Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Plenty of "guilt" to go around

Anders Gyllenhaal

It all started with a 545 word story - short by newspaper standards - published two weeks ago in the Herald.

The paper had obtained a copy of a sleazy Spanish language magazine that featured photos of popular Miami Beach priest Alberto Cutié canoodling with a woman on the beach.

A priest with a woman? Now that's news!

But I digress...

Since that first story appeared, the Herald has provided its readers with relentless and "breathless" coverage of a tabloid-generated story.

All of this, ironically, just weeks after the paper won its 20th Pulitzer Prize for journalism excellence..

The paper dispatched platoons of reporters and photographers across South Florida looking into every angle of the story.

Herald staffers pestered Father Alberto's mother, harassed the woman involved, staking out her Miami Beach apartment, even printing her address in the paper.

It was coverage the National Enquirer would be proud of.

Since the first story appeared in the Herald on May 5, the Herald has printed no fewer than 20 stories.

Twenty stories on what is essentially a private matter between Cutié, the woman involved and Cutié's parishioners.

Cutié has presumably asked for forgiveness and is on a "prayerful journey" according to a diocese spokesperson.
And today we learn that the paparazzi who took the photos are now asking for forgiveness.

And the Herald? The paper continues to milk the story. It's the only participant in this whole sorry affair that's shown no sign of contrition.

This past Sunday Herald ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos made an attempt to explain the Herald's actions in covering the story.
"In general, I don't think that The Herald's coverage of Father Cutié has been sensationalistic. But I do think that it got breathless and, as days went by, treated him like an object instead of an individual with rights of privacy, perspective and respect. In other words, the Herald got used to treating him as a public 'scandal.' "
Not "sensationalistic" but "breathless." Classic Miami Herald doublespeak!

Schumacher-Matos continues:
"The photos, taken by a vulture paparazzi, were never offered to The Herald, Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal told me. But he said he would not have bought them and would not have pursued the story had the statements not made it a public issue. The priest's personal relationship by itself 'is not the kind of journalism we are interested in,' Gyllenhaal said."
So Gyllenhaal wouldn't have bought the photos? No surprise there. The Herald has barely enough resources for pens and notebooks.

But that didn't stop the sanctimonious Gyllenhaal from "appropriating" the images giving the green light to publish them on the paper's website and in the paper.

And Gyllenhaal is being slightly disingenuous when he says that the "priest's personal relationship 'is not the kind of journalism we are interested in.'"

Really? Then why print over 20 stories? Wait! I know the answer. It's not about journalism. It's all about website page views!

And it didn't stop him from giving the OK to print the woman's address. Was that journalism too Anders?

So while everyone involved in this story is asking for forgiveness, perhaps a few people on the fifth floor at One Herald Plaza should also consider asking for a little divine absolution.

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