Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Rift Repaired?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Rift Repaired?

Article excerpt

The scramble is on as news organizations vie to be the first to set up a news bureau in Communist Cuba.

So far, only Cable News Network has gained approval from Fidel Castro to open a bureau in Havana. However, the cable news giant must still wait for the United States government to grant a license due to the government's longstanding economic embargo against Cuba, which limits or prohibits the amount of money American citizens and businesses can spend in that country.

The positioning caused a rift to develop between CNN President Tom Johnson and Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr.

After hearing talk in Washington that Lawrence was lobbying the U.S. government--which included sending a letter to James Dobbins, the National Security Council director for Latin America--to stall CNN's license request,Johnson shot off a letter to Lawrence chastising him for his furtive efforts.

"I am astounded and dismayed that for purely competitive reasons you would call upon the U.S. government to hinder CNN's legitimate news coverage efforts," stated Johnson's letter."While you may frown upon the Cuban government's decision to allow CNN to be the first U.S. news organization in recent times to have a bureau there, you are wrong to attempt to use the U.S. government to restrain CNN's effort to open a Havana bureau."

Lawrence downplayed the meeting and the intentions of his correspondence to Washington. He refused to release the letter to E&P, choosing instead to have his secretary read select paragraphs from the document over the phone.

In the Nov. 8, 1996 letter to Dobbin, Lawrence wrote "my concern for several years now is Fidel Castro will ultimately choose who he will let cover Cuba and who will get a news bureau."

"If we were shut out while other U.S. media outlets emerged in Cuba, that would run deeply counter to my sense of democracy and fairness. …

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