Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WLRN's Joseph Cooper tries his hand at censorship...fails miserably

WLRN's Joseph Cooper.
If you listen to any amount of public radio in South Florida, then you've no doubt tuned into a show called "Topical Currents" on WLRN.

WLRN's website describes the show this way: "Joseph Cooper and Bonnie Berman share the microphone with a wide range of guests including community leaders, artists, scientists, historians, political thinkers and more who bring issues of interest to South Floridians."

What WLRN's website doesn't say is that Cooper's voice is the vocal equivalent of Ambien; while Berman's is only slightly less annoying than fingernails on a blackboard.

And Cooper's show, like the man who hosts it, is relentlessly, incessantly and consistently boring. Looking for excitement and controversy? You won't find it here. And that's always been the case.

Until yesterday, that is.

Cooper, who claims to have attended the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, apparently thought it might be fun to channel some Cuban-American politicians from early-80s Miami by scheduling and then canceling "an interview with a Canadian writer whose book attacks the Miami trial of five Cuban spies, saying the author assumed their innocence and the interview might upset some people in South Florida," the Miami Herald's Juan Tamayo reported in today's paper.

“For this community, [the book] just seemed a little too much,” Cooper was quoted by Tamayo as saying.

But today, in a complete about-face, WLRN's general manager, John Labonia, reversed Cooper.

In an open letter posted late this afternoon on WLRN's website, Labonia apologized to listeners for Cooper's decision to cancel the interview.

In the letter, Labonia also publicly censured Cooper, writing that Cooper's decision to cancel the interview "in no way reflects – in fact, blatantly contradicts – who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion." [UPDATE: I'm told that an audio version of Labonia's apology will air Thursday, Sept. 19, on WLRN.]
[W]e want to apologize to our South Florida listeners for the decision made this week by Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, to cancel an interview with the author of a controversial new book on the so-called Cuban Five, the Cuban spies who were convicted of espionage charges here in 2001.

The book argues that the Cubans are innocent, a claim that Mr. Cooper deemed too “incendiary” for this community to hear – a judgment that I and the rest of WLRN’s management strongly disagree with. Mr. Cooper’s decision, in fact, was made without our knowledge, and it in no way reflects – in fact, it blatantly contradicts – who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion.

It also belies the recent launch of WLRN’s efforts to provide our listeners with more coverage of Latin American news and issues, and that includes more open forums on Cuba policy.

We want to do more than express a mea culpa, however. We want to make this right. As a result, WLRN’s news division (to which Mr. Cooper does not belong) will be interviewing Stephen Kimber, the author of "What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five," this Friday on its weekly The Florida Roundup show.

Note to John Labonia: Is there any way you can get Phil Latzman back on the air? I'm sure someone at the station still has his number.

Note to Joseph Cooper: Kicking off Pledge Week by insulting the intelligence your listeners doesn't seem like a very bright move. Practicing censorship is even dumber. What were you thinking?


South Florida Lawyers: Joseph Cooper: Grow Some Man Balls!

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