Is the New York Times changing? In an article about Old Havana's rebuilding, NYT reporter John C. McKinley, Jr. bucked the media habit of inserting leftist messages into articles about Cuba. Instead, he exposed the average Cuban's poverty, giving the state-run socialist economy as the cause--all without mentioning “free” health care or the US embargo.
The article described how Havana historian Eusebio Leal Spengler “rebuilt and refurbished more than 300 landmark buildings in Old Havana, from fortresses built in the colonial days to famous nightspots and hotels of the city’s swinging era just before the Cuban revolution.“
McKinley countered that by explaining most Cubans don't have money for drinks at the bars made famous by Hemingway or the upscale inns favored by celebs like Jimmy Carter and Jack Nicholson (bold mine throughout):
Just a half block from the Bodeguita del Medio, another famous eatery favored by Hemingway that is constantly mobbed with tourists, Cubans troop into a sparsely stocked government store to get their monthly rations of beans, powdered milk, cigarettes and soap.
Yeisi Rodriguez, a nurse who grew up in the neighborhood, said the renovations had certainly improved the atmosphere. Yet she was still living in a partitioned area of her father’s apartment with her husband and a 3-year-old toddler. Together they get by on state rations and about $20 in salary. She said she could not afford to shop at the stores along Calle Obispo where the tourists go.
Those aren't the shiny happy people living in Castro's Cuba that the Times usually portrays. When was the last time that this paper would present life in Cuba so starkly without condemning America or qualifying it by praising their socialized medicine and literacy rates?
McKinley even addressed the state-dictated socialist economics forced on Cubans—without blaming Evil Capitalist America:
One reason for the continued poverty is that the workers in the hotels, museums, restaurants and hotels reap little of the tourist money. All receive a state salary of $10 to $20 a month in Cuban pesos plus a bonus of $12 in hard currency, but most of the profits from the businesses go to the renovation efforts.
Those workers are the lucky ones. Others hold down jobs and receive a salary only in Cuban pesos. Even with subsidized food and free health care and education, Cubans complain that they cannot make ends meet and that they must resort to selling stolen goods or running confidence schemes aimed at tourists.
Often in articles, the last paragraph is saved for a final jab that conveys the real message. This time there wasn't a little dig about how the US embargo or capitalism are to blame. No, instead, for that final punch, it focused on a Cuban who turned to black market capitalism for salvation:
“Everyone has to do something,” said one man, who ran a state-owned grocery store for a $12 salary. “I sell cigars.”
So, was this deviation from the Times's usual liberal pro-Castro propaganda a fluke, or is perhaps the paper's dire economic situation prompting a sea change in its tone? Time will tell. Either way, I hope that McKinley continues to report Cuba without the leftward spin.
*Photo Jose Goitia for the New York Times. See all of his "Old Havana Restored" photos here.
Lynn is a contributor to NewsBusters. To send tips or just to complain, contact her at tvisgoodforyou2 AT yahooDOTcom