own volition, told Jesús Díaz Jr., The Herald's publisher, and Robert Beatty, its general counsel, what he had done. "I realized Art was headed in a direction that scared me," said DeFede. "And my first reaction, looking down at the tape, is this is basically Teele's suicide note. These are his final words about the torture that his life has been through all this up and down. This is his last words; what do I do with it?"

DeFede says that, at first, Díaz and Beatty were supportive. Then, a few hours later they fired him.

Now comes the rich part. The Miami Herald then published excerpts from the recorded phone conversation in their newspaper.
"Less than two hours before his death, Teele told DeFede he was upset about the records linking him to the transvestite," and "Teele also complained that his financial problems - a burden throughout his 15-year political career - had become overwhelming."
That's from the tape. And now the police want the tape and the Herald's Dí­az says the newspaper has refused because,
The Herald doesn't turn over unpublished notes and Teele had requested that the conversation be off the record, he said."We're going to honor that," Dí­az said. "We expect we will get subpoenaed and we will say we will not meet the subpoena and we'll end up in court."
So the Herald fired the reporter for making the tape (a misdemeanor in Florida, like running a stopsign) after the reporter immediately told his bosses he had done so "with shaking hands", thinking he might be listening to the last words of Arthur Teele, Jr., which he was, then publishes quotes from the tape, then refuses to give up the tape. This is ethics?

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