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Louisiana State Univ.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Miami Herald Publisher Resigns

Jesus Diaz, Jr. has resigned as publisher and general manager of the Miami Herald and the Miami Herald Media Company, saying that a continuing investigation of journalists who might have violated the paper's conflict of interest rules had uncovered several more employees. In a letter to the paper's readers, Diaz said, "We cannot compromise principles that protect the free press from government intrusion. I well understand that totalitarian governments, such as Fidel Castro's regime, cannot exist in a country that enjoys a free press. This separation and the adherence by our employees to our conflict of interest rules are also essential for us to sustain our transparency and ensure that editors and reporters will continue to function as impartial and independent watchdogs in our community. Our readers deserve and should expect nothing less.

"On Sept. 6 we knew only that two employees and a freelancer had received payments through contracts from Radio and TV Martí. After investigating, we found that six other El Nuevo Herald newsroom employees also received payments from Radio and TV Martí over the past five years in amounts ranging from $125 to $3,350 per employee. Of these six, only one was still working for Radio and TV Martí when we started our investigation."

Further, Diaz wrote, "We also discovered that over many years, our conflict of interest policies were poorly communicated and inconsistently applied in the El Nuevo Herald newsroom. Of the six newly identified employees who took payments, four tell us they had permission from the late Carlos Castañeda, then the executive editor of El Nuevo Herald, to appear in Radio and TV Martí and to be paid for those appearances. In interviews prior to their dismissal, the two employees who were terminated said that while supervisors who are no longer with us knew of their work on Radio and TV Martí, they did not recall discussing payments. Some of the employees who worked for Radio and TV Martí recruited others within the El Nuevo Herald newsroom to do the same, indicating a general pattern of acceptance for this type of behavior.

"While I still believe that the acceptance of such payments by the nine journalists was a breach of widely accepted principles of journalistic ethics that violated the trust of our readers, our policies prohibiting such behavior were ambiguously communicated, inconsistently applied and widely misunderstood over many years in the El Nuevo Herald newsroom. It has been determined that in fairness we should extend an amnesty to all involved and enforce our policies more forcefully and consistently in the future. Those who were dismissed will be allowed to return to El Nuevo Herald, and the six newly identified employees will not be disciplined. They cannot accept money from Radio or TV Martí, and their executive editor must expressly approve any future appearances in writing.

Diaz notes that his replacement will be David Landsberg. "I realize and regret that the events of the past three weeks have created an environment that no longer allows me to lead our newspapers in a manner most beneficial for our newspapers, our readers and our community. Therefore, I informed our parent company of my intention to resign as soon as my replacement could be found. The decision has been made to name David Landsberg, our general manager, and someone I am proud to have worked with, as my replacement as president of Miami Herald Media Company and publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, effective immediately. David is a good man, and he will serve our newspapers, our readers and our community well."

Read Mr. Diaz' entire letter here.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/media_law_prof_blog/2006/10/miami_herald_pu.html

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