Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Historian: The Herald ripped me off

Herald Watch has received an email from Latino Studies professor Antonio de la Cova Ph.D. in which he alleges that The Miami Herald used certain materials that it obtained from his web site without attribution.

The article in question is about Gerald Patrick Hemming, a man who the Herald's John Dorschner describes as an "adventurer" who died last week. often links to related articles and materials it posts on its server in a box next to the actual story. In this case, it links to a court document which de la Cova says was lifted from his web site

Also linked from is a Herald article about Hemming from 1963 but the document is not from the Herald's own archive but rather from Professor de la Cova's archive at Notice that de la Cova publishes the Herald's article on his site and gives attribution. The Herald simply grabbed materials (though the copyright in this case belongs to the Herald) from de la Cova's site. They simply printed the page from de la Cova's site and scanned it. He made their research easy for them and they won't even acknowledge him.

Likewise this document posted at also comes from

And this document was also taken from

de la Cova concludes his email by saying:

All posted documentation was ripped off my website [page] on Hemming without any credit. The Hemming photo, which is also on Gordon Winslow's website, is properly credited to Winslow.


Not exactly shocked said...

I assume de la Cova has informed the Herald and asked for an explanation. Has there been a response? Make sure to let us know if there is (or if there isn't).

Dr. Antonio de la Cova said...

Most of the background information in the Miami Herald article on Gerald Patrick Hemming
was taken from my website at
My website has an article indicating that the Rev. Manuel Espinosa, at a press conference in Miami on Feb. 5, 1980, publicly accused Hemming of being a Castro agent. This was reported in the Diario las Americas
Hemming never publicly refuted Espinosa's accusation. The Herald omitted mention that this mercenary and convicted drug trafficker was also accused of being a Castro agent. This is just one more example of the shoddy journalism produced by the jaded reporters at the Miami Herald.

Henry Gomez said...

Paul Benavides, you don't get your comments published here. This post is not about de la Cova and what he does. It's about a newspaper and how it does or does not give attribution to its sources.

Henry Gomez said...

Paul Benavides,

No it's not about de la Cova. This blog is not de la Cova Watch, it's Herald Watch. Regardless of whose web site the material comes from there's a question of journalistic ethics here. But you are so blinded by your anti-exile slant that you can't see that.

Carlos Miller said...

Let me get this straight. De la Cova is blaming the Herald for stealing a court document from his website?

Does de la Cova believe he owns the copyright to this court document?

How can you steal a court document? It is a public record.

And then de la Cova is accusing the Herald of stealing an article that they actually wrote back in 1963?

If anything, they can have him remove the article from his site.

And Henry, what's up with the comment moderation?

It doesn't look too good to accuse the Herald of censorship while censoring comments yourself.

Henry Gomez said...

Carlos, it's just courtesy to acknowledge where they got the document from. They did not go through the trouble of archiving thousands of documents to make them freely available to interested parties. de la Cova did. All they needed to do was say, document obtained from just like they did with the photograph from someone else's collection.

As for comment moderation, I've criticized the Herald of NOT moderating comments. What results is bunch trash. In general I allow comments to go through. There are specific people that I do not want commenting on my blogs because they never add to the discussion but intend to take the conversation elsewhere. Paul Benavides is one of those people. He has the right to say what he wants on his blog. He has no right to say anything here.

Carlos Miller said...

Perhaps what the Herald did was "discourteous" but it really wasn't "stealing".

Stealing implies plagiarism. It implies copyright violations.

Neither are the case here.

Henry Gomez said...

The terminology wasn't mine. I just quoted the source.

Carlos Miller said...

Two words: "Quotation marks".

Henry Gomez said...

Re-read the post. And tell me where it's not clear what I'm saying vs. what he's saying. I'll gladly edit it.

Carlos Miller said...

If you really want to get technical about it, you keep the post mostly objective by reporting what he is alleging, although you editorialize a bit with this statement.

"He made their research easy for them and they won't even acknowledge him."

But that is what blogging is all about; editorializing. I do it all the time.

I think the headline would have been more dramatic (in the tabloid sense) with quotes, even though what you did is correct.

Historian: "The Herald ripped me off".

Those are pretty strong words. It's more eye-catching. At the end of the day, it's all about capturing your reader's attention.

Also, without quotes it makes it harder for the reader to distinguish your words and his words.

These days, you have to help the reader as much as you can.

I can understand why de la Cova feels disrespected, but I think he could have simply emailed the writer and asked him to include his links rather than come out accusing the Herald of ripping him off.

I really doubt the Herald staff sat around and deliberately omitted his website out of pure maliciousness.

They probably didn't think he would get all hot and bothered by it.

The beauty of online articles is that nothing is set in print. It can always be changed or corrected or edited or updated or whatever.

But when you accuse a reporter of "ripping me off" -- those are very serious allegations -- you better be prepared to back them up.

In this case, he wasn't.

Carlos Miller said...

I also think if you're going to go with this, go with it all the way; post the entire email.

