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