Sex! Sin! Sensation!

That's El Nuevo Herald. All the news that's fit to print, as long as it's short, simple, and easy to read.

Aruca sees the different takes as a deliberate attempt to deceive El Nuevo's readership. In his eyes the FIU survey further underscores that the hard-line perspective is disappearing, and he thinks exile leaders strive to hide that fact. In addition he's left wondering why a survey detailing the opinions of El Nuevo's core readership is treated at greater length in the Miami Herald.

"Either you don't want to feed the audience with details they might not like, or you don't trust them to understand it," he concludes.

In late November, when an infamous anti-Castro fighter and several Miami-based exiles were arrested in Panama on charges of plotting to assassinate the Cuban dictator, it was almost guaranteed El Nuevo would not inform its readers as well as the Herald would. Although both papers had correspondents in Panama, the Miami connection, which would be of obvious interest to local readers, received scant coverage by El Nuevo. On Sunday, November 19, the day after the story broke, the Herald ran a long piece detailing the identities of the suspects, their Miami jobs, and their repeated run-ins with the law. None of that was available in El Nuevo, which instead chose to talk about speculation that Castro had announced the plot as a way to upstage the other Latin-American presidents gathered with him at the Ibero-American summit.

El Nuevo is not well regarded in Latin America, according to Mario Diament
Steve Satterwhite
El Nuevo is not well regarded in Latin America, according to Mario Diament

El Nuevo director Castañeda says he doesn't care about Aruca, and he refuses to talk about particular stories. He points out that he stays away from radio and television and doesn't make political points with anyone. "What I believe in are circulation figures," he declares.

Sitting in his office next to a window that overlooks a church steeple, the avuncular Castañeda does allow that his reporters are human beings with opinions. He recalls a quotation by Time magazine cofounder Henry Luce, who dismissed objectivity as a myth. "We cannot talk about objectivity," he recalls Luce saying. "We can talk about balanced information, because newspapers are made by people with opinion, passion, and bias. I think that's true."

Aruca contends that under Castañeda the bias has worsened. Long-time reporters at the paper say that if anything, the editor has helped in some small way to depoliticize the paper. He lived in Puerto Rico for decades and thus is not as steeped in Miami's intrigues and personalities. "El Nuevo is at its least Cuban right now," notes one non-Cuban El Nuevo reporter.

According to both present and former El Nuevo reporters, until Castañeda's arrival, it was standing practice that they could not write negatively about leaders in the exile community. Apparently those prohibitions have been eased. "There is more freedom to write what you want," another veteran who works at the paper concurs.

Carlos Castañeda has four newspapers spread across his desk: the London-based Financial Times, the New York Times, El Nuevo, and the Miami Herald. For Castañeda they offer lessons on what works and what doesn't in journalism. And he's happy to share his passion for the subject.

According to the seasoned newspaperman, nothing is more important than the front page. Publisher Alberto Ibargüen wanted the coins to leap from a reader's pocket into the El Nuevo vending machine. Castañeda has the skill to make his boss's dreams come true. He also benefited from inheriting a paper so bad, expectations were nonexistent. Still, one can't help but think no matter how profit-hungry Knight Ridder may be, it's doubtful the company would allow Ibargüen to do to the Miami Herald what Castañeda has done to El Nuevo.

The editor sneers at the English sister paper on his desk. Most of the stories on the Herald's front page continue inside the paper. These are called jumps in newspaper parlance. Castañeda doesn't like them. He says 70 percent of jumps aren't read. El Nuevo will never have more than one jump on the front page and then only for a quick and brief trip to page two. "Readers can't be bothered to open the paper and look for a story," he believes.

There is no room for longer stories either. He cites polls that indicate people simply don't read past fourteen inches (roughly ten paragraphs) unless the story has personal relevance.

Castañeda picks up the New York Times. He's been a reader of the paper since 1949, but he complains all the stories jump. Rarely does he follow them inside. When he does, they are hard to find in the bowels of the back pages. "If you have two papers and a place to buy it," he says, pointing to the front page of the Miami Herald next to El Nuevo, "you won't sell with [the Miami Herald]."

He lifts the well-regarded Financial Times. This is his model, he insists. It's true the FT doesn't have real jumps on the front page. Instead it offers capsulelike entries with referrals, almost de facto jumps, at the bottom. The FT also happens to be comprehensive and well written.

This is what Castañeda wants for El Nuevo. "Instead of having a long, long story, we have that story and we split it," he explains pointing at different parts of the page. "The facts here. The reactions here. The consequences here. Three different headlines, not just one. Have fun with the story."

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