NEW CHAPTER BEGINS

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Yearwood opens the 65th annual  IPI World Congress in Doha, Qatar.

I left the Miami Herald a week ago after 13 great years as the newspaper’s World Editor. The story appeared in Richard Prince’s Journal-isms, which I’m sharing below.

Yearwood Leaves Miami Herald After 13 Years

John Yearwood, who as world editor of the Miami Herald became increasingly active in international press freedom issues as executive board chair of the Vienna-based International Press Institute, ended 13 years at the Herald on Wednesday.

“I’ve voluntarily left the Miami Herald after a terrific 13-year run,” Yearwood said in an electronic response to those emailing him at the Herald.
Aminda “Mindy” Marqués  Gonzalez, Herald executive editor and vice president, messaged Journal-isms Thursday, “We have not named a replacement yet.”

Yearwood posted a photo of himself on his Twitter account Wednesday with Patrick Talamantes, president and CEO of the McClatchy Co., the Herald’s corporate parent.

“Great way to spend my last day with #McClatchy. Terrific meeting at HQ with @ptalamantes, president & CEO. #grtguy,” Yearwood wrote. McClatchy’s corporate headquarters are in Sacramento, Calif. Yearwood was in Silicon Valley for a conference of Rights Con Silicon Valley 2016, which calls itself “the world’s leading conference convened on the future of the internet.”

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Yearwood with Pat Talamantes, president and CEO of McClatchy. They met at company headquarters in Sacramento on Yearwood’s last day with McClatchy. After the meeting, Talamantes tweeted: “Nice to see you John. Thanks for all your great work. Have a productive week at #RightsCon2016 in SF. #pressfreedom”

Yearwood, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, has been the Herald’s world editor since 2003. He had been national/international editor and assistant city editor for government and politics at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and spent 10 years at the Dallas Morning News, where he reported from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

“I’m incredibly fortunate and blessed to have been able to do everything I wanted at the Herald — far more than I ever thought possible when I arrived 13 years ago,” Yearwood emailed Journal-isms on Thursday.

“It’s been a great run that includes coordinating the landmark Afro-Latin American series, coverage of the Great Quake in Haiti and dramatic changes in Cuba, rescuing a staffer detained in Venezuela and initiating Herald scholarships to honor its first African-American reporter. Along the way, I helped galvanize Miami after the quake to save Ayikodans, Haiti’s brilliant modern dance company, a cultural institution.

ayikod2

Haitian modern dance company Ayikodans has performed to sold-out audiences in Miami since 2010’s devastating earthquake. Yearwood led a community effort to save the company.

“I was honored on my last day to spend some time with Pat Talamantes, McClatchy’s president and CEO, in a great discussion of some of the issues confronting the company and industry.

“I plan to take the next month to complete some significant global travel commitments then decide with my family whether to accept a position in journalism or go in a different direction.

“Whatever I decide to do, however, I intend to continue my strong commitment to a free press and free expression. I’m incredibly proud of our work at the International Press Institute, where we just wrapped up our 65th World Congress in Doha, Qatar, and are considering meeting in the U.S. next year.”

“It’s been a great run that includes leading the landmark Afro-Latin American series, coverage of the Great Quake in Haiti and dramatic changes in Cuba, and initiating Herald scholarships to honor its first African-American reporter. Along the day, I helped galvanize Miami after the quake to save Ayikodans, Haiti’s brilliant modern dance company, a cultural institution.

According to Yearwood’s bio, “his department has won multiple awards under his leadership, including two McClatchy Company President’s Awards and the Arthur Ross Award for best coverage of Latin America.  . . .”

Yearwood has been treasurer of the National Association of Black Journalists and a board member of Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc.

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Yearwood with Miami Herald World Desk staffers Mimi Whitefield, Jacqueline Charles and Andres Oppenheimer after receiving the COSMOS 2016 Distinguished Citizen Award.

