Undercurrents

Are reporters playing the ancestry card in the Elian "crisis"?

OK, everyone who is sick of the daily news media's coverage of the Elian "crisis," please raise your hand. Now, how many of you have noticed that the Hispanic writers and television reporters covering the story ad nauseam have shown a bias toward the family and against the father and Cuba?

Our jaded opinion: The reporters lost their supposed objectivity because they can get better access to the media-savvy family on a daily basis by covering the story that way. The reporters also play the ancestry card in an attempt to get closer and have the family feel comfortable confiding in "one of us." In a competitive atmosphere, objective outweighs objectivity.


It was an offer too tantalizing to pass up: "Aspiring professional soccer players will have a chance to make their dreams come true when the Miami Fusion holds open tryouts Jan. 22 and 23," the press release stated. It went on to note that last year more than 800 players "of all skill levels" attempted to make the soccer team and a few were even invited to training camp.

So we force our expanding gut into some slinky Umbro shorts, lace up our cleats, and work on our goal-scoring dance. But when we arrive at Florida Atlantic University, a young man is blocking our way. He announces that the tryout is closed.

"But the tryout is supposed to start at 10:30," we protest. "How can it already be closed if it's not even 10:30?"

He does not answer the question, instead replying lamely that we can come in to watch but only if we return the bag carrying our cleats and socks to the car. Perhaps he thinks we will attempt to sneak onto the pitch, like that busty woman who used to dash onto baseball fields and plant kisses on unsuspecting shortstops.

So we sulkily return our bag to the car and sit in the bleachers, watching the perhaps 80 would-be professional footballers run up and down the field. A guy in a jersey that reads, "St. Lucia National Team," is a particular terror. But most of the guys play like weekend warriors out on a lark. After one particularly lame attempt at putting the ball in the back of the net, the little kid next to us in the bleachers assesses the play. "No, no, no!" he cries. "You stink!"

Perhaps the Tampa Bay Mutiny has open tryouts.


We pat ourselves on the back occasionally but only if we really deserve it. In this case it's for the Benjamin Fine Award for outstanding education reporting presented to staff writer Bob Norman. We wouldn't normally bring this up, but it was a first placein the Single Article category for his February 1999 story "Little Soldiers in the Culture War."

You should know that there are too many awards in journalism; sometimes it seems as if there is one for each paper and writer in the country. But we feel this national recognition was well deserved, in our humble opinion.

Norman discovered the highly questionable curriculum of Character First! and the rather rigid and moralistic guidelines within it. His reporting on the program and the background of its authors alarmed readers and prompted lawmakers to rewrite the state's character-education bill. After feeling the heat from readers, state Sen. Howard Forman and Rep. Tracy Stafford admitted their mistake and struck Character First! from their bills. Fine work!

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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