Should Maggie Rodriguez's Friendship With Father Cutié Disqualify Her Coverage?

Categories: Media Watch
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Earlier today CBS's Early Show announced that they've score the first, sit-down interview with Father Alberto Cutié. Maggie Rodriguez, a Miami native and former CBS4 anchor, is set to do the interview, however she's admitted that Cutié is "a family friend whom I've known for many, many years." 

Should this disqualify her from reporting on the story? NewsBusters, a conservative media watchdog site whose stated mission is to "expose liberal bias," seems to think so:

 
On Thursday, Rodriguez vigorously defended her friend by asking CBS religion analyst, Father Thomas Williams, about the Catholic Church's "rigid" and "outdated" requirement that priests take a vow of celibacy. Following the Thursday story, NewsBusters' Scott Whitlock questioned Rodriguez on Twitter about violating journalistic ethics by her reporting on someone she knows personally. Rodriguez replied to the tweet and argued: "I respectfully disagree. If I hadn't disclosed that I know him, then it would have been a violation...but there are no secrets." Having brushed aside any concerns of bias, at the end of the Friday report, Rodriguez announced that she would be interviewing Cutie exclusively on Monday. 
Whitlock later followed up on Twitter, explaining to Rodriguez: "You're friends with someone involved. You argued his case. You should have recused yourself from the piece. It's biased." Rodriguez again responded and denied any friendship existed: "Let me know after my interview with him on Monday if you think I'm biased. And I'm NOT friends with him. I know him."
Rick Sanchez, the Twitter-obsessed CNN anchor who used to anchor for WSVN, is also a friend of Cutié but has also covered the story on his show. Though, he's made no qualms about admitting Cutié is a personal friend of his. Though, his reporting on the story is very obviously friendly to Cutié. You may remember when Cutié appeared on Sanchez's show last year to huff and puff about a Mexican Playboy cover that sorta, kinda looked like the Virgin Mary.

What do you think? Should Rodriguez's stated personal connection to Cutié disqualify her from interviewing him? Let's keep in mind, this isn't a political story, it's a very personal story, so should the same rules of carefully avoiding bias apply? Perhaps her familiarity with Cutié and the culture of Miami could even add something to her coverage. 

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