U.S., Cuba & Journalism

Eclectic Portraits
            In the modern 24-hour Cable News era, the precipitous decline of American journalism is fully capable of reshaping the U. S. democracy. That's why great journalists, like Trudy Rubin at the Philadelphia Inquirer, are so vital today. If Americans don't realize that fact, be assured that the Founding Fathers created America's fledgling, magnificent government with the clear understanding that "a free and energetic press is essential to preserving democracy." The digital and electronic evolutions and revolutions have spawned 24-hour Cable News operations that symbolize the decline and fall of American journalism, which would have certainly dismayed the Founding Fathers. Watching television news -- from right-wing Fox to left-wing MSNBC to middle-of-the-road CNN -- is easier these days then seeking out great print journalists...such as Ms. Rubin. The Cable News outfits, however additive they may be, are controlled by capitalist-corporate interests only concerned with profits. Thus, instead of hiring competent reporters to actually go out and cover the news, the Cable outfits stress useless and obnoxious Talking Head pundits along with constant reruns to fill out their 24-hour repetitions that merely masquerade as news coverage. But then...there are gems like Trudy Rubin. So, on this tranquil Sunday, let's, uh... see what she's up to.
        Today is Sunday, January 17th, 2016. The major article in today's Philadelphia Enqurer is penned by Trudy Rubin, that great newspaper's top columnist and editorial writer. She had just returned from Cuba and presented an in-depth, fair, and balanced portrait of the island as reflected by the drastic changes taking place during this crucial new year. That's important because, if you get most of your news from the Cable News operations, you probably believe that the vile revolutionary government in Cuba spends most of its time harassing, berating, beating, imprisoning or murdering its citizens -- the image promulgated by remnants of the ousted Batista-Mafia dictatorship that have controlled the Cuban narrative and America's Cuban policy virtually since January 1, 1959. By contrast, in Cuba today there are good things, bad things and -- like in a lot of other countries -- a lot of in-between things. Cable News outfits in the U. S. lack the competency and the courage to counter the dominant propaganda about Cuba espoused by a handful of second-generational Cuban exiles and their easily acquired sycophants. To support such propaganda, those exiles and their sycophants have, amazingly, been allowed to get away with taking the freedom away from everyday Americans who might want to visit Cuba, the only nation in the world to which that anti-democratic rule applies!! But Trudy Rubin just got back from Cuba and her article today brings you up to date on the fast-changing island. You should read her entire article but her exact opening words are:
             "At the darkened Delirio Habanero nightclub on top of Havana's National Theater, a group of young Cubans listen to an all-girl band dressed in Micro miniskirts belt out salsa lyrics. Through the windows behind them, the glowing faces of revolutionary heroes Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos shine down, outlined in neon several stories high on the facades of neighboring buildings. The young people are too busy texting to take any notions, even as the older folks dance. Cuba is a society going through immense changes -- generational, economic and, at some levels, even political. These changes were underway even before President Barack Obama made his historic announcement on Dec. 17, 2014, about restoring relations."
            MY POINT IS THIS: There are still in America some great print journalists -- such as Trudy Rubin at the Philadelphia Enquirer -- who will actually report the truth even about complex and controversial topics such as...Cuba. But a lazy, less patriotic generation of Americans prefers getting their news from television sitting on their couches as opposed to physically stepping outside to obtain that day's copy of, say, the Philadelphia Enquirer. And mostly, from their couches, Americans get self-serving promotional tidbits from Cable News Talking Head pundits who are greatly preferred by the corporate owners unwilling to go to the expense of actually hiring reporters to go out from the studios and cover or investigate the news.