In 2013, the French-American Foundation asked him whether his “foreign origins, and thus a personal connection to multiple cultures, enriched your ability to report on global issues and questions pertaining to immigration?”

Yearwood replied, “Absolutely. I could not do my job as effectively if I didn’t have a personal connection to the many cultures we cover. For example, I coordinated coverage of a breakthrough series several years ago about Afro-Latin Americans. Although it’s been four years, we still get requests to republish it or for me to speak about the series.

“In fact, the Library of Congress called last fall to ask if I would make a presentation to them about the series. A lesson plan was even developed from it for high school students. Our goal was to increase the visibility of Africans in Latin America.

“In the end, the series ended up being more complex that even I envisioned. It added tons of knowledge to what we knew about blacks in the Americas. It was a huge undertaking but, again, it’s something that we probably would not have done had I not had that regional cultural sensitivity.” [Added March 31]

 

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FOOD & DIPLOMACY

South Beach Food & Wine

Food & Wine Festival

With the South Beach Food & Wine Festival taking place over the weekend, Miami was a great place to be if you love food. It was also a good place to be if you love diplomacy.  I enjoy the former but much prefer the latter. And it’s even better when you can combine the two. My weekend involved lunching with the former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda on Saturday, driving to Palm Beach on Sunday to interview former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and lunching with Miami’s entire diplomatic corps.

Jorge happened to be in town over the weekend and my friend Beatrice Rangel, the highly regarded international business executive, used the opportunity to bring together a few friends for a lunch on her Miami Beach terrace. The group was a mixture of people from around the Americas — Venezuela to Argentina to Mexico to Trinidad.

LONG WAY FROM RABAT

I last saw Jorge in Rabat last October at the German Marshall Fund’s Atlantic Dialogues. It was a great to catch up with him. We had great conversation about pressing issues in

Jorge Castaneda

Jorge Castaneda

the region and at one point we were passing around cell phones to show pictures of the demonstrations taking place in Venezuela at the time.

A big thanks to Beatrice, one of the first people to take me under her wing when I arrived in Miami a decade ago. It’s good to see her back in town. (Two weeks ago, she was my guest for the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations annual dinner.)

PALM BEACH VISIT

On Sunday, I drove to the Four Seasons in Palm Beach to interview Barak for an upcoming Miami Herald Issues & Ideas newsmaker Q&A. I reminded him that I was in Israel seven years ago when he was first appointed defense minister – after his time as Prime Minister.

With Ehud Barak

With Ehud Barak

We had intended to talk for about 25 minutes but our conversation stretched on for 40. We touched on an array of topics, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Haiti and Latin America. He was in town to speak at the American Friends of Magen David Adom, which supports MDA, Israel’s national emergency medical response and blood services organization. MDA was among the first outsiders on the ground in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

CONSULAR CORPS LUNCH

On Monday, I attended the annual American Jewish  Committee’s Consular Corps luncheon. The speaker was Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC’s international director of interreligious affairs and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland. I

Miami Consular Corps

Miami Consular Corps

spent 10 minutes with him before the luncheon to talk about his recent meetings with Pope Francis and the pope’s planned trip to Israel in May. Rabbi Rosen has met the pope five times since he was inaugurated last March. Look for that conversation in the Miami Herald soon.

Komla Dumor: Great spirit, big heart

BBC presenter Komla Dumor

BBC presenter Komla Dumor

I’ve worked with young people around the world for a decade now, helping to empower them to seize the future. Many have created innovative projects on everything from reducing poverty to curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

I though the youths could benefit from listening to someone I have only recently come to know. His name: Komla Dumor. We met in October at the German Marshall Fund’s Atlantic Dialogues summit in Rabat. Komla gave a short speech to open the summit; I moderated the opening plenary and spoke at the group’s Emerging Leaders Forum. Komla and I hit it off instantly. A Ghanaian journalist who eventually settled in London, he became the face of the BBC in Africa. His latest job: presenter of Focus on Africa and European mornings on BBC World News TV.

