Monday, November 06, 2006

The war between the Heralds

Soren Triff wrote a column which was published in last Thursday's El Nuevo Herald. In it, he responds to a letter by Armando Codina which had appeared earlier last month. We do not know if this Armando Codina is the Armando Codina, the developer and political mover and shaker but are left to assume so.

Mr. Triff believes that "The Herald refuses to dialogue with the community by closing their pages after the Chihuahuas remark letters on Oct. 6." He noted that a letter of support for Fiedler appeared on October 12th.

It seems to me that this is more of the same from The Herald, which has made a habit of publishing letters and columns that defend the Herald's actions (actions specifically denounced as attacks by Cuban-Americans) at a ratio of perhaps 2-1 or 3-1 vs. letters or columns that condemn the Herald.

As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, among the reasons for starting this blog was the handling (or mishandling) of a letter I wrote to the editors of The Miami Herald. They stripped out my criticism of the paper and published the letter anyway.

Throughout the Martí Moonlighters affair, El Nuevo published articles, letters, and columns that attempted to frame the issue more fairly (giving the accused and friends of the accused equal time), in my opinion, while The Miami Herald seemed to publish mostly pieces that attempted to justify its sloppy handling of the matter.

I suppose one could argue that the two papers balanced each other out but the truth is their audiences don't overlap that much. What results is that the readers of The Miami Herald are often in the dark about Cuban-Americans and why they act and react the way they do.

In any case, Mr. Triff argues that the problems between the Heralds go deeper than "a bright line of ethical conduct" but instead are rooted in a bright line between ethnicities in the newsrooms.

Here is his column as translated by Herald Watch:

The Bright line of ethnics

SOREN TRIFF

Armando Codina writes in The Miami Herald that he has accepted the apology of the executive editor of the newspaper for referring to Hispanic commentators by using the epithet “Chihuahuas” and asks for readers to do the same. I don’t have difficulty in forgiving, but the editor continues to be one of the people responsible for the lack of diversity of the newspaper, the inconsistency in the handling of its code of ethics, the failures in its coverage of Cuba, the strategic stumbles of journalistic “convergence”. Five years are sufficient to demonstrate results.

The journalism industry is up to date on the efforts of McClatchy Media Co. to improve relations between the newspapers and the community. Editor and Publisher affirmed that McClatchy had contracted Clark Hoyt to find a middle ground between The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald centered on “ethical policies and practices”. But if the executive editor thinks that the only important issue the newspaper needs to discuss is ethics, there is not much Hoyt can do for both newspapers.

It is hard to believe that only ethical misunderstandings caused the dismissal and rehiring of Hispanic journalists, the resignation of a Hispanic publisher, the editor’s description of Hispanic radio commentators as “Chihuahuas'' and his perception of the Spanish press as “propaganda”, all in less than a month.

Although the decisions of the managers can be explained administratively and journalistically, they also have a strong ethnic and ideological component that cannot be ignored. It’s an urgent matter that these dividing lines within The Miami Herald, between the Heralds and newspapers and the community be crossed. But Fiedler’s memorandum seems to explicitly deny this fact. According to Editor and Publisher, the purpose of hiring Hoyt was “to find the middle ground that we need to occupy as journalists committed to this community”. The central argument speaks to reviewing “the ethical policies and practices of each newsroom”.

If it is difficult for the executives to see the ethnic dividing line in the newsroom it is still more difficult to perceive the ideological one, but it is equally important to see the truth. For example, the word “Cuba”, like the word “abortion” and the phrase “gay marriage”, has an ideological connotation that helped the members of more than one American generation identify themselves as liberals and conservatives. Cuba is not only part of our international and local news but also part of our definition as liberal and conservative Americans. Many in our newsrooms need to recognize that Cuba is not only a topic, but also a deep source of American identity, they should “come of the closet” and discuss the subject openly.

Cuban-Americans, by extension, easily personify the “dark stranger'' for conservatives and the “rich white” for liberals especially when things are bad and the elections are close. This can explain why Cuban-Americans often receive unintended blows as a result of the ignorance and the prejudices of journalists. In the worst cases, an attack against Cuban-Americans, offers a rare opportunity for finding a common ground among the liberals and conservatives and, although in a negative way, a source of national identity.

It is time that The Miami Herald comes out of the closet and speaks openly of the lack of ethnic and cultural diversity in the management and the newsroom, not just of ethics and a “clash of civilizations”.

16 comments:

Rick said...

If the issue is, in part, the Herald's control of content and comments, I would think that would be something that you would be able to understand, Henry.

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Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

With the obvious difference that my blog CubanAmericanPundits.com, makes no claims about objectivity, it reflects the opinions of its editors and contibutors. It is often partisan and ideological and we make no claims about balance.

Nor do we have the responsibility of associated the only source of information of its kind in the area as does the Herald. That's a faulty analogy and you know it.