     Kate O'Brian is the greatest television-broadcast journalist in the United States of America. She cried this week, a fact reported by the Associated Press and other top news agencies. Those tears were very important. Americans should know why she cried and why her tears were and are important. So, permit me to tell you.
    For many years Kate O'Brian was the shining light as the boss at ABC TV-Radio News. She believed, and still believes, in hiring the best broadcast journalists and sending them out to actually cover the news. In a bygone era, the other two major networks, CBS and NBC, felt the same. Then came the saturation of Cable television. A visionary, Ted Turner, founded CNN in 1980 as a 24-hour news operation and Mr. Turner, like Kate O'Brian, believed in great reporters actually going out to cover the news. But AOL bought CNN and from that day to this day copy-cat Cable news outfits like Fox and MSNBC have all been ruled by corporate billionaires only interested in making more billions. That philosophy also wiped out the news-gathering expertise of the major networks -- CBS, NBC, and ABC. Money and profits, not great broadcast journalists like Kate O'Brian, suffered massively...to the point of tears this week for Ms. O'Brian. The Disney Corporation, which is awash in billions of dollars, owns ABC and its only interest in news is making more billions of dollars. Thus, Ms. O'Brian, the boss at ABC News, was told to hire more Talking Heads to replace actual reporters because the Talking Heads were/are a lot cheaper because their prime "talent" is promoting themselves or their projects, such as their latest book or whichever politician is paying them. Ms. O'Brian left ABC News. An upstart network -- Aljazeera, owned by the rulers of Qatar -- hired Ms. O'Brian only after she was assured she could hire the rest reporters she could find and send them out to actually cover the news. That was in the summer of 2013. Ms. O'Brian then raided the networks for the best anchors and reporters she could hire for Ajazeera America. She landed 700 of them, many of the very best such as...John Siegenthaler, John Schuster, Joie Chen, Soledad O'Brien, Ali Velshi, Sheila MacVicar, etc., etc. She hired the best reporters covering the U. S., Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. She hired what many consider the three best network reporters covering Latin America -- Lucia Newman, Virginia Lopez, and Teresa Bo. In an interview that is still posted on YouTube, Kate O'Brian explained in detail that her idea of great broadcast journalism detested Talking Head pundits and championed great reporters actually going out and covering the news. At ABC and then for the past two-plus years at Aljazeera America, Kate O'Brian's viewpoints prevailed, resulting in great television journalism. But the Arabic-sounding Aljazeera name doomed Kate O'Brian despite the array of well-known, high-profile U. S. journalists she had hired. Also, the drastic decline in oil prices affected oil-rich Qatar. This week came the news that Aljazeera America would cease operations by April of this year. That's why Kate O-Brian cried this week in New York City. She knew her desire to emphasize great reporters actually going out and covering the news had been quashed a second time, first at ABC and now at Aljazeera. She realized that the money-crazed corporate billionaires who dearly love Talking Head pundits had won.

         I admire 48-year-old New Yorker Anderson Cooper as a genuinely talented broadcast journalist, especially his work at CBS's 60 Minutes, which remains the best and most intelligent news program on network television.
    I also admire Anderson Cooper's work when his main employer, CNN, allows him to go out and actually cover Breaking News! But that's very rare. Mostly, Cooper is stuck in the studio as host of "CNN's" prime-time 360 program. That's when, I confess, I feel sorry for Anderson Cooper as a broadcast journalist. On 360, as with all network anchors in America, Anderson Cooper mostly gets to introduce and talk to useless and obnoxious TALKING HEAD PUNDITS. Now, please, let me give you an example.
      Ana Navarro is one of the most ubiquitous Talking Heads on network television in the United States. CNN is her prime employer. In this presidential election year of 2016, Ana Navarro is nothing more and nothing less than a promoter and propagandist for Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both of whom she has worked for tirelessly. Yet, CNN constantly has her on the air as a Talking Head "political analyst" supposedly to inform potential voters who is the best presidential candidate. DUH!!!! Hour-after-hour as a Talking Head pundit on CNN, Ana Navarro is allowed to masquerade as a "journalist" or "political analyst" while doing nothing more than propagandizing and promoting Bush and Rubio while also saving CNN the trouble and expense of sending a real journalist out to actually cover the news. That is, of course, an insult to CNN viewers. Moreover, I also believe it nightly insults Anderson Cooper. I actually feel sorry for Anderson, and cringe for him, when he introduces Ana Navarro with these familiar words: "We now want to welcome on the set Ana Navarro, who works for Jeb Bush and is also a dear friend of Marco Rubio." I believe most Americans, even those who still depend on CNN for Breaking News, immediately cut away when Talking Heads dominate the "news." THE PROBLEM IS...with television news in the U. S. now having no place for truly great broadcast journalist decision-makers like Kate O'Brian, WHERE DO WE TURN???
          Which brings me back around on this circuitous journalistic journey to probably the best current broadcaster in North America. I speak of 28-year-old Cristina Escobar, the prime-time anchor on Cuban television. As an anchor or as a reporter, either in Spanish or English, she is of such high-caliber that even the dastardly embargo of her island can't keep her a secret. This past summer she stunned even veteran U. S. reporters with her coverage of the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session in Washington, which included her dominance of a White House news conference hosted by Josh Earnest, President Obama's chief spokesman. On the island, she is not only the top newscaster but she is also the most influential leader of the twenty-something generation of Cubans that will likely predicate Cuba's impending post-Castro future. As a broadcaster, her reputation is spreading like wildfire with repeated requests from regional and international networks. This week Tracey Eaton, the Florida-based journalism professor and certainly one of America's most respected and unbiased Cuban experts, posted two insightful videos of Cristina on YouTube, where she was already a star, and Mr. Eaton also penned a long, widely distributed article about her entitled: "CUBA'S FATE UP TO CUBANS, NOT AMERICANS." That title reflects the fact that Cristina believes she and the other twenty-somethings on the island, not powerhouse Cuban-Americans like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, will determine Cuba's future. She's very adamant about that, and about her belief that, in Cuba, she is freer to report U. S. news than American journalists are to report Cuban news. Indeed, if that sounds far-fetched or untrue, it might be because Americans basically get their news from Talking Heads like Ana Navarro, not true broadcast journalists like...Cristina Escobar.


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