We strategized on how the BBC and the Miami Herald could partner on coverage in specific areas. We were excited about executing an idea out of Ghana that will have impact with the Herald’s large Caribbean readership. I looked forward to visiting with him on my next trip to London. In the months since, we exchanged emails and followed each other’s activities on Twitter.

As I prepared to attend this month’s youth summit in Dakar, I thought Komla would be a terrific addition to the program. I emailed an invitation. Silence. I was surprised because I know how much he enjoys working with young people. I resent the invitation.

“I’m sorry for not responding quickly,” he wrote back, almost instantly. “I’m just a bit overwhelmed by a number of issues I’m dealing with.”

And he apologized for not being able to join me in Dakar. Last weekend, as I flew out of Dakar after the summit,  came the most tragic of news: Komla Dumor was dead. Heart attack as he slept.

At just 41 years of age, Komla had made a success of his life but he had so much more living to do. And so many more lives to influence. I am saddened beyond words. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife and three children. He left us way too soon.

MISSION TO FREE JOURNALIST IN VENEZUELAN GOV’T CUSTODY

Miami Herald Andean Bureau Chief Jim Wyss chats with Heather Guimond of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas shortly after his release.

Miami Herald Andean Bureau Chief Jim Wyss chats with Heather Guimond of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas shortly after his release from 48 hours in Venezuelan gov’t custody.

MISSION TO CARACAS

I’m looking forward to a relatively quiet weekend — a big change from two weeks ago. That’s when the Venezuelan government detained one of my staffers, Miami Herald Andean Bureau Chief Jim Wyss. Jim has written a great piece about how the detention happened, details of his treatment and what was occurring around him during the 48 hours he was in custody. Last week, Herald Executive Editor Aminda “Mindy” Marques Gonzalez wrote about the “full-court press” to secure Jim’s release as quickly as possible. As part of that effort, I was dispatched to Caracas to locate Jim and help speed up his release. What follows is Mindy’s account, which was published Nov. 17 in the Herald. I should note that the column is accurate but it doesn’t tell the full story. You might notice a few holes as you read it but we cannot — at this time — disclose the full scope of our efforts because it could put lives at risk.

A full-court press to release a Herald reporter

BY AMINDA MARQUES GONZALEZ

AMARQUES@MIAMIHERALD.COM

It was just before 7 a.m. when John Yearwood got the call.

Twelve hours earlier, he had heard from Jim Wyss as he prepared to wrap up his reporting trip to San Cristóbal in Venezuela, a border town with Colombia known for contraband, drug trafficking and intense politics.

Jim’s girlfriend, Ana Soler, was on the phone. Jim, she told Yearwood, was being held by the Bolivarian National Guard, an arm of the Venezuelan government, and he couldn’t leave.

“You never want to get that call,” said Yearwood, the Miami Herald World Editor. He has probably gotten two or three such calls during his past 10 years directing our coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean. Each instance was resolved quickly and quietly.

This time, at first, seemed to be simply a case of miscommunication.

“I thought they picked him up thinking he was a spy. I wanted to establish quickly [with Venezuelan authorities] that he was a journalist,” Yearwood said. “As we discovered, it was far more complicated.”

Wyss has traveled extensively in Venezuela as the Miami Herald’s Andean Bureau Chief for the past three years. Although there is an element of risk with almost any foreign assignment, Wyss has encountered relatively few during his travels, mostly a testament to his deep roots in the region after decades-long work as a journalist in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama and Mexico.

“Nine times out of 10, there are never any problems,” Wyss said. “I’ve never been through anything like this.”

Suddenly, we were confronting a rare and delicate situation: the detention of a veteran reporter in a foreign country without the protections of U.S. laws and processes. Complicating matters were the fragile and frayed relations between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Just last month, each country expelled three of each other’s diplomats.

Read the rest of the story here and let me know what you think.