Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What's fit to print? And in what language? - UPDATED

Most of the posts on this infant blog have been about the reverberations of Oscar Corral's September 8th article that called into question the journalistic ethics of several Cuban-American journalists (among them El Nuevo Herald employees and a freelancer for that paper) who were moonlighting for the government-funded Radio/TV Martí organization. That's because this is a juicy story about the newspaper business and journalism itself. There's a lot of fodder there for a blogger to write about.

I've always been curious about what motivates editorial decisions at the Herald's two newspapers. Sometimes they run the same material and sometimes they don't. Obviously, they have two different executive editors who must decide what is news for their separate (but sometimes overlapping) audiences.

Tom Fiedler obviously felt that Corral's story was newsworthy and it certainly has attracted a lot of attention. What's curious is how the two newpapers have responded in the aftermath. The Spanish paper has published a letter from syndicated columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner, who was implicated in the story, in which he questions why he was named in Corral's piece. And then today they published what essentially amounts to Ernesto Betancourt's resignation letter, a column in which he explains the challenges he faced in bringing credible journalists to contribute to Radio Martí when he was the station's first director. To date, neither of these two pieces, that a reader might consider to be "the other side of the story," have been published in the English version of the Herald, where the story was broken. UPDATE: The Herald published Montaner's letter in English today. El Nuevo Herald published it the day after the original Corral article.

Does Tom Fiedler think allowing the accused to voice their side to the English-preferring readers of South Florida is not as newsworthy as the accusations themselves?

And another question: if it's true, as Ernesto Betancourt claims in his final column, that Washington journalists are similarly paid to comment on the Voice of America, is that not newsworthy? Herald Watch thinks so. I expect Corral to make FOIA requests to VOA and do a fine job following up on the story, to see if this is a much bigger issue than just some Cuban-American journalists from South Florida.

By the way, following up on this post, the relationship between Montaner and The Miami Herald does not seem to have been affected by his alleged violation of journalistic ethics. The paper ran his latest column in today's edition.

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