Covering Cuba: Tamayo Vs. Bauza

The American Journalism Review has an interesting and exhaustive story on the behind-the-scenes wrangling of reporters who tried to cover the Castro-to-Castro transfer of power. Authored by Lori Robertson, it starts with several newspaper f0lk -- including Sun-Sentinel photographer Angel Valentin -- trying to enter the country but getting turned away at the Havana airport because they didn't have special journalist visas.

Here are some highlights:

-- The Miami Herald's Juan Tamayo plays a major role in the story and describes how Herald reporters routinely sneak into the country without the required visa ("We've gotten in, I would say, probably most of the people that we sent, a very high percentage that we sent"). He also shares his thoughts on how Castro and the Cuban government views his newspaper: "As far as they're concerned, we're not an independent newspaper; we're just part of the Cuban mafia


-- There's an interesting back-and-forth between the Herald's Juan Tamayo and the Sentinel's Vanessa Bauz�, who was stationed in Havana from 2001 to 2005. Tamayo says there is an advantage in covering the island from a distance. "To be honest with you, people who do have visas, you know the Cubans are very tough on those visas," he says. "If you write almost anything that they do not like, they likely will not give you another visa... Unless that reporter is willing to forgo all future access to the island... they're going to be pretty careful in what they write."

Bauz� disagrees, naturally, saying that Cuban officials "certainly were not happy with my coverage various times and would call me in and have discussions about the coverage and their feeling that it was more negative than it should be. They didn't ever threaten to revoke my visa or much less to close the bureau... I decided early on that if I chose to censor myself, then there wasn't any point in my being there."

-- Robertson confirms what was first reported here on the Pulp: The Sentinel had no reporter in Cuba during the transfer of power, which is easily one of the biggest stories to come from the island in a decade. To wit:

"Unfortunately for the Sun-Sentinel, its bureau wasn't staffed when Castro's surgery was announced. Since Bauz� left the bureau in 2005 to take a fellowship, the paper has been rotating reporters in and out and hasn't named a permanent replacement. The next on rotation is Doreen Hemlock, an international business reporter. She thought she might get a visa on July 31, and her bags were packed, but it didn't come through until early in the week of August 21. She plans to be in Cuba for two or three months."

(Thanks to Kirk Nielsen for the heads-up).

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