Friday, September 15, 2006

Miami Today on journalistic ethics and The Herald

Reader "Firefly" tips Herald Watch about an a relevant article in Miami Today. Miami Today is that newspaper you see in the lobby of your lawyer's office. Michael Lewis, the article's author points out that journalistic ethics are not always clear cut and that the Herald has several possible conflicts of interest that it chooses to ignore while acting on others. Some excerpts:

The Miami Herald has a partnership with the local radio station run by the school board. The Herald provides newscasts using Herald anchors who put on the air Herald reporters. The Herald and the schools share sponsorship revenues. The Herald also covers and editorializes on the public schools. The school system is government — massive government. Is this OK because the money goes to the Herald, which then pays the reporters but wouldn't be OK if government paid the reporters directly?

Or is it the case here that purity is required of reporters but not their employers?

Perhaps the difference between this and the Marti reporting is that this reporting is part of the employee's job description and the Marti appearances were without corporate sanction. That's a violation of internal rules but hardly a question of ethics. If so, why involve the names of persons from other media who had their companies' permission to appear for pay? The only thing they may have done wrong is to work for media with policies that don't match the Herald's.

Maybe the Herald would care to write about another clear conflict. While parent McClatchy Co. is trying to sell the land around the Herald for $190 million to a developer, the Herald waited until two weeks after Miami Today had reported it to note that the developer was before a city agency seeking a $200 million subsidy to close the deal. Pity the reporter on that beat.

On the other hand, maybe that's OK because the money from government would go directly to the developer and only indirectly to the newspaper's owner. Or maybe not.

Ethics in journalism is tough, isn't it?

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