Thursday, September 14, 2006

The War of the Words

The case of the Martí Moonlighters has evolved into an undeclared war between The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. Picking up the story exactly where I left it yesterday El Nuevo Herald has published today an article by Gerado Reyes and Joaquim Utset with the headline:

Payments to Journalists from Federal Broadcasters are a Common Practice
In the piece, which I have not yet had a chance to translate, the authors expound on the story by Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun that many, many journalists have taken appearance fees and pay from Radio/TV Martí's sister agency the Voice of America. Larry Hart, the spokesperson for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees VOA and OCB (Office of Cuba Broadcasting) had this to say.
"For decades, many, many years, some of the most respectable journalists in the country have receeived payment for particular programs of Voice of America," explained Hart. "The article [in The Miami Herald] leaves the impression that this is something only practiced by Radio and TV Martí, and that they are necessarily paying for [the reporters] to say certain things or to have a certain point of view."
The piece goes on to name names of known journalists who have taken or are currently taking government pay in the same manner that the Martí Moonlighters were. Among them are Tom M. DeFrank, the Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Daily News, Georgie Anne Geyer who is a syndicated columnist published in 120 newspapers [and incidentally a biographer of Fidel Castro], David Lightman the Washington Bureau Chief for the Hartford Courant and Helle Dale who is the former opinon page editor of The Washington Times.

Meanwhile in The Miami Herald, a shorter story was published about the El Nuevo story. In it Tom Fiedler, The Herald's executive editor defended the firings (of two El Nuevo journalists and the termination of a freelancer) and the original story broken by Oscar Corral.

''Even though other journalists may have accepted payments from other government agencies such as the Voice of America, it is certainly not common practice nor accepted as proper among most journalists,'' Fiedler said.

"I was surprised at the Hartford Courant's Washington bureau chief because he is clearly in the position to assign reporters to cover stories about Washington, to cover the very government he is taking payments from.

''That is exactly why this practice is frowned upon by the great majority of journalists and journalism ethicists,'' Fiedler said.

Clearly, the rank and file at El Nuevo Herald feel differently about the situation than do the executives at The Miami Herald publishing company and The Miami Herald itself. It's been evidenced in the way the two papers have covered the aftershocks of last Friday's news of the firings.

We'll be keeping an eye out on the situation. Stay tuned.

Reminder to Herald Watch readers: This only works if I get suggestions from you. Are you a Herald insider? Do you have information to share? Email me. Your anonymity is assured.

7 comments:

Jose Aguirre said...

Great work Henry! Hopefully you saw Zoe Valdes' letter to the Herald on this matter taking them to task for their historical unfairness to the Cuban-Americans! Hopefully we can get the Herald to change its evil ways or, if not, a second newspaper will flourish in this town!

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

An interesting development at Corral's blog, Miami's Cuban Connection. He is now restricting commentary. The following admonition now appears on his blog: "Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them." I know that other private blogsites (such as Babalu and yours) do the same thing. But there is one important difference: you and Val are not connected to The Miami Herald nor are your blogs official Miami Herald blogs. Needless to say, no other blog sponsored by the Miami Herald requires pre-approval of posts. This development is all the more interesting because of its peculiar timing. Miami's Cuban Connection has become Oscar Corral's whipping station. I know that I have cracked the whip hard, but I am not by any means the only one. I think that he was afraid that someone might write a story about reactions to his article, and of course, reference Oscar's own blog, where you would be hardpressed to find even one cogent defense of his reportage. The man is obviously afraid that the monster which he has created will devour him. Corral está acorralado. Next I believe he will begin deleting all negative comments on his blog (he may be doing so as I write). Get on this, it's important. You have been doing an excellent job of following this story. It's you who deserve the Pulitzer.

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Here is the comment that I was unable to post on Corral's "Miami's Cuban Connection" blog. Luckily, I had save it before submitting it because I guessed that he would be restricting or deleting comments at any time:

If one good thing has come out of this imbroglio, it is that El Nuevo Herald has asserted its independence from its sister newspaper by exposing the hypocrisy and lies on which Oscar Corral's story was based.

In today's newspaper they literally blow the lid off Oscar's olla podrida (go to a dictionary, Oscar). Since 1942, hundreds if not thousands of U.S. journalists have accepted payment from the U.S. government for their appearances on the VOA. None has ever been fired
for it except the three Cuban-American journalists.

The monumentally disingenuous Fiedler, who has already admitted that he doesn't read his own paper, is quoted in El Nuevo Herald as defending the exclusion of this information from Oscar Corral's story because it only focused on journalists working for Radio and TV Marti. That, of course, is the problem. The story focused selectively on the Cuban-American reporters because they had been targetted for smearing. Why dilute your story naming Anglo names from VOA when you can have a bigger "scoop" by targetting specifically the Cuban-American community?

However, I am sure that Anglo experts have also appeared on Radio and TV Marti and been compensated for it. Why weren't they named? Didn't they fall within the restricted purview of this story (just those who've worked for Radio and TV Marti)?

Well, given all this new information, the fired reporters can now sue The Miami Herald not only for unlawful termination but libel as well. The malicious intent has already been more than proven.

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Another interesting development: Oscar has removed the "Granma" link on Miami's Cuban Connection.

Too late for damage control now, though.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Thanks for the tip and the compliment. I still see the Granma link on his blog however.

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Corral has just posted Ana Menéndez's meretricious defense of his reportage. No more uncensored commentary at Miami's Cuban Connection, just inhouse paeans to Oscar.

Menéndez's column is beyond cynical and disingenuous. She has a well-earned reputation as The Miami Herald's resident witch, but she has really outdone herself this time:

"The El Nuevo three were fired for entering into the sort of arrangement that defines journalism in a totalitarian state. Which brings us to more hypocrites: all the exile patriots who attack Corral for reporting the truth while simultaneously defending El Nuevo Herald's journalists for taking money from propagandists."

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Henry:

Well, Oscar must have restored the Granma link between the time I wrote you and the time you checked. I should like to think that he is reading "Herald Watch."

By the way, Oscar has yet to approve any post since restricting commentary on his blog, although I think we will soon see a barrage of praise (most of it probably authored by Corral himself). I guess this is his idea of "balanced reporting."

Something else you should look into is The Miami Herald's policy on speaker's fees.