Henry Gomez said...

there's some backstory regarding the herald, its ediors and de la cova. let's put it this way the people who approved the story know exactly who de la cova is and what his position is vis-a-vis the herald.

Carlos Miller said...

OK, now I'm really confused. De la Cova is claiming that the archived Herald article that the Herald stole was from his site and not from their own archives.

But if you click on both links, they are two completely formats.

And how can he prove that they snagged that court document from his site?

Henry Gomez said...


Let me give you some background. de la Cova maintains an archive of documents related to Latin America and especially Cuba. Many of us who write about Cuba or are generally interested in Cuba and Cuban-American affairs use his archive.

Among the several thousand documents that de la Cova has posted are literally thousands of newspaper articles. Some are hard copies which he has scanned into PDFs, some are obtained from the digital archives of the newspapers. In the past he has used optical character readers to scan articles or had students transcribe them. He often uses a particular format for newspaper articles regardless of the source, but always credits the paper and includes the date of publication and if known the page of the paper the article appeared on.

If you look at the Herald articles that the Herald links to in the piece on Hemming you see that they are print-outs from de la Cova's HTML pages, they are not different formats. Look at:




Take a look at this Washington Post article from 2002 that de la Cova has posted:


It's the same format as the Herald articles, de la Cova's format.

Also notice how the Herald print outs are numbered on the top "Page 1 of 1", those are numbers assigned by the browser when web pages are printed. Anyone that prints out web pages is familiar with them.

The reason the Herald used de la Cova's transcribed version of their own articles is because their digitized archive only goes back to 1982. They could have gone into their physical archives and scanned the original articles from the newspaper but they didn't bother with that. I don't blame them it would have taken time to find them. And who knows if the physical archive is even on site at 1 Herald Plaza? In fact I'll speculate and say they probably wouldn't have even known where to look if not for

Similar to the newspaper articles there are FOIA (Freedom of Information Act documents) that de la Cova obtained and posted. It takes months and sometimes years to get such documents. It took the Herald a couple of clicks of the mouse.

On top of all of that I have independent confirmation that what I described above is exactly what happened.

Now what I speculate (and de la Cova does too) is that the Herald didn't want to give de la Cova credit for several reasons, among which is the fact that he is also highly critical of the Herald and how it has treated Cuban-Americans over the last 50 years.


Hope that helps.

Carlos Miller said...

So you and de la Cova are speculating that rather than just link to de la Cova's page, the reporter went through the trouble of printing out the HTML pages, making crude photocopies, scanning the pages in, creating a PDF file and finally linking the pages to the article - all because the Herald did not want to give de la Cova exposure?

All because de la Cova once made a web page highly critical of an editor who resigned more than a year ago?

Hell, if they did that to everybody who has been critical of the Herald, then they would not be able to quote anybody from Miami's Cuban community.

You obviously remember the "yo no creo en el Herald" era.

Carlos Miller said...

And let me add that I believe de la Cova's site is a tremendous resource.

I have linked to it myself and I have read through it many times as I do my research on various topics.

I had no idea there was a de la Cova behind it. Nor did I realize he would be so sensitive.

But nobody can say he hasn't put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that site.

Henry Gomez said...

No. That's not what we're speculating. The Herald generally doesn't link to outside sources. For example the photo they posted with the story came from an outside source but they posted it and attributed it to the owner. The fact that they grabbed it from de la Cova's site is not the problem.

By the way for the Herald articles they could have just copied and pasted the text into their own web page, why they went the crude route is beyond me. The scans are crooked and look unprofessional. Which is whole 'nother story about quality control.

He has the site for informational purposes. It's just that it would have been the courteous thing to do and perhaps the journalistically ethical thing to do say where the documents came from.

So there's no disputing that in fact the docs came from de la Cova's site. As I said I have independent confirmation of that. The motive is the only thing that we're speculating on. Although the page I linked is entitled Tom Fiedler the content goes much deeper. It's veritable who's who of embarrassing episodes at the Herald with regards to Cuban-Americans. There are other reasons why the Herald might not want to credit de la Cova too but it's not my prerogative to get into that.

Carlos Miller said...

I have not seen enough evidence nor enough convincing from your part to believe that the Herald went this route.

Newsrooms are extremely busy places, so I can see why they would just grab an article from his site rather than take a trek to the morgue to dig up some old article on microfiche.

But if you're going to print, photocopy, scan and make a PDF, you might as well take the stroll to the morgue, which I'm sure it's at the main building because where else it going to be?

To say they did all that because of some historian that was highly critical of Fiedler, not to mention other vague and mysterious reasons that you don't want to get into, is a little too tin foil for me.

And trust me, I can be highly tin foil myself. But the effort outweighs the motive here.

I am willing to bet that the Herald doesn't give a damn what de la Cova thinks of them.

Unless he is some huge advertising account that is threatening to pull his account, he is just another critic.

And newspapers love critics because they read the paper.

Henry Gomez said...

The only reason I didn't post the whole email is that it had a bunch of unembedded links in it. You basically got the gist of the whole email with what I posted.