Monday, November 20, 2006

Time for Fiedler to go?

The memo below was allegedly sent by Tom Fiedler to Herald employees. It was published in the Editor & Publisher and apparently obtained by the Broward/Palm Beach New Times.

All, I want to alert you to an important report in this Sunday's Issues & Ideas, which will come off the presses later today. Clark Hoyt, whom most of you know, has submitted a report to David Landsberg about events and decisions leading up to publication of Oscar's story about journalists on the payroll of TV and Radio Marti. This is part of the assignment that Clark took on a few weeks ago.

The report is written in the fashion of an ombudsman's column, which strikes me as both appropriate for our edification and engaging to readers. I won't offer my own opinion on Clark's findings beyond pointing out that he solidly supports the premise on which the story was based, as well as Oscar's reporting and Myriam's content editing. That is foremost; Oscar and Myriam earn our praise for that story and those that followed this week. Where Clark exposes flaws and misjudgments, they almost always come to rest on my shoulders.

Once you've read and thought about it, let me know what you think. But please approach this with the attitude that Clark's effort was that of an honest broker operating in the spirit of constructive criticism.

While Fiedler takes responsibility for the errors and ommissions in the memo above, he was also quoted as telling E&P "There is nothing that suggests the need for a correction, clarification or retraction".

Fiedler has been cordial in his communications with Herald Watch, so I have no personal axe to grind, but I believe he has developed a bunker mentality. How else could one read the laundry list of errors in journalism and judgment that Hoyt enumerates in his report and not see the need for at least a clarification?

As I have maintained all along, the lumping in of opinion brokers (columnists and talk show hosts) with straight reporters in a story about possible violations of journalistic ethics without delineating the differences between the two is a gross error. Those opinion brokers who were accused of such violations (Montaner, Perez-Castellon, and Crespo) deserve an apology.

Additionally, any reporter who does not report on the US government or Cuba/US relations such as Olga Connor, the culture writer, and Omar Claro, the sportscaster, deserve an apology and a correction.

As always the Herald is entitled to enforce whatever policies it sees fit for its own employees, but it doesn't have a right to enforce its code on other media or smear the reputation of other journalists in an attempt to cover its own perceived shortcomings.


El Gusano said...

They will get sued and will probably settle and apologize as part of the settlement. There's a an open dog catcher job in Davie if Fiedler is insterested. Given his caninie fixation, it might be a fit.

asombra said...

Fiedler's statement to E&P is frankly outrageous. It flies in the face of what are now, and should have been much earlier, the clearly evident facts and nuances of this case. He may be in denial; he may be stonewalling; he may be bound and determined not to let "those Cubans" have the last word, but he's clearly wrong. His statement is utterly unacceptable, not to mention seriously insulting.

Apparently, David Landsberg decided or was instructed to let Fiedler carry the ball for the Herald on this matter. Landsberg's published statement in the Sunday paper (11/19) is painfully weak; it says essentially nothing. Fiedler has, indeed, spoken, both to E&P and in the memo to Herald staff. I think he's made himself quite clear.

The memo not only supports Corral and his editor Myriam Marquez, it explicitly praises them. It's as if Fiedler were holding up their highly questionable work on the 9/8 story as an example for the rest of the staff. The whole memo strikes me as having a smug, even condescending tone regarding the Hoyt report, which would fit perfectly with Fiedler's statement to E&P. What I hear the memo telling the staff is something like "Relax and don't sweat this; it's no biggie; we'll carry on as usual."

Should Fiedler go? Well, if an analogous or closely comparable set of events had taken place pitting the Herald against, for instance, the African-American community, what would have been the outcome? Yes, I know, the Herald would never have acted this way if African-Americans or some other "approved" minority were involved, because that would be far too politically incorrect, whereas "those Cubans" are considered perfectly fair game. But still, if the Herald had done such a thing, however improbable it may be, and if Fiedler had made the same statement to E&P, what would have been the outcome? I think I know.

Will Fiedler go due to this affair? I doubt it, unless the Cuban-American community does more than just complain. The Herald is used to getting away with it, and it assumes it will again. If we're serious about being taken seriously, we need to act like it. Loss of business can be a very persuasive thing.