A blog is not a newspaper and newspaper is not a blog. If the Herald is willing to give up the veneer of being an objective publication my criticism of the paper would not be valid. But they do not concede the point.

heraldphobe said...

It seems quite evident, since it is rather thinly disguised, that there is a significant element at the Miami Herald which has serious problems dealing with the Cuban-American presence in this area and in general. I would say that is the predominant element at the MH, and it only grudgingly "plays nice" or pays lip service due to commercial considerations. Basically, the MH can't afford to lose the business of Cuban-Americans, certainly not all of them.

When there's some sort crisis or things come to a head, the simmering or latent tension and bad feelings come to the surface, and the veneer of civility and understanding cracks. It never blows wide open because of the aforementioned financial concerns, but it doesn't take a genius to read the writing on the wall.

I don't know what the answer is. I only know my answer to the situation, which I formulated years ago. I will not pay or otherwise support a publication that seriously offends me, disrespects me, or is in any way detrimental to what I want for Cuba. The Herald is free to be what it is, but I'm also free to reject it.

Robert said...

Rick,

You can't possibly be serious, right?

Rick said...

Robert: Yeah, I am.

Of course there's a difference between a blog and a newspaper, but the concept of controlling the content and the comments is exactly the same. Should the Herald be obligated to print every single letter they get?

BTW, how many anti-Herald letters does the Herald actually get? How many aren't they publishing that you wish they would stop throwing out? You must have stats in order to come to a conclusion that they not printing enough.

Is it possible, just remotely possible, that they receive more letters from moderates or pro-Herald readers than they do right-wing extremists? I don't know how many times I've heard the argument that Miami isn't filled with anti-Castro activists like everyone believes...that it's more of a mix. So maybe the 3-1 or 2-1 figure that you throw out is reflective of that ratio of letters received.

I don't know. You don't know. But I'm not the one crying foul, tossing out figures, and coming to conclusions with absolutely no evidence to back them up.

And we're still talking about the "Marti Moonlighters." Please, move on, I beg you. Surely there's something else to "watch."

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Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Rick,

The Herald has a weekday circ. of, 265,000 and a Sunday circulation of 361,000. How many of those subscribers do you suppose are "right wing extremists" as you desparragingly refer to them (I'll call them conservative Cuban-Americans)? My guess is that somewhere between 40-50%.

The fact is that if you review the archives of this blog you'll see how the Miami Herald persisted on presenting mainly one side of the story while El Nuevo actually did investigative reporting and presented opposing sides.

But let's say the ratio of pro-Herald letters was in fact 3-1 (something that I won't concede because we know that hundreds were insulted enough to cancel their subscriptions and if anyone was motivated to write in it was the Cubans that were upset with the firings but let's assume it was). It's not the paper's responsibility to have a proportionate representation of the actual letters. Its responsibility is to provide balance. Just because an idea is popular doesn't mean it's right. If the paper were flooded suddenly with pro-life letters and only a handful of of pro-choice letters would you want them to publish proportionately? I didn't think so.

And besides letters there were plenty of columns in defense of the Martí Moonlighters that appeared in El Nuevo Herald that The Miami Herald could have run, including columns from some of the implicated journalists themselves. It wasn't a matter of not having the material, it was choosing not to use it.

Your attempt to take a cheap shot at me is so transparent it's laughable and nobody in their right mind would compare my blog's comment policy to to the letters policy of a major metropolitan newspaper. Yeah. Nobody in their right mind.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

As for moving on, do you have a suggestion? I have since the very first day of this blog requested suggestions. When Mr. Klotz had an issue with the comics section, I looked into it and posted on it the very same day.

When someone had a problem with the Herald classifieds I did the same thing.

Like it or not the Martí Moonlighters is a major and multi-faceted story. Besides the column I translated today wasn't so much about that as it was about the total disconnect between MHPC and the Cuban-American community in Miami and the rift between the two newspapers.

You seem to be really good at telling other bloggers what they should or shouldn't be writing about.

Rick said...

Henry...I'm not telling you what you should write about. I'm merely pointing out that you started up this "Herald Watch" blog in September and all we've basically seen is coverage of the Marti Moonlighters, a post on the comics thing and a post on Arza. Although I think the concept of the blog is a good one, I opined back then that I thought "that Herald Watch is going to be another place for Miami's anti-Castro cognoscenti to gather and lament how liberal, biased and incompetent the Herald is, particularly when it comes to their coverage on Cuba." It's my opinion that you've found it hard to find other things to "watch" with the Miami Herald other than their Cuban coverage. It's an opinion.

Until you're able to demonstrate that the Herald is deliberately showing bias in the letters they print versus the letters they receive, the conclusions you come to are mere conjecture. That also includes some statistics that you seem to grab out of thin air, make fact and then argue points on. You may have a valid argument, but until you have something to back it up, it's all hypothetical. That, too, is my opinion.

