Recently this year in September The Miami Herald was under fire for running an insert in their paper that was unethical. In this, a column that people pay for weekly claimed that American Jews support “thieves and arsonists” on further columns they compared Black Lives Matter protesters to Nazis(Brown). These comments upset the readers and subscribers to the Miami Herald because of the hateful and demeaning words used. The LIBRE(the title of the column the racist inserts were published) was owned by Demetrio Perez Jr. who has been under numerous investigations by the paper. It includes allegations that he had pocketed $1 million in rent payments from public schools. This caused internal problems with management as managing editor Nancy San Martin resigned, and Miami Herald publisher and executive editor Mindy Marques won’t be the publisher of the two papers anymore. Although these were the people responsible for the hateful comments being published Marques continues as executive editor for Miami Herald.
Using the ethical theories of Individualism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism, and Virtue theory the actions of the Miami Herald can be further analyzed to see what led up to the problem and the aftermath caused by it. The first of the four theories used is Individualism which calls for profit above other goals as long as the actions are within the law. Second, Utilitarianism’s goal is to maximize happiness for all the stakeholders, The third is Kantianism which brings humanity and ethical thinking into business, and the fourth is virtue theory involving honesty and justice. By using these theories the editors and publishers at the Miami Herald could have prevented the problem. Instead, it caused unneeded harm and stress to themselves the readers of the paper, and stockholders.
ETHICS CASE CONTROVERSY
Before the main incident occurred on August 27 a tweet from Armando Salguero saying that he has discontent towards the black lives matter group because they claim on the show, “Black Lives Matter wants to dismantle the Biblical definition of the family! They tout gender confusion!”(Padgett). They have never spoken or showed signs of that happening, most of the people within that group just want good change to happen within society, while others take advantage of the protest which is broadcasted and generalized to all people protesting or trying to make a change.
This has some cause for concern because this man is saying hateful things, not only that but has a huge fan base that also believes the things that he says. Some of this is due to an issue within Brazil, Columbia more specifically where they don’t see racism as a problem or as big of a problem compared to others. Columbian experts, the majority of whom consider themselves white don’t think racism is a big problem. In essence, he’s making the point that black lives don’t matter compared to bigger problems occurring in Venezuela or Cuba.
The incident later occurred September 11 in Friday’s el Nuevo Herald, a column in a paid-for weekly supplement. They said hateful things about American Jewish people and the BLM movement. A direct quote from the insert depicts one of the several hateful things said was, “What kind of people are these Jews? They’re always talking about the Holocaust, but have they already forgotten Kristallnacht, when Nazi thugs rampaged through Jewish shops all over Germany?” author Roberto Luque Escalona wrote.”(Brown). Editors under the paper had no idea that the hateful column had been running all year. This caused them to promise a full investigation into the paper’s own failure in the recent year or possible years.
Almost a week later after the specific article’s last paragraph was published the Miami Herald apologizes for their racist insert. At the same time, their internal investigation on how these inserts were published continues. A Florida daily publisher Marques Gonzalez said that the Miami Herald would no longer publish or distribute content under LIBRE. As well, the specific column that was flagged and caught all of the attention was written by a Cuban exile named Roberto Luque Escalona. Who arrived in the U.S. in 1992.
As the investigation continued NPR media correspondent David Folkenfilk had come to the conclusion that the reason that the column was left to be published for months was because of the Miami Herald’s own fault. Because nobody in management or editorial position read any of the material before being printed. In this scenario, David says, “there was no responsibility taken for what they were incorporating.”(Folkenflik). Furthermore, he explains how the column wasn’t labeled as an advertisement and was “tucked” into the papers. Even two complaints about the paper were found but were never passed onto the heads of the paper.
The aftermath of the entire racist insert led to 3 major events within the company. First, they were on the brink of bankruptcy but were bought out by an investment firm. Second, they did not allow their executives to be interviewed by their reporters. This is because the public and reporters felt that there was a lack of transparency about the whole incident thus a lack of full clarity around the incident. Lastly, the leaders of the herald have apologized a lot and have reached out trying to talk to Black and Jewish leaders to make amends.
