Thursday, August 09, 2007

Herald Letters Butchery

One of the reasons I started this blog was because the Herald printed a letter I sent the editors. Well it was actually a version of my letter that stripped out the main point which was that the Herald was guilty of manipulating facts to promote an agenda.

Well here's a recent example of creative editing letters submitted to the Herald. The letter in question was authored by Paul Crespo who was implicated in a story written by Oscar Corral, the Miami Herald reporter that was recently arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Crespo is also a former editorial contributor to the Herald. I had previously posted a copy of the letter as it was originally emailed to the Herald. Today a much shorter and sanitized version of the letter appeared at Herald.com.

First of all if you click the opinions link on the Herald.com home page you will never know this letter was published because it was posted among a group of letters under the headline "Bonds sets record". For this reason it was only after an anonymous reader posted a comment here at Herald Watch that I learned they had published "the letter."

But what did they publish? The answer is a much shorter and less powerful letter. The parts that were ommitted were the parts that cast the Herald in the most unfavorable light and a call for Corral's firing.

Below is a marked up version of Crespo's original letter showing what the Herald changed. Click on it to enlarge.

As you can see what made it into the paper was less than half (40%) of Crespo's 383-word original letter. Of course newspapers edit letters all the time for space but I think we can all agree that this is a special case. Paul Crespo is not just a reader, he's a person who once contributed to the Herald and was subsequently wronged by the reporter in question and the Herald as an institution. The Herald had an obligation to its readers to present Crespo's comments in their entirety. It did not live up to that obligation.

The problem, beyond the readers not being able to see Crespo's complete thoughts, is that the by publishing a shorter sanitized version and hiding it among other reader letters the Herald leaves readers with the impression that it's is not afraid to publish criticisms of itself, when in reality its very sensitive of them.

This is precisely the reason for this blog. As long as things like this continue to be acceptable at 1 Herald Plaza I'll have plenty of material to blog about.

By the way, it's also a reminder that I need reader input to make this blog better. Many eyes are better than two. If you know of something going on at the Herald that would be of interest to Herald Watch readers email me.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Entering Corral's or Crespo's name in the Herald website search engine did not show or take me to Crespo's letter, though it did show (among other items) the Barry Bonds letter. But how is a reader supposed to know or suspect that the Crespo letter is hidden under the Barry Bonds item?

Lori said...

It is a wonder why people keep buying that paper.

jluix said...

Obvious manipulation... On the web, there is little space limitation. They could have at least published the full version online.

As for keeping an eye on the herald, that's too dirty a job. Hats off to your efforts.

daniel said...

Hey is this being reported at all in "El Nuevo"? Did they print Crespo's letter there? If you really pay attention, especially when it is a "known" person in the Cuban community, you will see an opinion piece or letter to the editor 'edited' different in both versions

Anonymous said...

As far as I can tell from searching their website, Nuevo Herald has only published a literal translation of the initial brief note that appeared in the Miami Herald. I can find no letter to the editor about Corral in the letters section of the NH site, and its search engine does not reveal anything else when Corral's name is entered.

So far, it appears that Nuevo Herald is being even more cautious and circumspect than the English Herald, and I expect this is due to a conscious editorial decision, quite possibly influenced by a directive or pressure from Gyllenhaal and/or McClatchy.

There is nothing new on this story today at the Miami Herald website either, as far as I could find. It seems the matter has essentially been dropped, barring some development too significant to ignore. Obviously, the less said about this situation, the better for the Herald outfit.

As for Crespo's letter, its funny placement in the online Herald yesterday does not look good. For all practical purposes, it was hidden under a letter about Barry Bonds (who's not an obnoxious fraud, just like "Che" was not a murderous SOB). Maybe the Herald website is just badly designed and/or poorly managed, but suspicion is inevitable.

nonee moose said...

Henry, Good catch. However I'm not sure that, whatever the damage to Crespo's reputation over the Moonlighter's fiasco, it necessarily entitles him to special treatment under Herald's letters policy. To be sure, the way they edited it and its subsequent placement is suspect, not that they edited it at all.

Anonymous said...

It seems extremely unlikely that the reason Nuevo Herald (NH) has not run a single letter to the editor on the Corral incident is because it hasn't received any. That simply defies belief. Since it hasn't run any by now, that implies it isn't going to (unless, perhaps, the matter flared up unexpectedly). None of its opinion columnists has touched the topic, either. NH didn't even run a head shot of Corral with the bare-bones note disclosing the incident, which was simply a translation of the one in the Miami Herald.

This looks very odd, to say the least, but maybe it isn't "odd" at all, just what was to be expected. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the editor of NH received "suggestions" to avoid anything potentially "inflammatory" or detrimental to the interests of the parties involved. In other words, he may well have been "encouraged" to take the high road (unless, of course, he preferred the highway). Certainly, this exquisite restraint seems positively Asiatic; it's hardly Latin (or even British--the London press would have been on this like white on rice).

So, assuming Corral plays his cards right and doesn't blow it, as it were, it looks like this incident will be effectively swept under the rug, irony be damned (and the irony is as rich as foie gras, as Paul Crespo noted). The status quo, after all, never likes to be disturbed. Besides, give "those Cubans" an inch and...no, no, no; that won't do at all.

asombra said...

The New Times Riptide 2.0 blog has been notably more informative on this story than the Herald, not that it took much (What a surprise! Can you spell CYA? The Herald can). Anyway, Riptide quotes Herald honcho Anders Gyllenhaal on the Corral prostitution incident thus: "It's an unfortunate situation. Oscar says this stems from a misunderstanding and the paper backs him up on this." When asked if Corral was working on a story at the time of the incident, Gyllenhaal responded: "I have no further comment."

I, on the other hand, have lots of further comments, and so do lots of other people, but let me cut to the chase: I think this is just business as usual. The Herald is what it is and does what it does, which it is free to do. Cubans need to stop waiting and calling for the Herald to stop being itself (fat chance), and instead do the only practical and sensible thing: STOP ENABLING IT. Don't buy it or otherwise support it. It is completely dispensable, certainly in my experience, and I'm talking years. Ranting and raving may have its place, but it's mostly hot air if it's only talk. Just as the Castro regime doesn't give a damn how loudly exiles revile it as long as they keep materially supporting it, the Herald will continue blowing off irate Cuban-Americans as long as that doesn't hurt its bottom line enough.

It's not just that the math is simple here, it's that paying to be insulted, disrespected or dismissed is REALLY pathetic and undignified. Just to cite a single example among many (current and past): how can we see a classic Herald creature like Ana Menendez routinely dump on and insult our parents, who are so far above her she might as well be an ameba, and still have anything to do with the paper that enables and pays her to do it? That's simply self-degradation and debasement, and it's embarrassing, even disgusting. If we take our honor so lightly, how can we expect the Herald to take us seriously?