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Miami NPR affiliate spikes spy-book author interview to not upset Cuban exiles


It's tough to top Juan Tamayo's story today story about a Miami radio station's self-censorship of a Canadian author. It evokes so many passions and speaks so much about living here: spies, fear of angry Cuban exiles, crime, justice.

But it's also a tale of journalism and the abdication of it by WLRN (an NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner) for canceling discussion of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, which attacks the Miami trial of the now-convicted spies.

WLRN's Joseph Cooper, executive producer of Topical Currents, believes the five are Cuban agents. Cooper's probably right. But author Stephen Kimber, apparently, is "presupposing the innocence of the Cuban Five,” Cooper said.

Cooper basically says he canceled the interview because he didn't want to upset the Cuban-American exile community, which likely then wouldn't donate money:  “In my fiduciary capacity I have a responsibility to the community and [WLRN] and I made the decision after very careful consideration... For this community, it just seemed a little too much.”

Have cash and a loud community? Will allow commenting. Or not.

Either way, it's insulting. It makes it sound as if all the members of the Cuban-American community are as reflexively irrational, unfair and inflexible as some of the propagandists on Radio Mambi. The large majority isn't.

Since Cooper obviously doubts Kimber's work, what's to stop Cooper from actually representing "the community," challenging Kimber and debating him? If anything, a large number of Cuban-Americans would rally to WLRN's side. Maybe some would want to donate more money.

More importantly, there's the simple fact that (whether you have an opinion show or column or not) challenging people to defend their ideas is also known as "journalism." Topical Currents should give it a whirl. There would be a side benefit: It would make Topical Currents far less dull than it is now.

WLRN's decision was probably met with a measure of glee by Kimber. And by the Castro regime. Kimber, a journalism professor at the University of King’s College in Halifax, wrote on his website that the WLRN decision bolstered one of the arguments he makes in his book: "That email tells you everything you need to know — and more — about why it was impossible to find an unbiased jury in Miami to hear the case of the Cuban Five."

So a Canadian who was probably spoonfed info from the Castro regime gets to make a more-plausible argument about American freedoms thanks to this decision. In politics and public relations, giving your opponent the ammunition to justify a stereotype of you is among the worst of unforced errors.

But the show will go on. After all, it's a government-supported broadcast. So it's partly insulated from the free market, like a government program that can't get cut. Maybe WLRN should censor Topical Currents and instead try out a show that practices journalism.

Story here

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