On August 17, Roberto Rodríguez Tejera takes the center spot behind the
news desk inside TeleMiami's studio in the Flagami neighborhood of
Miami. The veteran Cuban American journalist is flanked by former
Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños,
ex-Hialeah cop Ricky Garcia, and Political Cortadito blogger Elaine
The trio are engaged in a spirited discussion with
Rodríguez Tejera about the absentee ballot fraud debacle that
tainted the August 14 primary just three days earlier. When it comes to
tackling the hot button issues in Miami-Dade's sketchy political
scene, Rodríguez Tejera is one of the few Spanish language
journalists who dares to do so.
why it was a surprise that Rodríguez Tejera was the lone casualty in
Univision's overhaul of local station WQBA earlier this summer.
He was the only on-air talent to lose his job at the station. His colleagues Oscar Haza and Helen Aguirre Ferre, WQBA's other two prominent voices, were reassigned to new positions. While a Univision spokeswoman declined to talk about WQBA's changes, local media followers and fellow journalists were surprised Rodríguez Tejera lost his job.
His departure is indicator of how much Cuban American radio is losing its voice in Miami, which is the subject of this week's cover story. Banana Republican sat down with Rodríguez Tejera to get his take on the changing AM radio market and why his brand of controversial investigative journalism can only be found at independently owned media outlets like TeleMiami.
The 60-year-old newsman has been working in Miami for more than a quarter century. He was Telemundo's first news director in 1985. Three years later, he landed the same gig at Television Marti, the federally funded station that broadcasts news with an anti-communist slant to Cuba. He also had a stint with Radio Marti between 1996 and 2000. He worked at La Poderosa 670 AM between 2001 and 2002 where he clashed with station owner Jorge Rodríguez (no relation) over George W. Bush. He spent four years at WQBA until he was let go this past June.
Over the last decade, Rodríguez Tejera, the Hispanic community in Miami has changed dramatically, but the management style of stations like Radio Mambi and La Poderosa have remained the same - focused on right-wing commentary and opinion aimed at dethroning the Castro brothers from power in Cuba. "The people want quality journalism instead of political propganda," Rodríguez Tejera says. "But the radio stations really don't have the resources or the institutional knowledge to do unbiased investigative journalism."
During his time on WQBA, Rodríguez Tejera, alongside Aguirre Ferre, hosted a one-hour afternoon program that tackled controversial subjects about Miami-Dade politics. Rodríguez Tejera boasts that their show was one of the first programs to criticize former county Mayor Carlos Alvarez and report on the financial troubles at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
"We were the only ones to critically look at the Miami-Dade Children's Trust," he says. "They receive $120 million a year that no one knows where the money goes. We also reported on negative news about Genting [the company that wants to bring casino gambling to downtown Miami] when no other station would."
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Rodríguez Tejera explains that young Hispanics who have recently emigrated from Cuba and other Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America don't read English newspapers like the Miami Herald or New Times. "Like older generations, they get most of their news from the radio," he says. "But they want to hear about what affects them in their daily lives."
He declined to speculate why Univision only laid him off from WQBA. "I can definitely say it wasn't because of our ratings," Rodríguez Tejera says. "During the afternoons, we had the largest audience of any other station."
Rodríguez Tejera is now hosting a one-hour local news talk program on TeleMiami from Monday Through Friday. You can tune it at 7 p.m.