HERALD CHOOSES "DEATH PENALTY" FOR POPULAR COLUMNIST
Last evening I posted news of the suicide death of former Miami City and Dade County Commissioner Arthur E. Teele in the lobby of the Miami Herald building after a phone conversation with Metro columnist Jim DeFede. Teele had recently been indicted on 26 federal charges related to a scheme with an electrical contractor to defraud the local governments by using a front company to win airport contracts worth around $20 million.
In addition to his legal troubles, the Miami alternative weekly New Times last week published a 14 page investigative feature detailing a number of humiliating facts regarding Teele's personal relationships and financial situation.
Within hours, columnist DeFede was sacked by Herald executives after admitting that he had recorded the conversation with Teele just before the former official killed himself without Teele's knowledge or consent. In Florida, that's a third degree felony. A simple laspe in judgement by a seasoned reporter and columnist, but does it justify a termination instead of a suspension?
The fact is that DeFede broke the law by not requesting Teele's permission to record the conversation. Also, one has to consider that Teele had asked that the conversation be off the record, but the columnist continued to record regardless. A serious ethical breach, to say the least.
Don't cry for the popular DeFede, though. While it may be awhile, I am certain that he'll land on his feet somewhere. He's good at what he does, and although some newspapers may keep hands off over this incident, DeFede deserves another opportunity somewhere to show that he has learned from the experience. I wish him luck.