Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Scoop on Corral - UPDATED

The SunPost's Rebecca Wakefield has written a piece about embattled Miami Herald reporter, Oscar Corral. The piece includes an interview with Corral. I have some thoughts the matter, from both the journalistic and Cuban-American angles. I'll limit my comments here to the journalistic elements of the story. For the Cuban angle please read Babalu.

Ms. Wakefield, who I respect, mentions that Corral has had to cover some volatile subjects related to the Cuban-American community. There seems to be a an overriding sentiment that covering exile politics is a no-win situation for the journalist. One that portrays Cubans angry torch-bearing villagers ready to kill the messenger which I'm not inclined to believe.

Most of the negative feelings the community has toward Corral stem from the Marti Moonlighters saga which was well documented on this blog. Without re-hashing the entire episode, it turned out to be a terrible piece of journalism that appeared to readers to be a thinly veiled hatchet job on other Cuban-American journalists. The piece was a preemptive move to head off an article about the same subject being investigated by the Chicago Tribune. It was incomplete, misleading and sloppy. I stated at the time, and will reiterate now, that Corral can't be held fully responsible for the article, his editors and his executive editor have to bear the brunt of the responsibility, but at the end of the day he agreed to do the piece and allowed his byline to be used. Perhaps the lesson is that when a subject is volatile, one has to be doubly careful to cover it fairly.

In Wakefield's piece much is made of the accusation that Corral might be a Castro agent, an accusation that to many might seem absurd. But given the context of the situation, with Cuban spies being periodically uncovered here in Miami and beyond, with one editorial contributor facing a serious allegation of being a former Cuban DGI agent, and with official Cuban TV breaking the Herald's Marti Moonlighters story before the Herald could, is it unreasonable to ask whether the newsroom at 1 Herald Plaza has been infiltrated?

Regardless of Corral's ideology, the fact remains that the Marti Moonlighters fiasco led to sharp declines in newspaper subscriptions (particularly of ENH), the resignation of the Herald's publisher and the quick departure of its executive editor.

Wakefield mentions Corral's non-blog blog as a battleground filled with "hateful screeds". About the blog Corral states:

When I started my blog, people were upset that I didn’t offer my opinion. Some of the hard-line exiles felt I should be out there as a champion for anti-Castro cause. There is a concept in parts of the traditional Cuban exile community where you have to pass a litmus test of opinion to be approved of or included.
I'm not quite sure which hard line exiles he's talking about. Perhaps he considers me one of them but my criticisms of his blog have always stemmed from the idea that a blog devoid of opinion is not a blog. I wrote several pieces about the Herald's proliferation of blogs without them having any real sense of what a blog is and what readers like about them. Corral's blog was simply a place where he promoted his latest articles.

It was also an unregulated anonymous forum. Of course there were hateful screeds posted on it, there was nobody watching the store. Corral's choice of subjects on the blog also lends credence to the idea that he was simply trying to stir up emotions rather than report any truths.

And speaking of truths, on the Herald as an institution Corral tells Wakefield that as a college student he saw The Herald building as an "incredible fortress of truth". But the reason this blog exists is because of the Herald's propensity to not report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

UPDATE: Robert shares his thoughts on Corral at 26th Parallel.


Exterminator said...

Just this week, and before I read this item in Herald Watch, I chatted with a Herald staffer who shed some light on what may account for the lack of engaging blogs at The Miami Herald. This person was the first to admit that his/her blog was no priority; that the blogs were mandated from the high echelons of the newspaper, without growing organically from the writers themselves. And of course, little of use can come from people that are overworked, frustrated at the paper, some underpaid and all told what they have to do for fear of losing their jobs. Guess we'll have to look elsewhere...

Anonymous said...

The headline for this story is "I am not a communist." Regardless of the veracity of that statement, I assume Corral knows that Fidel Castro said exactly the same thing, over and over again, in the early phase of his regime, when he didn't want to spook too many people too soon. It later turned out (surprise!) that he was more communist than Lenin. But maybe it's just a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

So someone who says they're a communist is probably a communist, and someone who says they're not a communist is probably a communist?

Try this old fool-proof trick, which originated in colonial Massachusetts: throw the suspect on a bonfire - if he burns, he wasn't a communist.

Henry Gomez said...

Give me a plausible explanation about how Cuban State TV broke the story about the Herald's self investigation before the Herald could publish the results of the investigation?

Obviously someone is supplying Havana information. And it's a known fact that there are people working for MHMC who worked in the official media in Cuba. Also on the pages of this very blog I have reported on a very serious and credible allegation that one of the Herald's editorial contributors is (or at least at one time was) in the employ of the Cuban DGI.

Anonymous said...

The point is not so much whether Corral is a communist, but that, after what he's done, people are not going to take anything he says at face value just because he's saying it. His credibility is not exactly immaculate.

The stench of Havana mole(s) at the Herald has definitely not dissipated. If the Herald has done anything substantial to address such an obvious probability, I am not aware of it. If, as it appears, the Herald has done little or nothing, that is hardly going to make legitimate suspicions go away.

Henry Gomez said...

China is not Cuba and this blog is about neither so your comment was rejected.