If the Miami Herald wants a successful future, they need to rebuild the relationship mainly with the public. Most of the readers of the controversial section are predominantly members of the Latino community. The relationship between The Miami Herald and the public is essential in that they are their supporters/customers. The racist comments steered future and current viewers of the Miami herald away due to their actions. The main people involved were Roberto Luque Escalona, Mindy Marques, and Nancy San Martin. They were all fired or let go of publishing positions due to their involvement in the incident. This was to ensure their safety as a news company and keep some credibility.
Individualism theory’s main idea is that one should try to maximize profit, but do so within the law. Under Individualism the actions of the Miami Herald are ethical, this is because they did not break the law. Looking at it through individualism since no laws were broken in the incident making their actions ethical. However, the actions of these editors running this column all year most definitely harmed the Miami Herald's profits. The column would have continued if not for the public uproar it caused on Twitter. Their actions were never to maximize profit but to publish anti-semetic and racist content. It was hurtful to the publisher and their reputation since unfiltered content was able to be posted for years without the notice of fellow employees. Although there was unethical behavior and an ongoing investigation within the company. This was due to the owner of LIBRE pocketed one million dollars of rent from public schools which is breaking the law. This would make the individual owner unethical under individualism because he tried to maximize profit by pocketing the rent money but broke the law in the process.
In order to be ethical under utilitarianism the goal of a company’s actions is to maximize happiness for all. In this case, The Miami Herald is not ethical under utilitarianism. When the hateful comments, posts, tweets, and columns including “What kind of people are these Jews? They’re always talking about the Holocaust, but have they already forgotten Kristallnacht, when Nazi thugs rampaged through Jewish shops all over Germany?” author Roberto Luque Escalona wrote. Investors within the Miami Herald weren’t happy when their investment is being called out for being racist, especially in today’s culture and the accessibility of information easily spreading to everyone. Almost if not more important the happiness of the consumers or readers of the paper was not happy reading and seeing racist topics for years. This could have potentially influenced children into thinking of racist ideals which are harmful not only to the stakeholders but society. Another concerning matter is how the columns were sent out and posted for years without being noticed. This raises concern as editors should be filtering or checking the content before being sent out to the public. From their apology it was noted that, “The fact that no one in leadership, beginning with us, had previously read this advertising insert until this issue was surfaced by a reader is distressing,’ Marqués González said, adding that the paper did not have a process in place to review the content for that and other similar supplements”(Licon). In other words, these people weren’t doing their jobs taking a large risk that hurt the Miami Herald. Due to the employees not fully checking their content, it caused a lot of unhappiness and causing a large and hurtful problem that could have been avoided if the correct ethics were upheld within their business.
To be ethical under Kantianism the company must treat others as both a means and an end, instead of as a mere means. Kantianism is based on the Formula of Humanity. An example of unethical treatment would be to treat people as though they don’t matter, and only use them to achieve a goal. As well, it is important to not manipulate, or deceive others in pursuit of a goal. Lastly, the most important part is that others were allowed to make their own decision without any influence. The Miami Herald fails as well under Kantianism because in their comments and posts they treat people as though they don't matter. By demeaning and hating on activist and religious groups they are treated as less than human. This directly goes against Kantianism as said previously in the formula of humanity people must be treated as both a means and an end.
The last theory, Virtue theory consists of four key virtues: courage, honesty, self-control, and justice. To be ethical and improve their business image and relationship, a company must follow each of these key virtues as guidelines. If a business follows these guidelines then the company will succeed financially. However, The Miami Herald has done the opposite. Further explaining the four key virtues, courage requires hard work because it is about setting hard goals and following through with them. The second, honesty is telling the truth even if it isn't easy. The third, self-control is about doing the right thing and being in control of your actions. Lastly, justice is doing what's fair for everyone. In this case, they failed to act courageously. They posted hateful and racist comments for months under a shady part of the column called LIBRE. They failed at being honest because they were clearly dishonest with each other as a business as these posts were made without stop or concern. Also, The Miami Herald did not demonstrate self-control as they could have resolved or stopped this problem earlier. Lastly, they failed a key virtue of justice because it was unjust of them to make these comments and compare people and groups to Nazis.
