Newspapers Planned Fidel's Death. Oops!

For the past 30 years or so, Miami newspapers have prepared for Fidel Castro's death. Soon after I arrived at the Herald in 1989, I updated a lengthy obituary of the Cuban dictator that was kept on file at the newspaper. Even then, the article's author, Guy Gugliotta, had left the paper.

We scrambled when there were reports of Fidel's death. A plan that involved somewhere in the neighborhood of three dozen reporters fanning out across Florida and Cuba was also regularly updated. We reviewed it. We even checked flights.

When I became Sun-Sentinel bureau chief in Miami, we also did a multipage plan and went to the island to scout out how we'd cover the intense change that was expected. That got screwed up when we -- oops -- forgot to have someone on the ground in 2006 when Castro fell ill.

Now the post-Castro plans have been largely abandoned. And with today's news from Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner that Fidel is "looking very well," it seems the hundreds of thousands of dollars and many hours of staff time spent planning coverage of his death has been pretty much wasted. Indeed, there have been so many layoffs at the local newspapers that many who were supposed to be involved in the coverage aren't there.

As the American Journalism Review put it in an article about covering Fidel's illness in 2006: "Seems like the Miami Herald reaction plan might just morph into winging it."

Seems like the crafty dictator has won. Again. How annoying!

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