Cuba Politics

American Journalism Review regarding challenges of covering Cuba news

Posted October 02, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

By Lori Robertson .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) a former AJR managing editor, is a senior writer for the magazine.

Cuba Countdown  

Coverage of Fidel Castro’s illness and handoff of power underscores the challenges of reporting on the secretive regime and the island’s future.

Scenes from Havana’s Jos� Mart� International Airport at night, August 2, 2006:

Rain had leaked through the ceiling onto one of the seats near the departure gate. Birds were flying in through an opening in the roof. A group of international journalists waited for the first morning flight to Cancun.

One of them, Angel Valentin, says the overnighter in the airport was, simply, “interesting.”

Not quite the way Valentin, a senior staff photographer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and his companions – including Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, two Getty Images photographers, a Dutch newspaper correspondent, a Spanish radio reporter and a Panamanian television crew – had envisioned covering a major news event that wasn’t quite the big, BIG story, but a big story nonetheless.

For the first time in his 47 years as Cuba’s president, Fidel Castro had put someone else in charge of the country, handing power primarily to his brother Raul. Fidel, who turned 80 a few weeks later, was recovering from intestinal surgery and requested that his announcement be read over Cuban television. Speculation was rampant – had Castro died already? Information was scant – his location was not released. And the media circus was not going to be able to put its act together.

Valentin, Robinson and many others who didn’t have the pleasure of sleeping in the airport were turned away by Cuban immigration authorities, who said the visitors couldn’t enter the country without journalist visas. These had turned out to be impossible to obtain quickly from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, an office that had not responded to many phone calls or e-mails or an in-person visit by Robinson.

Some reporters did slip in…

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Member Comments

On October 06, 2006, BERNIE wrote:

Sounds like these reporter never visited Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Cuba is not alone having water leaks in their roofs and birds flying around in their terminals.
Once a bird had a fly over a computer keyboard, had a very large movement which totally junked that keyboard.