Herald Ombudsman Follows Up On Role of Newspaper Columnists

You may recall my post two weeks ago on an article by Miami Herald ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos which criticized a column written by right-leaning El Nuevo Herald columnist Adolfo Rivero Caro for lacking “ideological accuracy”, and went as far as suggesting that columns of that nature be censored.
Today, Mr. Schumacher-Matos follows up with some responses by readers to his original article, including one by yours truly and another by Babalu reader Larry Daley (I’ll assume it’s OUR Larry unless he says otherwise).
The article follows below the fold (emphasis and additional commentary in italics mine).

There are many views on the role of columnists
Fire and ire. That’s what many opinion columnists in The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald inspire. When I wrote to slap the hand of El Nuevo’s Adolfo Rivero Caro for being irresponsible with facts, many of you responded with passion about the freedom of op-ed columnists in both papers.
The excerpts below present good arguments. They also say something about the differences between what readers of the Spanish- and English-language papers are reading.
Most ombudsmen write only about news coverage, but I don’t agree with that. Talk radio and Internet blogs are pushing all media to become more opinionated. Magazines with an ideological bent are proliferating. Cable television news is increasingly abandoning objectivity. The financial crisis in newspapers may soon force them to give up their independence and revert to being sponsored by parties and partisans, as in the 19th century. What all of this means for holding the nation together remains to be seen, but we should begin exploring the limits of responsibility under a more opinionated news model.
Readers already largely identify The Miami Herald by its op-ed and news columnists. I plan in my next column, in two weeks, to focus on the news columnists. Huh? News versus op-ed columnists? ”What’s the difference?” many of you ask. That’s my point. These are the columnists who run in the news pages, as opposed to the opinion section. They include Andres Oppenheimer, Fred Grimm, Beth Reinhard, Myriam Marquez and Daniel Shoer Roth.
Is their role confusing? Should they be more or less opinionated? Send me your thoughts: ombudsman@MiamiHerald.com.
With the following letters, I have taken the liberty of editing for space and grammar.

You took El Nuevo Herald columnist Adolfo Rivero Caro to task for daring to write that Barack Obama is a far-left socialist. We can have a discussion on how far left or socialist Obama is, but your insinuation is that Rivero’s column should have been modified, or in other words, censored. I thought that columnists were paid to make strong and often controversial opinions.
Your claim of ”ideological accuracy” sounds good on the surface, but why does it seem to apply only to right-leaning columnists such as Rivero and Pat Buchanan? How about looking into the ”facts” mentioned in columns by left-leaning Alejandro Armengol, who makes a living out of vilifying a large segment of the Cuban-American population?
Or Carl Hiaasen? Or Leonard Pitts Jr., whose column today titled ”Don’t Let Fear Trump Hope” makes no bones out of calling the GOP chauvinistic, racist and homophobic?
Robert Molleda

A conservative column writer — or two — is needed to keep the paper honest and healthy. Pitts is so bad at times he spews hate. There is no one there to challenge him. I think the problem is institutional.
It is ridiculous to compare the paper with the radio. One can change the station on the radio. There is no alternative to the local newspaper.
James Salerno

Since El Nuevo Herald does not have a regular columnist who is the exact antithesis of Adolfo Rivero Caro, then it is nothing more than a right-wing propaganda sheet. A newspaper it is not, and eliminating it altogether would save McClatchy enough to keep The Miami Herald going.
Arthur J. Levin
Coral Gables
(Mr. Levin, you should become better acquainted with Alejandro Armengol, who’s as close to the “exact antithesis” of Rivero as you’re going to get, and his column appears every Monday. Do you realize that by “eliminating” El Nuevo Herald – talk about the ultimate form of censorship – you would be shutting Armengol up as well?).

The unfettered extremism with which Rivero Caro’s column was written disillusioned me. Wouldn’t it be great if Rivero Caro took up John McCain’s message upon his defeat, instead of being part of the troubling show of intolerance, discrimination and savagery that is emerging all around? I agree with you that the latter is not a way to build this country that we live in. It is a way to destroy it.
Oscar Mas

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Rivero Caro makes up his own ”facts” to fit his Republican agenda. Armando Gonzalez does, too. They both are like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, but in Spanish. Being an ”old” Cuban ”refugee” doesn’t give Rivero Caro an excuse for his smears, hateful invectives, snide remarks and insidious misstatements. I am also an “old Cuban refugee.”
Jose Villamil
(Mr. Villamil, how about the hate spread by liberal columnists, much of it towards “old Cuban refugees” such as yourself? Acknowledging that would only be fair.)

El Nuevo Herald is the closest thing to a joke among educated Cuban Americans. If you are sincere about looking for constructive criticisms, instead of reaffirming the unfounded prejudices of an older generation of Cubans, then El Nuevo Herald should aim to uplift the community by informing and educating it.
While I was with the League of Women Voters a few years back, I had developed a curriculum to educate voters in the factual differences between the political parties, so that when these new citizens exercised their vote at least they would know what they were voting for.
Graciela Catasus
Miami Beach
(Ah yes, the stupid and prejudiced “old Cubans” again. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with disseminating all sorts of stupid and insulting things at those ideological idiots, but when someone has the gall to write a column from the right side of the spectrum, it’s somehow a “joke”.
Ms. Catasus, based on these words attributed to you, I shudder to think of the content of the information you’re including in your education curriculum at the League of Women Voters.)

Hmmm. ”I think that El Nuevo Herald needs to encourage ideological accuracy in our community, not just for the sake of accuracy, but to prevent misdirected passions and wild misadventures.” Ideological accuracy would seem to be a synonym for censorship.
Larry Daley

3 thoughts on “Herald Ombudsman Follows Up On Role of Newspaper Columnists”

  1. You expect the Herald’s ombudsman to subscribe to leftist ideology. And you almost expect him not to notice that he fails to mention Pitts and Hiason–two of their most left leaning columnists–when he lists columnists he will deal with. But what amazes me, and quite frankly disturbs me greatly, is the arrogance in his tone when proclaims to be the final arbiter of what is factually correct. If he finds a columnist’s statements to not jibe with his beliefs, they are therefore “incorrect.”
    It is just another example of the thought police.

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