Finally, it's my opinion that one thing that some blogs have trouble with here in South Florida is someone else critiquing their take on things. Differing opinions are moderated or eliminated totally. People with opposing views are disparaged or called crazy, or in this case, not in "their right mind."

If that's going to be the policy of the Herald Watch, please let us know.

My original point that you might understand the Herald's alleged attempt to control it's content and comments based upon some of your own experiences at CAP stands and is a valid one.

It isn't a cheap shot. It isn't because I'm not in my right mind. It's simply my opinion.

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Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

All I can say is that I stand by every word I've written here. I've given examples over the past couple of months of not only how the Herald "stacks" the opinions pages in one direction on certain issues but how they edit the letters to exclude meaningful points.

About 70% of the posts thus far have come as a result of insiders. If they are telling me about the Martî Moonlighters and I think it's a new development then I'll post about it.

The problem is that there isn't a story to tell every day. This isn't just about my impressions about Herald stories, that's what regular blogs do, even Bob Norman. I'm limiting this to issues that involve the Herald directly. And I'm doing the best I can but I need outside input. Do you have a story that needs to be told about the Miami Herald? I would be glad to find out what I can find out and post about it.

Anonymous said...

Check out another website on this cotroversy at
http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/fiedler.htm

heraldphobe said...

The "Marti Moonlighters" affair is not a closed case. That was made very clear in a letter by Pablo Alfonso, one of the 3 fired and rehired, which was published in Nuevo Herald and posted on this blog in translation (10/8). Alfonso met with David Landsberg, Fiedler's replacement, and was promised by him that the Herald would take further action to make things right. Landsberg asked for time ("some weeks"); that was 4 weeks ago. We're still waiting.

Assuming Landsberg was on the level and is a man of his word, we should certainly see evidence of that by the end of this year at the latest. If not, he will have to be called on it, because the matter is by no means resolved. Among other issues (see the Alfonso letter), what has the Herald done to figure out how a local radio Castro groupie, as well as the official media in Cuba, basically broke the story before the Herald ran it? What action has been taken regarding the blatantly poor job done by Herald reporter Oscar Corral, who wrote the 9/8 story? Why and how does the Herald allow its staff members to declare in print that broadcasting the truth to Cuba constitutes "propaganda"? The truth is the truth, period, and heaven knows people in Cuba don't get it from their own media.

As for concerns regarding the letters to the editor at the Miami Herald, I don't have statistics, and I doubt the Herald would make them available, but I think there's certainly cause for suspicion. For instance, as far as I could determine, only one critical letter was published regarding the Chihuahua crack, and it was relatively tame. It's beyond doubt that a great many letters were received on that topic, including many from people seriously angry. I know of at least some strong but perfectly printable letters that were not published, including a very good and indignant one from Dr. Laura de Oña (her letter was published in Spanish locally in the Diario de las Americas).

I have the distinct impression that the Miami Herald has deliberately downplayed, glossed over or sidestepped the extent and magnitude of the profound disgust it has aroused in the Cuban-American community. I suppose that's predictable enough, but it's hardly likely to inspire confidence, trust or respect from Cuban-Americans.

heraldphobe said...

I meant to say in my previous comment that Landsberg was the replacement for Jesus Diaz, not Fiedler.

Rick said...

Henry: I thought, quite frankly, that you would jump all over the Herald for totally getting it wrong on the Arza call. I mean, that was a great opportunity to do some letter writing like you did on the MM matter and find out when they planned on apologizing or issuing a retraction. I considered that big. But all we got out of it here was 1 post that was a week or so after the thing broke (BTW, the erroneous article is still up and the Herald still has not issued an apology or official retraction that I've seen).

You did a good job on the MM. Maybe I just wish you would be as aggressive on other stories, as well.

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Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Thing is that Arza pretty much got what was coming to him. The Herald made a reporting mistake but it was a mistake that was overshadowed by Arza's disgraceful bahavior, a mistake your reported on and I picked up on and wrote about. Beyond that I don't know what else I could have done. They won't pull the article down, even if its wrong and I kind of understand that. The printed paper was wrong and it will be archived in the periodical sections of libraries forever. What they need to do is print a retraction. In the case of Marti Moonlighters there were also mistakes in initial report as we all know and that article is still up.

I think the Herald needs to join the NYT and WaPo in hiring an ombudsman.

heraldphobe said...

I have the sense that the Miami Herald, certainly regarding its recent PR debacle with the Cuban-American community, has been, is and may continue to be essentially passive-aggressive. That approach, of course, resolves nothing; it's a kind of stalemate, and it will only make things worse.

The basic problem seems to be that, though the Herald obviously wants the business of Cuban-Americans, it doesn't want to take them very seriously, or it thinks it can get away with not doing so. It's an extremely insulting prospect, sort of like "Buy our paper, but don't expect us to really respect you."

Anonymous said...

"than they do right-wing extremists" ... Side-stepping the name calling issue, there is a logic error: criticizing the Herald does not automatically mean you are a conservative (or right-wing), nor does it make you an extremist.