Published: Sunday, January 7, 2001
By RAFAEL LORENTE Washington Bureau
The Sun-Sentinel this week will open its first full-time foreign bureau in Havana, Cuba. The new office will be located in Old Havana off of Plaza San Francisco and represents the only permanent presence of any newspaper in South Florida.
The bureau will be operated jointly by the Sun-Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune, which are owned by the Tribune Co., the country's third largest newspaper company. Among the company's nine other papers, the Los Angeles Times, the Orlando Sentinel, Newsday, and The Baltimore Sun are expected to rotate reporters into the bureau from time to time. The company's broadcast component also plans a presence at the bureau as well.
"It basically provides us with an opportunity to give our readers a perspective that's not available anywhere else in South Florida," said Earl Maucker, the Sun-Sentinel's editor.
Tribune Co. received permission from Cuba to open the bureau last year, as did the The Dallas Morning News, which is also is scheduled to open its office this week. Currently, CNN and the Associated Press are the only U.S. media with permanent operations Cuba. About 150 reporters from other countries are based there.
Maucker said the new bureau, the result of nearly 10 years of negotiations, is another step in the continuing growth of the Sun-Sentinel's coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean.
"The Sun-Sentinel is poised to continue to develop a more sophisticated presence in all of Latin America and this is merely one more piece of that growth," Maucker said.
Vanessa Bauza, who has covered Cuba from the Sun-Sentinel's Miami office since July, will be assigned to the new bureau.
Bauza said having a permanent bureau in Cuba will permit comprehensive coverage of the island, including areas often overlooked by many journalists. Currently, most American reporters visit the island for only a few weeks and do not get to spend much time outside the capital.
"There is so much more foreign investment in Havana, so many more tourists, so many more dollars, that people's lives there are different than in the rest of Cuba," Bauza said. "Even Santiago, which is the second largest city in Cuba, feels so much more provincial and has a different pace of life."
Bauza, 28, has been to Cuba five times since 1998, including trips to cover the Elian Gonzalez crisis. A graduate of Yale University and a Fulbright Scholar, she interned at the Sun-Sentinel in 1996 and joined the staff full time a year later.
Maucker said critics who worry the Sun-Sentinel will not be able to provide balanced coverage from Cuba are mistaken. During the negotiations for the bureau, the Tribune Company made it clear there would be no reading of stories before they are printed, no input into editing and no dictating coverage. The Cubans, Maucker said, never made such demands.
"We recognize there is some controversy, but we think we can report accurately and fairly," Maucker said.
Maucker said the Sun-Sentinel and other Tribune Company newspapers have a history of balanced reporting on Cuba that may have helped them get access to a bureau on the island.
The Chicago Tribune has covered Cuba for more then 100 years. During the Spanish-American War, the Tribune was one of the first papers to editorialize in favor of Cuban independence from Spain. In the 1920s, the Tribune had a bureau in Cuba and the paper and its Latin America correspondent, Jules Dubois, extensively covered the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. The Tribune and other American news organizations were expelled from Cuba by Castro's government soon after the revolution.
The Tribune's Associate Managing Editor George DeLama said the newspaper will cover Cuba in the same balanced fashion it has covered other difficult places, including the former Soviet Union, China, the Middle East, the Balkans and Ireland.
"A bureau in Cuba gives us a chance to do more comprehensive reporting there and gives us a chance to report from one of the last dark corners on earth," he said.
Rafael Lorente can be reached at rlorentesun-sentinel.com or 202-824-8225 in Washington.
Copyright 2001, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL