Sunday, June 6, 2010

Need a reporting job? Uncle Sam wants you

Fishing in the Bay of Havana shortly after sunrise.

This is a quick follow-up to Saturday's post on U.S. government payments to journalists who cover Cuba.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, Voice of America and other agencies continue seeking freelancers for a variety of assignments, according to this March 31 job posting. Uncle Sam wants reporters "for freelance Radio, Television, Internet, and/or Multi-Media English and/or foreign language news broadcasting assignments in Washington, DC; Miami, FL; and various overseas locations."
I think Americans would probably shudder if they knew how much money our government spends on news stories and broadcasts.
That said, the U.S. government has some valuable educational and cultural programs. I am a big supporter of programs that promote international understanding. These are the kinds of things that could help bring the U.S. and Cuba closer together.
I was a Fulbright scholar in Ecuador in the 1980s and am thankful for the Fulbright program because it opened new doors for me and changed my life.
I think it's a mistake to assume that something nefarious is going on just because the U.S. government provides a grant or pays a journalist.
In 1997, the U.S. government asked me to travel to Nicaragua to do a workshop on investigating organized crime. At the time, I was Mexico City bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News and I was writing a lot about drug-related corruption.
The government paid my expenses. I saw it as a great opportunity to see Nicaragua and get to know some journalists there.
There was nothing secret about it. I gave a number of interviews and made media appearances. One story that came out of it is here, in Spanish. It mistakenly calls me a founder of Investigative Reporters & Editors. I'm a member of IRE, not a founder. But you get the idea.
Anyway, the Nicaragua trip was a lot of fun. I met some interesting characters, including then-President Arnoldo Aleman. He was charged with embezzlement and other charges in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003. The Nicaraguan Supreme Court overturned his sentence in January 2009.
A few years later, the U.S. government asked me to make a similar appearance in Costa Rica. I did that, too. The government paid all my expenses, plus a few hundred dollars on top of that.
I wasn't writing about Nicaragua or Costa Rica, so I didn't see that there was a great conflict of interest.

No comments: