Black-Owned Media Want Share of Campaign Money

Beth Reinhard and Marc Caputo keep chugging on the Davis-Smith race. Mary Barley, whose bid to become agriculture commissioner in 2002 was slammed by Big Sugar, is the new Tom Joad of Florida. She's going after Smith, who is getting a million-dollar-plus assist from the industry, which is bankrolling a series of attack ads against Davis. ''Wherever Big Sugar tries to tip the balance to one of its cronies, we will be there," she told reporters.


Big Sugar's big issue with Davis is a 16-year-old vote against compensating Pitts and Lee, two black men wrongfully convicted of murder. And that dovetails nicely into today's Herald article by Darran Simon about a complaint by black newspapers that political candidates aren't spending enough money on ads in their publications. The newly minted Florida Black-Owned Media Coalition had a press conference in Fort Lauderdale yesterday pleading their case. Studies in 2002 and 2004 show that a paltry amount of campaign ads have been bought in Florida's black newspapers -- only $22,000 out of $11 million spent in 2004, for instance. This year, the coalition claimed only $300 out of the $970,000 spent in the primaries so far was doled out to black media.

This was surprising to me, since Big Sugar and Smith are counting so heavily on winning the black vote on the Pitts and Lee issue in next week's primary. They should be pouring money into black media. Well, it turns out they probably are. Keith Clayborne, publisher of the Broward Times, says Smith has a $2,000 half-page ad in his newspaper this week -- which brings into question that $300 figure. Surely that isn't the only black-owned newspaper Smith is hitting.

It's an interesting issue. You wonder if Democratic candidates are under-utilizing black media. With Republican candidates, of course, it's a moot point.

-- Vanessa Bauza has an interesting article on the Sun-Sentinel's front page today regarding U.S. propaganda funds directed at Cuba. It's a complicated issue, so complicated that by the end of the article you wish America would spend that $80 million elsewhere. Little of it gets to the island and the rest goes to dubious information campaigns. Nice work.

Speaking of Bauza, she's been the newspaper's correspondent in Cuba since 2001, when Fidel allowed the Tribune Company to open a bureau there. It was a bit historic -- CNN and AP were the only American news operations with full-time bureaus there at the time (though newspapers routinely had correspondents working on the island). But Bauza wasn't in Cuba when Fidel turned the reins over to Raul. In fact, the Sun-Sentinel had no reporter in Cuba at the time of the power transfer -- the biggest story to come out of Cuba in many years. Bauza anchored the coverage from her desk in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

She had left the Havana bureau for a fellowship a year ago and was replaced in Havana by Ruth Morris. What happened to Morris, I don't know, but her last Havana byline came on July 24 -- just before Fidel turned up ill. Within the last week or two, the Sentinel finally got another reporter, Doreen Hemlock, to the island. From what I can tell, her first byline from the island came with Ernesto.

The question: What happened to Morris? And how embarrassing is it for the Sentinel, which has prided itself on having the Havana bureau, to not have had a reporter in Cuba on the biggest story, arguably, since the missile crisis?

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