By: Dave Astor
The firing of Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede was questioned today by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
NSNC President Suzette Martinez Standring said in a statement that the Herald’s action “smacks of shoot-now-ask-questions-later. Florida law prohibits the taping of phone conversations without the mutual consent of parties involved, but a provision waives consent for someone ‘who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.’ Clearly, this provision allows the press to do its job. Public officials have no expectation of privacy when speaking to the press.”
She added that “DeFede did not disguise his identity when he spoke with county commissioner Arthur E. Teele, Jr., about corruption charges. DeFede was attempting accuracy when a phone conversation with Teele took a highly emotional turn.” Teele subsequently committed suicide.
“Given the exception to the Florida taping law, why was there such a rush to fire DeFede?” Standring asked. “He is a columnist who was within his rights as a member of the press to record an event as it was happening. He was striving for accuracy. That is our highest standard.”
A number of columnists are among 367 people who have so far signed an online letter saying the Herald overreacted when it fired DeFede and should take him back. Among the columnist names listed are three associated with the Herald and Tribune Media Services: Leonard Pitts Jr., Carl Hiaasen, and the on-leave Dave Barry. Another person signing was editorial cartoonist Jim Morin of the Herald and Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate/New York Times Syndicate.