A lot more details on mayor Villaraigosa’s romance with reporter Mirthala Salinas have been surfacing, since he confirmed their relationship yesterday. The most complete timeline is offered in today’s L.A. Times, which links the mayor to the reporter as far back as 18 months ago.
The blogs are on fire, with some very scathing comments about the couple. Some examples: Anorak addresses rumors of pregancy, the editorial page editor of the Daily News chastizes “The Cheat and The Homewrecker” in his Friendly Fire blog and L.A. Observed has multiple entries, including references to her past relationships with former L.A. council President Alex Padilla and Fabián Nuñez, Speaker of the California Assembly.
When Villaraigosa announced he was divorcing Corina on June 8, it was Mirthala Salinas who opened Telemundo 52’s 6 pm newscast with: “The rumors are true … Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa confirmed today that he is separating from his wife, Corina, after more than 20 years of marriage.” She’s been anchoring the newscast while main anchor Lucia Navarro is on maternity leave, but should she have recused herself and let someone else anchor that evening to read the story, when she was “the other woman”?
Mirthala’s actions, on a professional level, have raised a flurry of questions. Did she compromise journalistic ethics and integrity? Experts say yes, but also fault Telemundo management for lack of judgment.
Quoted in the L.A. Times article, Laura Castañeda, an associate professor at USC Annenberg School of Journalism, criticized Telemundo, saying it was “completely inappropriate” that they allowed Salinas to announce the mayor’s breakup with his wife: “It doesn’t reflect well. Telemundo has no excuse.”
A Telemundo spokesman said Mirthala was taken off the political beat, at her request, 11 months ago. But it’s not exactly clear when her relationship with the mayor evolved into a romantic connection. However, she did previously have a romantic relationship with Fabián Nuñez, Speaker of the California Assembly and yet, she was covering politics. Was there no conflict of interest back then?
“There really is no question that this is unacceptable,” Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., told the L.A. Times. “You can’t sleep with your sources.”
Bob Steele, also an ethics expert from Poynter, the well-respected journalism think tank, points out in his online column: “there are serious concerns to be raised about her ethics and those of her station’s news managers if they were aware of the intersection of professional and personal connections.
And, even if Salinas left her political beat role and direct coverage of the mayor before she started the romantic relationship with him, what the heck was she doing reading stories as a newscast anchor that focused on his personal life?”