Dallas paper to shut down Havana office
A Texas newspaper will close its office in Havana by the end of the year, further reducing independent news from the communist-ruled island.
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN
The Dallas Morning News, one of just four U.S. media companies with a coveted bureau in Havana, will close its operation in Cuba by the end of the year for economic reasons, the paper's managing editor confirmed Monday.
The Havana pullout comes as the Texas daily copes with financial losses from circulation overstatements that resulted in millions of dollars in overpaid advertisements that must be compensated. Last month, the company laid off dozens of employees and eliminated a number of positions to cut costs.
The Havana bureau, opened in 2001, has been an expensive venture that could no longer be justified.
''It's been a significant cost,'' George Rodrigue, the managing editor, told The Herald in a telephone interview. ``We need to close the bureau but we don't plan to close out our coverage in Cuba.''
FOCUS ON BORDER
Rodrigue said the decision came after examining whether news from the communist-ruled island was worth the expense. Executives decided resources would be better spent on the Texas-Mexico border, which is more relevant to readers in the region. Plans are underway to open a bureau on the border, either in northern Mexico or southern Texas, Rodrigue said.
The Morning News is the flagship newspaper of Belo Corp., based in Dallas. Although considered a regional paper, the Morning News has increased Latin America coverage in recent years and has a strong presence in Mexico. The Mexico City bureau will spearhead news coverage coming out of Cuba, Rodrigue said.
The paper is among four U.S. news organizations allowed to have correspondents in Havana. The others: Tribune Co., which includes the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale; the Associated Press; and CNN, which opened its bureau in 1997, the first U.S. news organization with an office there in 28 years.
Cuba experts expressed disappointment over the Morning News' decision.
''It's bad news when independent journalists leave a country that needs that kind of reporting and watch dog services,'' said Damián Fernández, director of the Cuban Research Institute at FIU. ``But there seems to be an exhaustion with Cuba. It's the same old, same old. It makes us wonder how important Cuba is outside of Miami and the South Florida area.''