Letters to the Editor

From the issue of January 18, 2001

 It Wasn't Such a Bad Article About My Newspaper
It just wasn't a very smart article: Regarding Jacob Bernstein's entertaining and (mostly) balanced article about El Nuevo Herald, where I work ("Sex! Sin! Sensation!" January 11), you don't have to reach back into the dim recesses of pre-Carlos Castañeda history to find "quality investigative work." My colleague Gerardo Reyes published a half-dozen pieces last year illuminating the fascinating tale of a U.S. government informant who got caught up in a rivalry between the DEA and the FBI. In December the Wall Street Journal followed up those stories with a lengthy investigation of its own, even taking the highly unusual step of quoting Gerardo. It wouldn't have been hard to work in a reference to his stories, even if it would have complicated your thesis about the dumbing-down of the paper. The informant series sheds as much light on the paper today as the paving contract story of a few years ago did about the old days, and Bernstein did find a way to mention the paving scandal.

El Nuevo Herald may have no more assiduous a reader than Francisco Aruca, but Bernstein could have helped a reader draw his or her own conclusions about where he's coming from. To that end he might have pursued the question of whether Aruca has ever, in the past ten years, uttered a word of criticism about the Cuban government. The fact is that the chances of Aruca complimenting ENH for anything are exactly equal to those of a Pinochetista praising the work in Chile of my colleague Alejandra Matus. For my money the presentation of Aruca reflects a primitive view of the Cuba question -- far-right exiles versus embattled revolution -- that was never more than semiaccurate and is now growing moldy with age. To be sure it does crop up in ENH's editorial pages, but it's offset by a diverse set of other views about Cuba, including those of independent journalists on the island. A nonreader of El Nuevo Herald would have no idea of this from Bernstein's piece.

Which leads me to wonder if New Times is losing its feel for Miami. The dated Cuba perspective aside, there's an odd observation toward the end of the article. Bernstein remarks on South American "elites who are coming to Miami," and who don't need ENH for its reporting on their home countries. Get real. The "elites" are a tiny fraction of the new migrants, largely Colombian and Venezuelan, most of them from the middle class or below, who are pouring into Miami and doing every and any kind of work they can. What they are not doing is relaxing on their patios, clicking through their hometown dailies. What they do seem to be doing -- a lot of them, anyway -- is reading El Nuevo Herald.

Peter Katel, staff writer
El Nuevo Herald
Miami

It Wasn't an Article That Delivered What It Promised
Of course the promise itself was pretty trashy: You can't tell a book by its cover, of course, but gee! I sure was expecting something more exciting in an article on El Nuevo in New Times. Or is it Old Times?

I can't blame you for taking shots at the Herald & Co. whenever possible (they're easy targets -- maybe too easy), but your story promises more than it delivers. Their Spanish-language paper might be a trashy rag, but showing a busty babe on your cover makes you guys as guilty as they are. Maybe more so, since you used sex for a bait-and-switch. That, and the story, was weak.

Better luck next time.

Mark Sigfried
via the Internet

It Wasn't Much of an Article at All
But thanks for the mammaries: Wow! There was more sex and titillation on the cover of your rag than in the El Nuevo Herald story itself.

And what a story! A Spanish-language newspaper in Miami is successful because its managers tailor their product to Cuban Americans. Cutting-edge stuff! Way to go! A Pulitzer Prize, for sure.

The story really, uh, sucked. Nice tits, though.

Timothy Burrwell
via the Internet

It Isn't the Article Itself I Wish to Address
It is the larger issue of Latin-American journalism: El Nuevo Herald is an insult to Spanish-speaking Latin Americans. I am a European who has studied many publications in Latin America, and I myself have had some of my writings published in Latin-American publications, even once by Gabriel Garcia Marquez himself, back when he was an editor in his Mexican exile. I defy anybody to discover, anywhere in Latin America, a periodical that disguises itself as a major daily and which presents such putrescene as that sad coven on Biscayne Bay.

No, amigos. The world still bows before Latin-American writers, even those whose poetic genius touches the common person who reads the local newspaper. Garcia Marquez began as a newspaper reporter. When you read his news stories, it's poetry. For example his report during a water shortage in Caracas. You could have declaimed this Caracas-water-shortage report onstage at Carnegie Hall. And the fabulously talented Latin-American poets who write to the public as journalists are still at work. In my opinion some are in the Garcia Marquez class: Miguel Cabral of El Pais in Montevideo, Uruguay. José Flavio Cardoso, writing in Portuguese for Diario Catarinense. Yes, even in English: William Santiago for the San Juan Star. They are all Nobel Prize talent. I have collected some of their world-class journalism. Miguel Cabral reporting about the Dominicans: "In Santo Domingo he who does not dance is paralytic!" José Flavio Cardoso about the life of a door-to-door salesman. William Santiago's obituary for the departed "Owl Man" of Old San Juan. This is "insight" news because it allows us to understand why Latin America still produces fine popular music with poetic lyrics: "The universe of your eyes...."

