The Right Questions

The St. Petersburg Times did an excellent job of asking the right questions about the Miami Herald’s firing of a reporter linked to the suicide, in the Herald’s lobby, of a Miami politician.

The year was 1987, the politician was Gary Hart, and the reporter was Tom Fiedler. After the Colorado senator denied rumors of womanizing and invited reporters to watch him, Fielder got a tip, staked out Hart’s Washington townhouse and found him there with another woman.

The story derailed Hart’s presidential hopes and ignited a national debate over how far journalists should go in covering politicians’ private lives.

Fiedler, now the executive editor of the Herald, finds himself at the center of a new ethical firestorm after firing Jim DeFede, the paper’s hard-hitting local columnist. DeFede lost his job for taping a phone conversation with a Miami politician, Arthur Teele, shortly before Teele killed himself in the newspaper’s lobby on July 27.

More than 500 reporters and editors around the country, including nearly 200 current or former Herald employees, have signed a petition protesting the firing.

Fiedler and the Herald’s publisher jointly fired DeFede late on a chaotic night, a few hours after Teele’s suicide. DeFede lost his job even though he disclosed the taping and admitted his mistake.

“To me, it has the smell of corporate panic about it,” said Carl Hiaasen, a Herald columnist and novelist. “I think there’s a lot of very serious resentment at the newspaper, and I think the scars are going to take a long time to heal.”

Read the rest yourself, but I do recommend such a reading. Great editorial, especially in light of some of journalism’s deserved criticism lately.


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