Saturday, September 23, 2006

The hits keep coming

The latest chapter in a story that El Nuevo Herald won't let die and that The Miami Herald can't see die soon enough is a column by Soren Triff in today's El Nuevo Herald, a translation is below:

A lynching plagued by good intentions

Cuban-Americans should thank the heavens for the fervor The Miami Herald exhibited in innvestigating how our tax dollars are spent, but the story 10 Miami journalists take U.S. pay, by Oscar Corral, did not live up to that billing because it was badly investigated, badly written and badly edited. On the contrary, it put the independence of the newspaper in danger and offered justification to those who reacted angrily, because it's easy to read the article as a lynching of ten journalists before public opinion.

A basic error made by Corral and his editors is that there are two news items here, related but incorrectly mixed together. The first is that ''ten journalists received regular payments from the federal government for programs'' on radio and television as result of an investigation of Radio and TV Martí by The Miami Herald. The second news item is that El Nuevo Herald dismissed two journalists and broke ties with a third journalist because they collaborated with the federal agency. The three journalists are part of the group of ten. The news did not have to be together because eight [sic] of the ten journalists are not subject to The Herald's code of ethics, therefore The Herald cannot impose its regulations on them.

In the first news item, an investigation discovered that some journalists working in the news media also collaborate with the federal agency, but the story failed to mention that the collaboration between press and government is not new, that it is not a crime and that there is no universal code of journalistic ethics by which the American newspapers are governed.

Corral could not demonstrate that receiving payment from the government necessarily equals a violation of a journalistic ethics code. Corral relied on certain information to make a moral judgment on the journalists. That is a respectable opinion, but as a news story its a defamation.

The independence of the press is not guaranteed by simply rejecting payment from the government. That is an ideological dogma and a fallacy of logic. For that reason most of the ethical codes, like The Herald's, recommend a case by case analysis.

Every day the American press collaborates with the government without receiving money, like for example, journalists assigned to military units (embedded) in Iraq and Afghanistan. These journalists are not independent because the army provides material aid and censors the news; nevertheless, the press accepts that situation.

On the other hand, journalists remunerated by agencies of government can maintain their independence, like when a pro-abortion journalist appears on a federal program that promotes the right of woman a to choose the abortion. No conflict ot interest exists.

The second news item, that the Herald cut its ties with three of the ten journalists, could be the truly informative piece because the Herald's employees are subject to the norms of the company. But Corral did not explain how the paper's supervisors never observed the supposed ethical violation during five years until a news team discovered the "violation'', nor did he cite the violated portion of the code. Jesus Diaz, Jr, the publisher, presented that information seven days later. These elementary omissions raise reasonable doubts about the role of the institution in the supposed violation.

The independence of the press is preserved through good journalism. The Corral article violated journalistic ethics and placed the independence of the newspaper in danger, the same independence that the newspaper thought it was protecting when it dismissed the three journalists. If the news been well written, it would not have been necessary for reasonable people to lend their ears to speculation and rumors, and it would have prevented evildoers from taking advantage of the situation to advance their liberal and conservative agendas.

No comments: