Sunday, October 08, 2006

Herald to apologize to Martí Moonlighters?

El Nuevo Herald has published an open letter from Pablo Alfonso in today's paper. Alfonso was one of 3 El Nuevo Herald journalists that was dismissed in the wake of a September 8th article in The Miami Herald that "revealed" that 11 Spanish language journalists were also moonlighting for Radio/TV Martí which is government-funded. Citing a violation of journalistic ethics the three were dismissed but as details began to come out there were many more than just 3 Herald employees implicated and that many of them had obtained permission from their former supervisor the late Carlos Castañeda to work for Radio/TV Martí. Also several newspapers including El Nuevo Herald discovered that many journalists around the country moonlight for government-funded sister organizations of Radio/TV Martí like Voice of America (VOA). The three dismissed journalists were granted an "amnesty" and offered their jobs back.

Here is a translation of Alfonso's letter:

Pablo Alfonso: Open letter to the readers

For the readers of this column my first words are words of gratitude. Your support, expressed through dozens of phone calls, electronic messages and effusive displays of personal support, whenever I have been recognized in public places, have propped me up during these painful, tenebrous and sad moments of recent days.

To my close colleagues in the newsroom at El Nuevo Herald, who have backed me with their conscience and attitude, I must also be grateful to them from the heart. I will always cherish, among the more beautiful things that have adorned my life, your solidarity.

To the executives of the McClatchy corporation who, from their main offices on the other side of this country, have tried to understand the nature of this conflict, I offer my respect and my personal esteem.

I do not wish to use this space to talk about our detractors, of all stripes. It's not worth it. Can we expect anything less than their poisonous commentaries? It would be disingenuous to think so.

History has its ironic times. Allow me to explain. This past 27th of September made exactly 27 years since my arrival to this country, as a political refugee. I arrived here accompanied with my then wife and my four children. Directly from Castro's prisons where I had served eight years from a sentence of 20 for conspiring ''against the powers of the state" What was the nature of that conspiracy? In essence, distributing journalistic information, through mimeographed pamphlets of the news items that were denied to Cubans. Without going deep in greater detail, I arrived in this country with empty pockets, like so many other Cubans did before.

With the same astonishment that I received the news of my dismissal, for working in my free time for Radio and TV Martí and being compensated as a contractor, I received, scarcely hours ago, the news that the door had been open for my to return to El Nuevo Herald, because the management considered that administrative errors had been made in our dismissal.

Said the Cuban way, they threw me out but later picked me back up... and nothing happened here. I, with all honesty, am not so certain. I believe that much has happened here. In a letter given to me in the presence of Robert Beatty, general counsel and vice-president of public affairs of the Miami Herald Media Company, and Elissa Vanaver, vice-president of human resources, and the editor of El Nuevo Herald, Humberto Castelló, the pleasing news of my reinstatement to the newspaper was confirmed, on the condition of that I could not work, under contract, meaning on a paid basis, for Radio and TV Martí, or any other news media, without previous written authorization from my supervisors.

For those who lived through and know of this nightmare all this would seem to be rose colored. A great triumph for all.

Nevertheless, I believe that if things remain the way they are, all of this would be nothing more than a great ''public relations'' operation, with which The Miami Herald Media Company tried to conceal the embarrassing, defamatory and notorious way in which we were treated, slandered and deprived of our more basic rights.

I could accept the terms of this aforementioned ''amnesty'' that offers us the ability to return El Nuevo Herald. But I would always carry with me in my conscience the stigma of a yoke imposed by material needs, on the one hand, and by the indulgence of what is ''politically and commercially correct '' on the other.

I was not born, nor have I lived until now, for that. This infamy that was published against us should not finish here. A public declaration from the leadership of The Miami Herald Media Company is required, an editorial decision that clealy states, without a doubt, that my professional credibility as a journalist is totally recognized.

Nevertheless, until a few hours ago things have not been reflected thusly. Judging by what has been published by our ''publishing house'' they consider that they have done us "a great favor", that they are being "magnanimous '' in allowing our return.

