Thursday, August 23, 2007

From the Tellechea Digital Archives: Carl Hiaasen and Jesús Díaz Battle Over Martí Moonlighters Story and Díaz Blinks

[Thanks to Tom Fiedler’s unguarded remarks about Cubans "extremists" being "chihuahuas" guilty of a "blood libel" against Oscar Corral for questioning his source for the Martí Moonlighters story, racism assumed its rightful place at the center of the witch hunt against Cuban-American journalists last year at The Miami Herald. Another bigot at The Herald, Carl Hiassen, not merely muttered his racist insinuations like Fiedler but published them in a column that The Herald itself characterized as "sarcastic." Publisher Jesús Díaz Jr., fearing the escalation of the crisis, had tried to postpone the scheduling of Hiassen's column on the Martí Moonlighters. Hiassen complained to the McClatchy corporation, the new publishers of The Herald, who in turn phoned Díaz and, in effect, instructed him to publish Hiassen's column, whereupon Díaz resigned as publisher. Díaz did not acknowledge until much later, when Hiassen's role was made known, that he had resigned because Hiassen had ratted him out to the boss, undermining his authority at the paper. Instead, Díaz preferred that others should think he was leaving the paper because The Herald had rehired the fired reporters and failed to live-up to his own exalted concept of journalistic ethics learned in accounting school. Here is our dissection of Hiassen's column whose intent was to further besmirch the Martí Moonlighters but whose unintended result was to force the man who had fired them to resign, the only public service that Carl Hiassen has ever done for the residents of South Florida]:

Finally, Someone Appreciates Journalists’ Work
By Carl Hiassen
September 17, 2006

Like many taxpayers, I’d always thought Radio and TV Martí was just another political boondoggle, squandering millions of dollars while fruitlessly beaming anti-Castro programming to Cuba. [You obviously don’t read your own newspaper, which is something that you have in common with most of your colleagues in the editorial department, who didn’t appear to know that their reporters’ work for Radio Marti had been covered in The Herald for years. If you read The Herald (is it hard to get in your home in Maryland) or bothered to verify what “[you’d] always thought,” you would know, from the testimony of Cuban dissidents and deserters, that Radio Marti is heard by a majority of the Cuban people and that that the regime has always resented and combatted this “intrusion” on its monopoly on information, which it certainly would not do if it had been ineffective. For you, however, it is “fruitless to beam anti-Castro programming to Cuba.” Why is it fruitless? Don’t you believe that Cubans deserve to know the truth? Even if you don’t believe that it is the truth, don’t you think that they deserve another perspective than the official one? Apparently not. For you, Castro is not a problem, and if he is not a problem then there is nothing to fix].

Now we find out that the U.S. government-run stations are actually running a charity for needy journalists, at least 10 of whom have been paid to appear on their programs. [Perhaps you just found it out, since, admittedly, you don’t read your own paper; but the Herald has known all along that its journalists also contributed to Radio Marti and fired them ex post facto. As for Radio Marti being “a charity for needy journalists,” I think you are probably the last person who could empathize with “needy journalists” since for you journalism is not a job but a hobby. Perhaps you are suggesting that only rich men like yourself should be journalists since, supposedly, you wouldn’t need “charity” since the Republicans in Congress already provide the rich with all the charity they could possibly want (tax loopholes, repeal of estate taxes, etc). When a man works for a living and is paid by the entity for which he works, it is not “charity.” Or are your royalty checks also “charity?”]

Some people might call this corrupting the press; I call it compassionate conservatism. [”Compassionate convervatism,” as already noted, consists of tax breaks for the very rich like yourself. And, by the way, have you ever failed to cash your government checks?]

Is there a more underpaid, ragged and dispirited sector of the American work force than reporters? [Are you including yourself?] At long last we’ve got an administration that appreciates our toil and sacrifice and reaches out to help. [Yes, you in particular, may well rejoice at the administration’s largesse].

Look what it did for Armstrong Williams, a newspaper columnist and conservative talk-show host. Back in 2004, he got $240,000 from the government to babble wonderful compliments about President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education program.

Many journalists called Williams a sellout and a prostitute, but they were probably just envious [Finally, a little truth creeps in]. The same sort of thing is happening now to the reporters moonlighting for Radio and TV Martí. [No it is not. Williams was paid to slant the news and shill for the Bush administration. The Cuban journalists were employed by Radio and TV Marti and their employment was a matter of public record, as Armstrong’s sub rosa arrangement was not. And there was no commitment on their part to slant the news or shill for the Bush administration.]

Two of those who accepted money from the stations were fired from their day jobs at El Nuevo Herald. Said Publisher Jesús Díaz Jr.: “I personally don’t believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it’s a government agency.” [In its final denouement, this story highlighted the lack of “integrity and objectivity” at the Miami Herald itself.]

Since Díaz is also my boss [but not for long, as (your) long knife were already out], I should be careful how I put this, but: Lighten up, bro! [Diaz, in hindsight, should have been the one who was more careful with you].

You’re right: Once a reporter starts cashing a government paycheck, his or her credibility as a public watchdog is shot. [Is that right? But only when it's a “paycheck.” Not when it’s tax breaks for the rich, exemptions from estate taxes, agricultural subsidies and other perks which super-rich journalists like yourself enjoy at our expense].

