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Jicha: Good to be here, Laurie.
Jennings: Tom, even before the INS raid, you wrote in your column that "WSVN-Ch. 7 didn't even fight the good fight. Rick Sanchez, who weeks ago abandoned any pretense of being a reporter to become an advocate for the Miami Gonzalez family, was particularly unprofessional."
Jicha: He definitely was. He just abandoned any pretense for neutrality. He was fair and impartial only if you defined his viewers as that small segment of people who were protesting in Little Havana. He allowed people to go on the air and say anything they wanted unchallenged. Rick just walked in lock step with Elián's spokespeople.
Jennings: Did he offer any explanation? I mean, he didn't just come right out and tell you he was one of Castro's operatives, did he?
Jicha: He told me 60 percent of his audience is Cuban. His ratings are excellent. That was his defense of why he did what he did. If that's what you want, well fine. But Rick Sanchez is not a journalist. He's an entertainer, as most people on TV are. Just don't even claim to be objective, as Rick will do. Just come off for what you are. If you want to be a cheerleader for that group, then fine.
He's entitled to his opinion, but at least be honest about it. They never ever framed this as an issue of Elián being reunited with his father. It was always whether or not the boy would be returned to communist Cuba. They are the ones that framed it that way; they are the ones who put it as either a victory or a defeat for Castro. The others framed that to an extent, but at Seven it was presented solely in those terms. I hold them responsible for how the Cuban community reacted. I think they helped ratchet up the emotion in the community by framing it in this way.
Sanchez: But Tom, aren't you viewing this from a Broward perspective? After all, your newsroom is in Fort Lauderdale.
Jicha: Rick, I live in a community in Kendall, Winston Park. There is a mix of maybe 40 percent each of Cubans and Anglos, and 20 percent of anything else. On the day Elián was seized, there was no uprising in my community. There were garage sales and kids riding on bicycles. Six or seven miles of lunacy was not at all reflective of most Miamians. Why [wasn't WSVN] out in Winston Park and West Kendall? Why weren't they in other areas, even in Coral Gables? I'm sure they would have found a lot of people who were disappointed in the raid but who weren't carrying on like this. If you watched Channel 7, you would think everyone of Cuban descent in the Miami area believed and acted the same way. They didn't tell both sides of the story, and that's [violating] the first rule of journalism.
Jennings: Do you think Rick is a communist agitator? I mean, isn't it reasonable to conclude?
Jicha: No, though he might be an unwitting double agent. That's the ultimate irony that might come of this. The Cuban [exile] community not only lost Elián, now they might even lose the embargo.
Sanchez[turning to Jennings]:Tom, thank you for your insight. Now, I have to wonder, Laurie: If this Castro agent allegation is true -- and sources indicate it probably is -- won't this just kill my career? [Laughs.] I mean, at the very least I'll have a bit of a credibility problem, won't I?
Sanchez pauses for a long moment. He stops shuffling papers. His pencil lies inert. Jennings looks around in obvious confusion. Suddenly Sanchez shakes his head briskly and blinks. His hands furiously resume paper rearrangement. He flashes his best anchorman grin.
Sanchez: Don't go away, Seven News is just getting started. When we come back from a break, we'll join Marilyn Mitzel with tonight's "Healthcast."
Up in the Newsloft, a bewildered-looking blonde reviews a report on the sexual side effects of drinking ten cups of coffee a day. Fade out on Sanchez.
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