It's about an "amnesty" about a pardon, a "benevolent" attitude exhibited by the company that picked me up again like a ''prodigal son'' that returns to the fold of the family. What family? The one that seems to reject us and treats to us like corrupt professionals? Like third or fourth class journalists? The one that describes us as “Chihuahuas"?

I believe that The Miami Herald Media Company owes us an honorable rectification. Not one regarding legal claims. More important than legality is morality and dignity. With those virtues I have been able, throughout my life, to lay my head on pillow each night without remorse.

The Miami Herald Media Company must have a big enough spirit to recognize in an editorial that the article written against us was ''abominable, ugly and [journalistically] light'', to recognize in black and white that, if the company accepts our return to work, it is not only because administrative norms and procedures were violated and management errors were committed, but that, in addition to that, we are professionals, with intact reputations and credibility. Otherwise the company would not have accepted our return.

That, which is admitted today in private, I want that to be recognized publicly. It is not an issue of arrogance. It's just that our reputation was judged in the public light and must, for justice's sake, be clarified in the same context.

With that criteria in our mind, in the afternoon hours on Friday, the president and publisher of the Miami Herald Media Company, David Landsberg, received us in his office to talk about the subject. I attended with my colleague Wilfredo Cancio. Vanaver and Beatty were present for the conversation.

We accepted the commitment of these executives, their word of honor, that in the days to come those necessary explanations would be clearly established. They requested some weeks from us, a vote of confidence. That vote of confidence is granted.

Today I return to the work, with my head held as high as the day which I left; it is not false pride which maintains it high, but the strength of the truth and having accomplished it.

''Patience can accomplish everything and reach anything'', we will be patient in waiting and hopeful.
We'll see if The Miami Herald keeps it's commitment and prints some kind of clarification in the coming weeks. We'll be here.


heraldphobe said...

Not all 11 journalists fingered by Corral's notoriously flawed 9/8 article were of Cuban extraction, although the article incorrectly gave that impression. One of them, Helen Aguirre Ferré, is of Nicaraguan parents and was born in the US.

Jose Aguirre said...

Excellent article by Pablo Alfonso! If the Herald management/owners had one tenth the ethics, intelligence and dignity that Cubans like Pablo Alfonso have, we would have a much better newspaper in this town!

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

I have edited the post to reflect the fact that the journalists were not all Cuban in origin. I took the reference out.

Enrique said...

Quiero destacar que nos hemos percatado de una informacion acerca de esta controversia del Herald. En el Blog de Oscar Corral hace algun tiempo el dijo publicamente que estaba en una mision de un trabajo importante. El abandono su blog por varias semanas , inclusive muchos lectores pensaron que algo malo le habia pasado.

Lo que se dice es que por sus ansias de escalar posiciones rapidamente en el Herald, el señor Corral comenzo toda esta controversia de los periodistas despedidos para " congraciarse" con algunos elementos que en un futuro no muy lejano " le permitirian" a el conseguir el visto bueno para reportar desde Cuba para el Herald , al estilo Lucia Newman.

Todo esto hace bastante sentido y ojala, ojala la verdad salga a relucir en su debido momento.

Que quede bien claro , estas no son palabras textuales mias. Solamente me hago eco de lo que esta sonando por la calle numero 8.

Ustedes deciden..

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

Helen Aguirre Ferré is certainly an exception in more ways than one. She is the only journalist cited in Oscar Corral's Sept. 8 story to give away the money that she received from Radio and TV Marti. I don't know exactly what point she was trying to make by her belated donation, but there are several possibilities:

That the money was "dirty" and she wanted no part of it?

That the multimillionaire daughter of the Diario Las Americas' founder and publisher, Horacio Aguirre, doesn't need a paltry $1500?

That she is somehow better or more ethical than the other 11 journalists named in Corral's article? (well, she is certainly richer).

Whatever her point, her action showed little solidarity with her Cuban counterparts.

It may be well for Ms. Aguirre to remember to whom her family owes its fortune.