But how about a teeny exception for TV Martí? Lots of folks in the newsroom could use the extra dough, and nobody will ever see them on the air because Castro jams the signals. [Do you ever set foot in the Miami Herald (let alone Nuevo Herald) newsroom? Don’t you just e-mail your columns from home while “moonlighting” for your publishers?]

Over the last five years, while staff reporter Pablo Alfonso wrote columns and covered Cuba for El Nuevo Herald, he was getting paid nearly $175,000 to host programs on Radio and TV Martí. [That’s $37,000 a year, the median wage in Florida]. During that same period, staff writer Wilfredo Cancio collected almost $15,000. [That’s $3000 a year, or pocket change to you. They weren’t paid this money as a bribe or gift, but for their work at Radio Marti. Thousands of other journalists (99% of them non-Cubans), including Edward R. Murrow, have worked for government-sponsored broadcasting. But, of course, The Miami Herald and you only bothered to cast aspersions at the Cuban-American journalists].

The fact that it took so long to catch them tells you how puny the audience is. You’ve heard of Pirate Radio? This is Pipsqueak Radio. [The audience for Radio Marti, in any case, is larger than the audience for the Miami Herald. Just how “puny” your own circulation is can well be gaged by the fact that the loss of 1800 subscribers sent the paper into a tailspin. But you are not suggesting, of course, that we judge the credibility of the Herald by its circulation? That is exactly, however, what you are suggesting about Radio Marti].

Both TV and Radio Martí broadcast from a blimp in the Lower Keys until it was popped by a hurricane last year. Then a plane from the Pennsylvania National Guard was procured to transmit to Cuba for a whopping four hours on weekends. [Four hours of truth on weekends still trumps 24/7 of the Castro regime’s lies].

Now the programs are being beamed by a specially equipped private aircraft flying out of Key West. After Fidel Castro underwent surgery, the broadcasts were increased to six times a week, but even that failed to kill off the Cuban leader. [Do you expect radio beams to ‘kill off the Cuban ‘leader’?”]

Some parts of the island do pick up transmissions from Radio Martí, though interviews with recent arrivals indicate that its listenership has dipped. [Actually, most parts of the island pick up transmissions from Radio Marti. As for its listenership having “dipped,” what do you actually base that conclusion on? How many “recent arrivals” have you interviewed? Can a “recent arrival” make it even within 50 feet of your guarded compound?]

As for TV Martí, it’s basically a ghost station that few in Cuba can receive because of the electronic jamming. Since it began ‘’broadcasting'’ in 1990, TV Martí has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 million. Naturally, Congress keeps shoveling money at it. [So if Castro starts shooting down our airplanes again, we should ground all civil aviation?]

Radio and TV Martí are currently funded at about $37 million annually, including $10 million for the airplane that flies around transmitting the signals, which may still be easily blocked.

That leaves about $27 million lying around for executive salaries, studio production and talent. There are plenty of U.S. journalists, including me, who are eminently qualified to host TV programs that no one will ever see. [Or to write a column that nobody ever reads except when it libels Cuban-Americans, as this one does].

Getting paid to say snarky things about Castro would be an easy gig. For years I’ve done it for free, characterizing El Comandante as a windbag, geezer, liar, despot and all-around phony. I never received a dime from Uncle Sam, even when my columns were properly punctuated. [Leave your guarded compound and sinecure, get a job at Radio Marti, go work every day, and you too will be paid for your work].

But now, thanks to the Bush administration’s generous Outreach Initiative for Ethically [do you mean "Ethnically"] Muddled Reporters, financial opportunities abound. So does temptation. [Well, now we know that it is not “ethically muddled reporters” who are the Herald’s problem but ethically muddled policies and racist editors].

According to a report last week in El Nuevo Herald, numerous magazine and newspaper journalists in the English-language press have accepted payments to appear on Voice of America radio, the government’s official overseas megaphone. Among them: syndicated columnist Georgie Ann Geyer, Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News and David Lightman, chief of The Hartford Courant’s Washington bureau.

These folks are probably in hot water today [no they are not; no one was purged except the Cubans] because of people like my boss, who cling to this old-fashioned notion that the mere appearance of sliding into bed with the institutions we cover is intolerable. [It’s delicious irony to hear you defending the “boss” that you stabbed in the back and led to the door].

Party poopers! Do they really believe that a journalist’s integrity can be compromised for a lousy $175,000? [Again, $37,000 a year over 5 years for hosting a radio show. How much does Howard Stern get? One billion?].

Where’s the trust? Where’s the compassion? More important, where’s my damn check? [Look in your mailbox, or send the help to do it].


Vana said...

This was a witch hunt, aimed at Cuban-Americans, the saddest thing of all, is that it was started by a Cuban-American, against his own brethen, what a despicable man

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


It is sad but true that over the last 48 years the worst persecutors of our people have come from their very ranks. Foreigners sanction the persecution and may even abet it, but the verdugos have always been Cubans. We must explore the roots of this phenomenon and learn everything that we can about it, in the hope that we may be able some day to weed out this flaw from the national character. We cannot afford ever to reap again the putrid fruits which have grown in the barrenness created by their hate of their own people.