Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Not just Cuban-American journalists on the take

In this post, I suggested that Oscar Corral should follow up his "scoop" on the Martí Moonlighters to determine how many other non-Cuban-American journalists take payments for appearances on other government-operated media like the Voice of America (VOA). Well it seems that Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun has beaten him to the punch.

In an article dated September 12, 2006, Gerstein reports that various mainstream journalists are paid honoraria in the same manner that the Martí Moonlighters were.

A columnist for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain and a longtime moderator of VOA's "Issues" program, Martin Schram, said he has struggled with the issue of working for the government. "I, and I think every other journalist who has done that show for 40 years or 30 years, I know has pondered the same thing," he said.

Regular guests on the program have included journalism legends such as Hugh Sidey of Time magazine and Peter Lisagor of the Chicago Daily News.

Mr. Schram said he gives regularly to charity and teaches for free on college campuses but that it would be unrealistic to expect experienced reporters to appear on the show week after week for free. The nominal payments have been unchanged for decades, he said.

"If they wanted us to simply volunteer our time, they wouldn't have a show," he said.

VOA's charter calls for editorial independence, but the organization is overseen by the International Broadcasting Board, the same body that manages Radio and TV Marti.
Schram goes on to say of Radio/TV Martí that "Their ultimate goal is to get rid of Castro, and they're very ideological and they'd acknowledge that. I would never go to work for them,"

Actually they do not acknowledge that. As Gerstein points out the Office of Cuba Broadcasting is a sister agency of the VOA and is governed by the same International Broadcasting Board.

Perhaps Schram is trying to draw a line that doesn't really exist to protect his own credibility, and that of other journalists that contribute to VOA programs, but it is indisputable that Radio/TV Martí were created in the same spirit as the Voice of America, namely to give oppressed peoples an opportunity to receive credible and uncensored news and information.

Interestingly VOA's journalistic ethics standards are a matter of public record while the Miami Herald's (and those of other private news outlets generally) are not. According to the IBB web site:
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting directs the operations of Radio and TV Martí, the broadcast services that provide Spanish-language news, features, and entertainment programs to Cuba. Both stations follow Voice of America's journalistic standards and guidelines for presenting news and information in an accurate and objective manner.
This is fact is reiterated on the web site of the Broadcasting Board of Governor's web site and the statute that mandates the standards of Radio/TV Martí is cited:
In accordance with the Broadcasting to Cuba Act of 1983 (Public Law 98-111), Radio Martí follows Voice of America journalistic standards and guidelines for presenting a variety of news and information in an accurate and objective manner.
So it seems that this debate should rise to a much higher level now that it's not just a local story about some anti-castro Cuban-American journalists taking money from the government but involves nationally known journalists taking appearance fees from VOA as well. Let's see if any of the higher-profile news media pick up on the New York Sun's excellent reporting.

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