Miami station managers say the announcement that Fidel Castro’s brother Raul will be president of Cuba was greeted with a collective shrug from the market’s ginormous Cuban population. Managers say they got their crews out and planned for an active news day yesterday, but the stories mostly failed to materialize. "There were more media people out there than Cuban-Americans," says WSVN VP of News Alice Jacobs.
The bigger story was back in the summer of 2006, they say, when Fidel’s announcement that he’d soon be resigning was greeted with cars honking and people massing in the streets and Cuban coffee shops, people awash in hope that a new leader would pull Cuba from its economic doldrums. But the sense from the more recent announcement was that it was more of the same leadership from Raul–hardly reason to celebrate.
"The general feeling was that it was simply going from one Castro to another, without much change," says one station executive who asked not to be named. "Stations mostly stayed in their lanes and just covered it as a [more typical] news event."
It was a different story over on Univision station WLTV. News Director Emilio Marrero says he got word of the Castro shakeup around 3:00 Tuesday morning, and the news crew was live with it about half an hour later, staying with the story until noon. WLTV offered updates throughout the day, then a 90-minute special at 10 p.m. "It was a crazy day," says Marrero. "The bottom line was, we’d prepared and had our ducks in a row."
The Miami stations of course have their emergency plans in place for when Fidel dies, such as how they’ll get into Cuba to cover the historic event. But even when Fidel passes, the shroud of mystery around him will likely persist. "We might not even know he’s dead for months and months," says one station exec.