Monday, May 01, 2006

Andres Martinez's Article On Cuba In LAT Is Commendable

The article in the L.A. Times' Current section Sunday recounting a visit to Cuba by Times editorial page editor Andres Martinez was well worth reading and marks the steady improvement of Current under the deputy editorial page editor, Michael Newman.

Martinez, whose bland editorials continue for the most part, had an incisive report on Cuba in a state of waiting, waiting for Fidel Castro to die and wondering what will happen to the Communist system when he does go. Castro will soon be 80 and has been in power 47 years.

Martinez traveled widely on the island and was able to talk frankly with many Cuban sources.

The only strange thing about this article was that it didn't carry a Havana dateline, when its content clearly was gathered there and elsewhere on the island. This article again confirms my impression that Martinez writes better articles and columns than he does editorials.

The maps that are sometimes done of the news value of various parts of the world, according to the American press, frequently show Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan as occupying a huge proportion of news coverage and many other countries as scarcely mentioned at all. So it is commendable that Martinez went to Cuba and was able to provide such a comprehensive report.

This again shows that the L.A. Times remains a great newspaper for foreign news. When Castro does disappear, Cuba will be back in the regular headlines, and it is still very important to the United States.

One encouraging aspect of the situation is that no one has suggested Cuba is part of any worldwide terrorist network under its present regime. Castro is oppressive but not particularly dangerous these days.

A stronger editorial page is important for the L.A. Times, and it would be better if it were directly in the control of senior editors, rather than the Tribune-appointed publisher, Jeff Johnson. But Newman, who just went on the Times masthead, has in recent weeks edited a stronger Current section. He is still using the frivolous Joel Stein, but he has other resources and is using them. Current is not yet the New York Times' Week In Review, but it is becoming more competitive.

All in all, however, the editorial page and the columns remain points of weakness.
The Op-Ed page editor, Nick Goldberg, has written a few articles on the Israeli-Arab struggle, but Goldberg's studied stance of being neutral between the Israelis and Palestinians weakens the credibility of his commentary.

Under Mark Willes, the Times did endorse Gray Davis for governor, the first time it had ever backed a Democrat for the state's highest office. We'll see this year whether the policy of endorsing for higher offices continues. It definitely should, in my view, since Times readers deserve to know where the paper stands on election choices.


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