Betancourt quits El Nuevo Herald, explains rationale

Ernesto Betancourt, the first director of Radio Martí and a contributor to El Nuevo Herald has severed his relationship with the paper in response to the firing of the Martí Moonlighters. His final column appeared in El Nuevo Herald today and my translation is below.

Radio Martí and freedom of information


I have watched with surprise that a debate, That I believed to be more than resolved, has returned to the fore with the dismissal of several journalists from El Nuevo Herald for receiving payments for their work on Radio or TV Martí. I was the first director of Radio Martí and I was called on to face that conflict early in my term. The Voice of America, to which Martí Radio was assigned then, had a similar problem with journalists of several media that participated in some of its programs.

Firstly, the official position of the Government of the United States on any subject is voiced in editorials that are broadcast by both stations. One of the first issues that I had to decide on was if Radio Martí was going to have its own editorials. Taking into account the cost and required personnel to produce those editorials, I chose to broadcast those transmitted by the Voice of America. Those are the only official positions of the government of the U.S.A. that are transmitted by Radio Martí.

In accordance with the law, the rest of the programming must have the objective of offering to the people of Cuba a source for alternative information. All the other programs of Radio Martí were left as subject to the norms established by the Director of the Voice of America with regards to balance and objectivity. Those norms still are in effect.

Therefore, it is totally incorrect to say, as is communicated in Oscar Corral’s article, that the aim of Radio and TV Martí is to undermine the communist government of Fidel Castro. If in Cuba there is no freedom of information and access to outside information undermines to the regime, it is fault of the regime. Not the fault of the alternative source of information.

As far as the assertion that journalists, who work as regular personnel or under contract, in one medium cannot offer their services to other media goes, it’s a totally erroneous. That would be to deny the existence of the practice of contracting so-called stringers. A stringer is a journalist who knows a subject very well, but the media do not have sufficient demand of his/her services to justify a full-time contract. These specialists are contracted by several media simultaneously in order to generate an income that allows them to live suitably. In the first stage of Radio Martí, Jay Mallin, our news director, assembled a worldwide network of stringers that were paid for each dispatch used. Additionally, outside talent is contracted for specific programs, to complement the talent in-house.

The ethical conflict of receiving payments from governmental organization was also considered in the case of the Voice of America. Several of the programs of that government station, just as those of Radio Martí, included participation of journalists, in panels, that worked in the Washington press. A great commotion ensued, in which it was alleged that receiving payment from a governmental organization jeopardizes objectivity and the freedom of information. On the other hand, the time required for participation on the programs was minimal and thus hiring them as full-time employees was not justified. Ultimately, the practice was accepted and the programs with panels of part-time participants have continued on both stations.

In that aspect, the quotes from two ethics experts in the article by Oscar Corral comparing the case of Armstrong Williams with the one to these journalists is spurious. Williams specifically received a contract to promote a Bush administration program. At no point in time, has it been demonstrated that journalists from El Nuevo Herald have written anything promoting Radio or TV Martí or in response to directives that came from those organizations.

That they are critical of the Cuban government, clearly they are. But that is an attitude shared by most of the readers of El Nuevo Herald. The newspaper would have to become another propaganda vehicle of the Cuban regime in order for the media in the service of the regime to stop calling it “the libel of Miami,” as Granma did on the 9th of September when covering these dismissals.

The management of The Miami Herald, or their new owners, must be conscious that obtaining the approval of Havana implies bidding farewell to an appreciable part of the paper’s subscribers and advertisers from Miami. If they want to do that, it’s their business. As for me, I’ll go away, with my music, to another place.

Good bye, beloved readers.

18 thoughts on “Betancourt quits El Nuevo Herald, explains rationale”

  1. Ditto all of the above. Maybe now when I hurl my scatological pejoratives at the Herald, folks will understand how I’ve felt for years and years…

  2. Subscribers and advertisers can and should FIRE the Miami Herald from their homes, offices, and advertising budgets. There is a lot of power in the collective wallet of the exile community – time to use it unashamedly against a publication which in essence has, objectively and by default, become a kaSStro-organ. So, as with the dying coma andante, let’s turn the Herald into a dying organ. I quit throwing good money after this rag a long time ago.

    “They” (we know who they are) may label us “intransigent.” Good! Let’s prove them right.

  3. A great “Stick it up your arse!” goodbye.

    Could this have the momentum to start a groundswell community-wide campaign to engage in an embar- err.. boycott of the Miami Herald?

  4. If the Miami Herald is more sensitive to the feelings of the Havana Mafia, boycott the hell out of them, and then let them get their revenue subs directly from Cuba.

  5. they couldn’t care less about subscribers. It’s the advertisers that matter.

    This is what happens when you’re the only show in town… the Sun Sentinel is much worse….

    If they had local news, I’d stick to the WSJ only

  6. Mike,

    You are correct, it’s the advertisers that count but advertisers don’t spend money on publications without circulation. And the circulation story in the newspaper business is bad. A lot of their readers have gone to internet and the pubs haven’t quite figured out yet how compensate because the ad revenues online are lower than print ads.

  7. Guess who are members of the Cuban Transition Project at the University of Miami?

    Advisory Board
    Mr. Humberto Castelló
    Executive Editor, el Nuevo Herald

    Mr. Jesus Díaz
    General Manager
    Miami Herald Publishing Co.

    The Cuban Transition Project receive money from United States Agency for International Aid (USAID).

  8. Well my Cuban brothers and sisters in Miami, will we put our money where our mouth is?
    Its time to cancel subscriptions and adverstising. It may cost us something, but that the price we can pay from this side of the straits.

  9. Does anyone remember any advertisement in The Herald from the US Goverment or other similar entity? Would accepting money from these entities cast shadows on the paper’s objectivity and independence? Why not?

    Can an employee of the same corporation which owns The Herald be considered independent and umbiased? Curioso na’ ma’

    El Caimán

  10. Well folks,

    Rumors have it that McClatchy (the consortium that owns The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald)have been negotiating with the Cuban government for the opening of a Bureau in Havana (Boy! if I had a dollar for everytime I guessed right). It seems that one of the negotiating barganing chips was that McClatchy TERMINATE the employment and quite POSSIBLY the careers of Pablo Alfonso, Wilfredo Cancio and Olga Connors.

    In addition, the icing on the cake was to tarnish the credibility of honest journalists (well kown anti-castro critics) such as those mentioned in Mr. Corral’s column.

    Following is McClatchy’s web page:

    And their values:

    “Since 1857
    The McClatchy Company is the second-largest newspaper company in the United States, a leading newspaper and internet publisher dedicated to the values of quality journalism, free expression and community service. Building on a 149-year legacy of independence, the company’s newspapers and websites are steadfast defenders of First Amendment values and advocates for the communities they serve.”

    Ooops! They forgot to include “except Miami-Dade County”

    When it comes to having a BUREAU in Cuba, the MSM in general will sell their souls to the devil.


    Considering that The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald are IN BED WITH THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT do you think it’s wise to have Mr. Jesus Diaz, Jr. and Mr. Humberto Castello on the advisory board for the Cuban Transition Project? I wouldn’t. How can we trust them to do the right thing for Cuba NOW that we know their true colors?

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