Sunday, September 17, 2006

Herald's Diaz Jr. on the defensive

Many developments today including editorials by Carl Hiassen, Ana Menendez and the president of the Miami Herald Publishing Company himself, Jesus Diaz Jr.

In his column, Diaz Jr. asserts that he approved the dismissals at the Herald because though they were painful he is "committed to the separation between government and a free press." He goes on to quote the Herald's conduct code:

We demonstrate our principles by operating with fairness, accuracy and independence, and by avoiding conflicts of interest, as well as the appearance of conflicts of interest.
I'm not an attorney but that seems pretty vague, it certainly doesn't specifically prohibit working for a government-run media outlet. As was noted in this Miami Today article the Herald collaborates with public TV in this market. Presumably Diaz Jr. approves of this arrangement.

But two other things about the column caught my attention. Diaz Jr. reiterates that:
The institutional position of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, as expressed on our editorial pages, has been to support the work and goals of Radio and TV Martí.
But if that's the case, then why is the Herald trying to discredit Radio and TV Martí by claiming that it's propaganda? If Radio Marti's aims work and goals are noble then why is working for them a fireable offense? Certainly the Herald would not endorse Radio/TV Marti's work if they thought that the stations were transmitting false information. So if Radio/TV Marti are legitimate tools to bring about the change in Cuba that the Herald's editorial board claims it endorses, where is the conflict of interest?

The second thing that made my antennas stand up was this statement that Diaz Jr. makes in the editorial:
I am concerned about our readers' reaction to columnists Carl Hiaasen's and Ana Menendez's opinion columns in today's paper. My first reaction was to keep both columns, which represent Carl's and Ana's opinions, from running in the paper at this time because I believe they may inflame sentiments in the Cuban community.
Here, Diaz Jr. admits that he had thoughts of spiking two columns that appeared in today's Herald. That would imply that he has the authority to do such a thing and Diaz Jr. denied in an email to me that his participation on the advisory board of the Cuba Transition Project, a government-funded project, did not pose a conflict of interest because he is "neither a reporter not an editor." So which is it? If he can pull a story or a column, then he is an editor whether he carries that title or not.

Lastly, Mr. Diaz Jr. ignores the fact that one of the three Herald journalists has been known to be a part-time employee of Radio Marti for more than 4 years. For this he has no answer.

I still believe the Herald acted in a rash and irresponsible manner when it published a defective story in an effort to avoid being scooped and took an action against its employees that none of the employers of the other implicated journalists have taken. And that includes people on the periphery of the story like the Hartford Courant's Washington Bureau Chief, David Lightman, who was simply asked to stop appearing on VOA (while being praised by his employer for bringing an "independent mindset to his work").

1 comment:

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Who the hell is Jesus Diaz, Jr.?

Jesus Diaz is no journalist and the last one who should sit in
judgment on any real journalist's ethics.

He spent his entire working life as an executive at Ernst & Young and Coca Cola.

In 2002, Diaz was drafted to be The Herald's managing editor and
shortly thereafter promoted to publisher by Knight-Ridder.

On the basis of what?

There is nothing in his resume that would justify such a position.

In fact, Diaz has lived his life with a singular lack of distinction, and nothing in his background qualifies him to exercise anything but a non-editorial position at The Herald. In that respect, Diaz is no more qualified than a telephone solicitor hawking the paper.