Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New memo from Fiedler's bunker

According to Bob Norman at The Daily Pulp the following memo from Tom Fiedler was distributed to Herald newsroom staffers today.

From: Fiedler, Tom
Sent: Wednesday, November 22, 2006 12:09 PM
To: MIA Newsroom
Subject: Truth to power
Importance: High

Oscar Corral’s stories questioning the spending of public dollars in programs here under the guise of restoring freedom to Cuba have struck the nerves — and threatened the wallets — of powerful people in this community who have access to the Spanish-language media, including, sadly, the opinion page of El Nuevo Herald. Today a freelance columnist, in an attempt to justify allowing these businesses to feed at the public trough, committed a blood libel against Oscar directly and this newsroom indirectly.

I don’t know at this point who this columnist is or how such an outrageous character defamation was allowed; I will get back to you if and when I have something to share. But I do know that we will respond in the best traditions of journalism — by supporting Oscar in continuing to report this story wherever it leads and by publishing our findings in the columns of The Miami Herald.

The memo comes in response to a column written by Nicolas Perez Diaz-Arguelles that was published in today's El Nuevo Herald. The column mainly defends the federal programs to aid Cuban dissidents but at the end takes on the Herald.
Also, again The Miami Herald, the largest newspaper in South of Florida, publishes an article against its subscribers, readers, journalists, advertisers and collaborators. I would call this journalistic compulsion in a definitive and disordered suicidal vein. And it's not that The Herald doesn't have a perfect right perfect to investigate and to publish valid news that deserves to be uncovered. A newspaper is not a novel nor a poem, it's not there so that people can read what they like, but to inform. But what is published deserves a balance between the rabbits of Spain and reality. I believe that The Herald, if it wished to publish an impartial article, had to indicate that the accounting of a chain saw that is worth $40 within a budget of $55 million is not serious.

It is also suspicious that Oscar Corral returns again to appear as the bad guy of the film. And here the point is not to ask whether Max Lesnick and his friends in the Cuban government's DGI are behind Oscar Corral, which may or may not be true, but what top executive of The Miami Herald is behind Oscar Corral? A second stupid question: How long do the owners at the MacClatchy [sic] Company expect El Nuevo Herald to be able to extinguish the fires that The Miami Herald sets in the Cuban exile community?
My first reaction is that the tone of Fiedler's memo is disproportionate to the column it refers to. The column's author does not accuse Corral of being linked to Lesnick or the Cuban government but raises the possibility, a possibility that has been voiced in other media outlets in Miami since it was reported that Lesnick scooped the Martí Moonlighters story on his radio show. The story was also subsequently picked up by Cuban state TV, all before the Herald article ran. Neither Fiedler nor the Herald have addressed the possibility an investigation into the source of the leak. Herald Watch has maintained on more than one occasion that the idea of a mole in The Herald newsroom is an unsavory one to contemplate but that the paper would be wise to take the possibility seriously and investigate it.

This latest memo is more evidence of Tom Fiedler's quickly escalating bunker mentality. Fiedler claims that he doesn't know who the columnist is but Perez Diaz-Arguelles said on Miami TV tonight that he has been contributing to El Nuevo Herald for 25 years. It should be surprising that Fiedler doesn't know who this person is but it's not given his demonstrated tone deafness to the Cuban exile community.

According to his memo, Fiedler believes that The El Nuevo Herald column is the product of a conspiracy among "powerful people in this community". The El Nuevo Herald columnist claims that he has no links to any of the groups that received government funds in the Cuban democracy projects. Fiedler doesn't seem to allow for the possibility that the author simply has an opinion about the government programs that is different than his own. If Perez Diaz-Arguelles' statement about Corral is reckless, then Fiedler's own accusations about "powerful people" influencing El Nuevo Herald is equally reckless if not more so.

Another thing to contemplate is how Fiedler's own thoughts on these government programs come through in his memo. None of the Herald news stories printed to date have overtly criticized the programs the way Fiedler did today, they at least had a patina of objectivity. How can we expect unbiased news from The Herald if the executive editor of the paper exhibits his own bias about a developing story so easily?

I have to ask myself again, is it time for Fiedler to go?


heraldphobe said...

If this memo is the real thing, it sounds to me like Fiedler is losing it. Actually, it sounds kind of scary. What is this "blood" libel stuff? And he makes some serious accusations himself, which would need to be backed up with serious facts, unless he wants to be accused of libel.

I assume Fiedler can't read Spanish, and that he got an inaccurate or distorted version of what Perez wrote in Nuevo Herald, because what Perez said definitely does not constitute libel. He simply said something may or may not be true, which is unimpeachable.

The perfectly valid and even pressing question of how Cuban media can scoop the Herald, not just on the Marti story but apparently on other Cuba-related Herald stories, cries out for serious investigation. I see no evidence of any such effort by the Herald, which only serves to raise legitimate doubts and suspicions further.

If Fiedler doesn't want people speculating about those things, the Herald needs to show them there's no basis for it. Just telling people there's no problem is definitely not going to work, because as long as people perceive smoke, they're going to be worried there's a fire.

Manuel A. Tellechea said...

I agree with you, Heraldphobe. Isn't "blood libel" the canard that all Jews are responsible for shedding Christ's blood, and that His blood is on all their hands to the last generation? Is Oscar Corral, then, the new Christ, and are his detractors all guilty of a "blood libel?" This is really the only "logical" explanation for Fiedler's comment.