01 August 2005

DeFending DeFede

Last week, the Miami establishment was shocked when former Miami City Commissioner Arthur E. Teele, Jr. entered the lobby of the Miami Herald building and shot himself in the head. The longtime Republican politician, who had served on both the county and city commissions, had recently been convicted of assault on a police officer and was facing federal and state corruption charges.

The morning of his suicide, a local tabloid, the Miami New Times, published a lengthy piece detailing personal affairs in Teele's life, including an alleged affair with a male prostitute. According to Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede, who spoke with Teele on numerous occasions that day, the former commissioner was very upset about the article, particularly with the reports of the male prostitute. DeFede sensed that Teele was very upset, so he reached for a tape recorder and began to document the conversation.

While Teele lost his life, the events leading to this tragic event caused DeFede to lose his job. Following the suicide, DeFede went to his editors and confessed that he had recorded the conversation without Teele's consent. The columnist recommended that he face suspension for his conduct, since taping a conversation without one's consent may be a violation of state law. Herald management decided to immediately fire DeFede.

Now a blog and a website have been launched in defense of Jim DeFede. The blog, http://journalistsfordefede.com, is run by Peter Wallsten of the Los Angelese Times and Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe, both Miami Herald alumni. The host of the website is unknown.

The blog features an open letter to Herald Publisher Jesus Diaz and Executive Editor Tom Fiedler and criticizes the papers decision to fire DeFede. The website, http://www.savedefede.com, provides links to various news articles on the subject of DeFede's firing and to the aforementioned blog. Both sites discuss the Florida law that DeFede allegedly violated when he taped the conversation.

Now the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is investigating DeFede's conduct. On Friday, prosecutors questioned the former Herald columnist over the taping of the journalist's last conversation with Art Teele.

While the state attorney's decision is still unknown, it is evidently clear that DeFede's fellow journalists are rushing to support him. The DeFede blog features a petition and is soliciting e-signatures from journalists around the country. As of now, the number has reached 361 names and that number is expected to grow. Only time will tell if these journalists can make a difference.


Anonymous Marty said...

Good article. I can't believe that the Herald has overreacted like this. Defede is a great writer, and I am probably going to cancel my subscription if he is not rehired.

10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous tdog said...

I think that DeFede got what he deserved. He knew that he was breaking the law, or at least he should have known. Journalists are not above the law.

I don't think DeFede should be sharing a cell with Judy Miller or anything, but he did deserve some type of punishment. Termination was probably appropriate.

Why doesn't he just go to the Sun-Sentinel? It's a much better paper than the Herald anyways.

3:26:00 PM  
Blogger David Oscar Markus said...

I debate the legality of the taping with UM Law Prof. Froomkin at www.sdfla.blogspot.com

4:14:00 PM  
Blogger Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

While I think DeFede's firing was bogus a friend told me that you delete posts with opposing points of view and that's bogus too.

6:49:00 PM  
Blogger james H said...

Dear Conductor,

It appears that your accusation is aimed at the poster before you, but I could not tell if perhaps it was also aimed at me.

If you were asking about the www.sdfla.blogspot.com blog, then you will have to ask David.

As for FloridapolitiX.com, we never delete comments that offer differing points of view. We actually have the least restrictive settings on this blog, because we encourage more people to engage in our discussions.

As for trolls, however, we will not tolerate inflammatory or offensive comments. Those comments will be deleted when discovered; however, the bar is raised high and we prefer to err on the side of keeping comments on the blog.

I hope that addresses your concern. Tell your friend he was wrong (if he was talking about this blog). Then bring him back to FloridapolitiX.com. We welcome both of you to read and contribute in the future.


2:48:00 AM  
Blogger Juan Paxety said...

He's talking about me. My previous comment, in which I outlined my journalistic experience, my knowledge of the Florida law regarding taping, and expressing my view that punishment of DeFede was appropriate - and firing not out of line was there one day, and not there the next. I assumed it was deleted.

It's your blog and you can do whatever you want. I just found it unusual that a differing opinion was deleted.

If you didn't, I apologize for thinking you did. Maybe a gremlin deleted it - blogger has a reputation for doing strange things sometimes.

11:11:00 AM  
Blogger james H said...

Dear Juan,

I don't know what happened to your comment. I just know that I didn't delete it. It sounds like it would have been a good comment to have on the site.

I don't know if you noticed, but there is a comment on this post from a few days ago that agreed with your position that the firing of DeFede was justified.

And for the record, I didn't express my opinion regarding the firing of DeFede in this post. I simply wrote about the group of journalists defending DeFede.


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