JUSTIFICATION ETHICS EVALUATION
The actions of the Miami Herald were overall unethical. Looking at the problem through each theory and analyzing the outcome the problem could have been stopped or dampened if the columns were stopped earlier. But the major ethical problems were the racist comments and the owner of where the racist comments were being published was coveting rent money. With these two issues, it creates a series of ethical problems within the company. If they were left unchecked it could have spiraled out of control, maybe even causing the Miami Herald to lose even more subscriptions and views than the incident incurred.
COMPANY ACTION PLAN
The Miami Herald's problem could have been easily avoided if they took more care and precaution before printing. Because of how big some corporations have gotten they do not understand their influence on the Populus thus they should take greater care in their work before sending it out to the masses. To solve this issue the Herald must make some staff changes otherwise the incident would have never happened. Next, it would be smart for the leaders and editors to do their job and look over the content before they print it. As well to remain profitable within the uneasy time as a stockholder is to rebuild with the Miami community that was hurt and adamant so that they can gain their status and reputability back.
The Miami Herald’s mission statement found in their about section is, “The most credible and dynamic source of news, information and innovative marketing solutions in our community”. What it should be is, “Our mission is to report and advance the news in our community”. I believe this because their new mission should be more focused on improving. Through this, the community will see their progress in gaining their reputation and credibility back. The old mission statement should be less about the dynamic and innovative market because the news is news and under the new action plan there will be heavy edits and supervision.
Setting some core values will ensure ethical productivity and monitoring of ethics in the future to prevent this problem from occurring again. These values should be discussed and maintained by employees and also taught to them. The first value would be customer service. Although they are selling news to the public it is good to hear feedback from your audience because if the Miami Herald were to have listened earlier then the incident would have never occurred. The second value is ingenuity because at a news company they need to stick out to their competition and since their reputation took a hit creating something new and flashy would be best for the Miami Herald. Lastly, the third value is reputation. Since they lost it should be the number one value they want back. This would ensure that the community would be getting the most reliable and hate-free news.
Since the Miami Herald has just recently got out of bankruptcy there should be a heavy punishment and reward system. This will ensure the safest and best results for the employees. Hiring should be more personal and extend to fully get to know the person before hiring. As well, it has steep consequences because it is a competitive job market. To continue to grow they will need to reward those who show growth and need to better the company. Also, since they were bought out by an investment firm their marketing and business plan should follow within the action plan to ensure that profits are achieved and that the company behaves ethically.
In conclusion, The Miami Herald thought they were making a small mistake but it cost them. They were lucky to recover and get a second chance to rebuild. It is up to the community of Miami if they still want to continue supporting their local news or move on. Since the actions in the incident were works of a few individuals and not a whole company or leaders I believe with the right action plan can not just recover but grow. Although using the analysis of the incident from the ethical theories the incident was unethical.
Brown, L. (2020, September 16). Miami Herald slammed for running 'racist and anti-Semitic' insert in paper. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://nypost.com/2020/09/16/miami-herald-under-fire-for-running-racist-insert-in-paper/
Ceballos, J. (2020, October 29). Miami Herald Undergoes Leadership Shakeup After LIBRE Scandal. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/after-libre-scandal-miami-herald-publisher-steps-down-and-el-nuevo-editor-resigns-11698337
Folkenflik, D. (2020, September 20). 'Miami Herald' Investigating How Racist Insert Was Distributed In Paper For Months. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/09/20/914980615/miami-herald-investigating-how-racist-insert-was-distributed-in-paper-for-months
Licon, A. G. (2020, September 17). Miami Herald apologizes for 'racist' insert column. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/miami-herald-apologizes-racist-insert-column-73077966
Padgett, T. (2020, September 06). Herald Columnist's Racist Tweets Reflect South Florida Latinos' Summer Of Denial. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from https://www.wlrn.org/commentary/2020-09-03/herald-columnists-racist-tweets-reflect-south-florida-latinos-summer-of-denial