Monday, September 25, 2006

Latest on Martí Moonlighters

Two items in the newspapers today. The first is a letter by Ninoska Perez Castellon, a local talk radio host, who was named but not pictured in the September 8th story about the Martí Moonlighters (this is why there are really 11, not 10, journalists involved, contrary to the headline of that story). This letter was published in El Nuevo Herald on September 13th. I won't comment on it because you can judge it for yourself. They published her letter as a "reader response" but that's a mischaracterization since she was accused violating journalistic ethics.

The other item is a new column in El Nuevo Herald today which I have translated and posted below:

What a shame

There are columns I'd prefer not to write. This is, without a doubt, the most difficult of all.

I have dedicated to 33 years of my life to The Miami Herald. I witnessed the births El Miami Herald in 1976 and El Nuevo Herald in 1987 and, from my perch in engineering, I assisted in the labor and delivery.

From a midwife, through the years, I became a fireman. The writing and management of The Miami Herald often started fires. Roberto Suárez, Sam Verdeja and I would rush to extinguish them. And we did it of the only way that we could expect to be respected: showing our faces in the middle of the Cuban street. Resisting the attacks of collective wrath and, sometimes, trying to defend the indefensible. It was not pleasant. It was like taking one's character to the gym. In order to strenghten it. In order to polish it.

This time I am afraid that the fire is winning. Worse still, we have not seen the firemen. We have committed (readers forgive me, but in my heart, even as it bleeds, I continue to be part of the Herald) the worst dirty trick that I have seen in these 33 years. And the indications are that we do not know what to do about it. That, even if we knew, we would not have the will to do it.

And why has all this happened?

The Miami Herald reported, in its September 8th edition, that 10 local journalists had received monetary compensation from Radio and TV Martí, official organs of the government of the United States. Four of them were associated with El Nuevo Herald; two reporters, one freelancer and a syndicated columnist.

And what did the company do? Instead of stopping to evaluate the facts carefully, to look for a a wider perspective, The Herald decided to take on an irrational attitude, and took ill-timed and drastic actions. It cloaked itself in a dubious code of ethics and, in an action that would have been the envy of Torquemada, dismissed the reporters and cancelled the contract of the freelancer. As for the columnist, Carlos Alberto Montaner, the most published political columnist in the Spanish-speaking world, they communicated to him that he was free of fault, that his name should not have appeared in the article and that his columns would continue being published as usual. Immediately afterwards, his column published in El Nuevo Herald on Sunday the 17th of September, that would normally have been published in The Miami Herald Tuesday the 19th, was censored without even an explanation to Carlos Alberto as to why it was not to be published.

If the company blamed (and dismissed) Pablo Alfonso, Wilfredo Cancio and Olga Connor for ''violating the code of ethics'', was it perchance ethical and equitable to stain the immaculate reputation of Carlos Alberto Montaner? Shouldn't they be accountable to somebody in the publication process for violating an ethics code that requires fairness? Was it perchance ''ethical'' to drag through the mud the reputations of other local journalists who are not even connected with our company? And, adding insult to injury, was it ethical to publish the information in a form and with a tone that seems more like a judicial indictment than a news article, including a montage of photos more appropriate to a post office bulletin board than to the second page of a supposedly respectable newspaper?

I can only ask God that the The Miami Herald and McClatchy reconsider. To err is human. And tell Pablo, Wilfredo and Olga who, although it's not in my hands to bring you back, that my heart is with you and so is my highest respect.

And to my dear Herald: wise people rectify their mistakes.

We have stained ourselves. What a shame.


Anonymous said...

Thanks. What a great service to the community you're doing by creating this blog. It also allows the English speakers to read what The Miami Herald doesn't want them to read. thanks.

Firefly said...

By the way, Ninoska Perez Castellon's letter was edited by the Miami Herald prior to it being published. She commented on it this morning during her radio program on WAQI.