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Ethics battle goes on

The war of words-printed, spoken and posted to the Web-between Dallas anchor Mike Snyder and several leading media ethics experts continued last week, even after a lawsuit brought by Snyder appeared to have been settled.

The KXAS-TV Fort Worth anchor had charged that the authors of a Society of Professional Journalists ethics handbook fabricated facts about Snyder to fit a scenario used to demonstrate political conflict of interest. Those he sued for libel are the Poynter Institute and its ethics expert Bob Steele, professors John Black of the University of South Florida and Ralph Barney of Brigham Young University (who admit mistakes but deny fabrication), and publisher Allyn & Bacon and its former owner Viacom.

But by week's end, Snyder said he was preparing to refile the lawsuit against SPJ and the book's authors, contending that, in local interviews and in Internet postings, SPJ, its attorneys and author Steele had tried to spin the settlement and avoid its specific admissions. Snyder also denied SPJ's assertions that the litigation was unnecessary because a similar offer had been made previously. "This demonstrates the arrogance of these people," said a still-angry Snyder. "They signed a settlement which says they created a story with facts that don't exist. Then they come up with a press release that tries to explain away [their offenses]."

Steele said that Snyder himself was going to great lengths to draw attention to the settlement and ruin the authors' reputations. "I believe the Society of Professional Journalists was very serious in reaching a settlement and honoring a settlement," said Steele.

Snyder said the acknowledgements in the settlement agreement add up to fabrication. But the authors deny any intent to invent facts or injure Snyder. SPJ attorneys told Broadcasting & Cable Friday the organization intended to change the Web- site posting.

In 1994, Snyder was suspended by his station for two weeks after he introduced Rep. Dick Armey at a Republican picnic and made an off-hand remark in conversation that referred to George W. Bush, who was at the event, as the next Texas governor. Snyder said he'd done it as a favor for one of the picnic's hosts but admits to a lapse in judgment because it had the appearance of partisanship.