The most devastating remark I would make against El Nuevo Herald is this: It is not at all a Latin-American publication. It is the printed version of Radio Martí.

J. Sodeman
Miami

Editor's note: Based on information provided by El Nuevo Herald director and editor Carlos Castañeda, staff writer Jacob Bernstein's article stated that El Nuevo operated with a profit margin greater than the Miami Herald's. That assertion has been challenged by Herald executives, who claim that Castañeda's newspaper enjoys the financial advantage of having much of its overhead borne by the Herald. Castañeda responds that he is quoting from official reports.

Padron: The Manager as Manipulator
He has the naive, inexperienced board of trustees he wants: In his letter to the editor, Mr. Bob Martinez expressed his disappointment with the "Padron power grab" article written by Gaspar González ("Power Play," January 4), which referenced my remarks before the Miami-Dade Community College board of trustees on December 7. In his letter Mr. Martinez also refers to some aspects of the article as being "just plain wrong." For the record not a single member of the board, including MDCC district president Eduardo Padron, challenged my remarks, nor did Dr. Padron answer the questions I addressed to him.

Rather than respond to Mr. Martinez, I would remind him of the remarks made to him during the MDCC Foundation's recent audit process by the audit partner: Why are you acting as Dr. Padron's defense attorney when you as chairman of the board of trustees should be listening as an independent person and encouraging us to do our work rather than challenging our work as you have repeatedly done? These remarks are again applicable to Mr. Martinez.

The article did not mention Mr. Martinez by name, because Mr. González did not include confidential comments I made to him relating to the college's management problems at the board of trustees level, which Mr. Martinez chairs. The basic problem is that, for the first time in recent history, all members of the board of trustees changed simultaneously. As a result the current board suffers from a steep learning curve that, without the assistance of a permanent staff (such as that at the state university system's Board of Regents), there is a huge "governance vacuum." It will take years before the governance of MDCC is at a par with the previous board of trustees, led by Mr. Martin Fine.

Of course no one can say Dr. Padron is neither smart nor astute. So as might be expected, he has very ably filled that vacuum to manage (manipulate?) the board of trustees to his advantage. Mr. Martinez and others on the board are well-meaning citizens who want to do the right thing, but they have been placed in a situation in which they cannot effectively govern an entity with a $200-million budget, five campuses, and more than 6000 employees. Even if any of the members of the board came to the table with prior direct experience in a commercial enterprise of similar size (and none of the current board members do), each would have a huge learning curve on governance matters unique to an academic institution and its related foundation.

As an MDCC benefactor of two endowed teaching chairs (one given by me and the other solicited by me from the Philip Morris Company foundation), I will always have an interest in the MDCC Foundation. I can only offer the college and its foundation my very best wishes for success in serving this community.

Juan A. Galan, Jr.
Coral Gables

Let the Digging Begin
But first allow me a gratuitous comparison between Eduardo Padron and Fidel Castro: Thanks to Gaspar González for a wonderful article. New Times should keep digging, because there's so much more to uncover regarding Miami-Dade Community College and Eduardo Padron. (Fidel Castro es un niño de teta compared to Padron.)

Regarding Bob Martinez's letter to the editor: Please, he and Padron are the best of friends. Can Mr. Martinez prove that the allegations in the article are false? No. His letter was just pure rhetoric. Juan Galan is right in what he stated, all of it. I hope New Times does a follow-up story with everything that's happening. Documents are available. You just need to ask for them as they are public.

I would also thank Mr. González for vindicating former MDCC Foundation president Sandy Gonzalez-Levy. She was unjustly fired.

I truly wish I could identify myself, but I'm afraid of losing my job at MDCC. That's how things are done at this institution

Name Withheld by Request
via the Internet

School Board Votes to Do the Right Thing!
Well, perhaps sometime in the very, very distant future: I would like to congratulate Rebecca Wakefield for writing such an accurate story regarding the reaction of the Miami-Dade school board toward establishing an ethics commission ("Listen Here, You Boneheads, We Ain't Broke so Don't Try and Fix Us," December 7). Mind you, the recommendation to establish an ethics commission came from a blue-ribbon task force composed of representatives appointed by each school board member!

As a doctoral student doing research on school board ethics, I was invited by school board member Marta Perez to speak at this particular meeting, joining others in imploring the board to do the right thing. Unfortunately the right thing was tabled for further discussion.

Maybe other board members support G. Holmes Braddock, who candidly professed his view of the public by stating, "I always have a hard time reacting to the public 'cause I'm not so high on the public." Time will tell.

Karelia Martinez-Carbonell
Coral Gables

Seeing As How This Is My Last Day
Let me tell you morons what I really think: I just have to add my two cents regarding the disheartening comments by school board member G. Holmes Braddock on his final day of service to the county's educational system.

Indeed how very tragic that he would embarrass himself -- not to mention all educators, administrators, and the schoolchildren themselves -- by stating, "I've never thought we had a very bright public."

The ultimate slap in the public's face gives us some very real indication of what his thought processes and decision-making must have been all those 38 years of service. What a crying shame!

Russ Gordon
Miami

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