‘Herald’ Goes Undercover to Cover Carter

By: Joe Strupp

The CIA just might be able to learn a few things from The Miami Herald. If they want to improve their undercover operations in Cuba, that is.

Because of a long-standing Cuban policy that denies reporter visas to Herald staff writers, the newspaper is forced to send reporters to the island undercover as tourists, according to executive editor Tom Fiedler. He told E&P on Wednesday that a Herald reporter is in Cuba and filed stories about this week’s trip by former President Jimmy Carter — which appeared under no byline.

“We’ve had to do this for years,” Fiedler said, adding that staff photographers are under the same restrictions. “It goes back to the Herald‘s editorial policy since the Cuban revolution, which has always been critical of Cuba.”

Fiedler said, as far as he knows, the Herald is the only U.S. paper under such a ban by Cuba. In the past, some Herald reporters who entered Cuba as tourists have been discovered by the government and detained or thrown out, according to Martin Baron, a former Herald editor who now edits The Boston Globe. Baron told E&P none were ever held for longer than a day or so.

Fiedler said the Herald continues to seek visas, and had put in a request to place a reporter aboard Carter’s charted flight that carried many U.S. newspaper writers to Cuba, but they are never granted. “We never get a no, we just never get an answer,” he said.

The anti-Herald policy also stopped a Herald editorial writer from being allowed to enter Cuba with a National Conference of Editorial Writers group planning a trip there two years ago, Fiedler said. NCEW officials objected and eventually cancelled the trip in protest.

“There were actually several days of negotiations and, at one point, the Herald offered to withdraw her name from the trip,” said NCEW President Phil Haslanger, who is managing editor at The Capital Times in Madison, Wis. “But our position was that we can’t have the country dictate who can go.”

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