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The events she’d rather not talk about are the ones that govern journalist Bonnie M. Anderson’s life. They include the execution of her father by Fidel Castro when she was 5, the three colleagues that have died in her arms, her shrapnel wounds, her family’s decision to sue the Republic of Cuba, and a sexual harassment claim against her former boss at CNN en Espa�ol. Instead, Anderson waxes eloquent, outraged and fervent about the corporatization of television that has turned news into “infotainment,” traded professional standards for ratings and exchanged news anchors for “news bunnies” who “project credibility” rather than possess it. But the well from which Anderson’s outrage springs is fed by the historic events she has witnessed and her father’s murder. Anderson’s father, Howard F. Anderson, an American businessman in Cuba, was executed in 1961 by Castro’s new communist government as a suspected American spy following a month of solitary confinement and torture. “This would not have happened had there been a free press in Cuba,” Anderson explained at a speaking engagement earlier this summer to promote her book, “News Flash: Journalism, Infotainment and the Bottom-Line Business of Broadcast News.” “Without a free press, you don’t have a democracy. If you think it can’t happen here, don’t be so certain � The press has never been so muzzled,” she said. FATHER EXECUTED BY FIRING SQUAD But ask for the story of what happened to her father, and Anderson — normally an enthusiastic raconteur — refers, instead, to the suit her mother, Dorothy Anderson McCarthy, filed against the Republic of Cuba three years ago in Miami. Anderson v. Republic of Cuba, No. 01-28628 (Miami-Dade Cir. April 13, 2003). McCarthy sued under a 1996 federal law that allows individuals to seek damages in U.S. courts against a foreign state for personal injury or death caused by, among other things, torture or an “extrajudicial” slaying. The Cuban government did not defend the suit, and a Florida circuit court judge last year awarded McCarthy $67 million. That judgment has never been satisfied. Court records associated with the suit describe Anderson as a U.S. citizen who met his future wife, also an American citizen, while stationed in Cuba during World War II. The couple remained in Cuba after the war as Anderson established and operated car dealerships, service stations and a boat manufacturing company. In the aftermath of the Cuban revolution, Anderson moved his family to Miami. But he continued to operate his Cuban enterprises until March 16, 1961, when he was arrested by agents of the new president, Castro. One month later, Anderson was charged at a revolutionary tribunal with helping anti-communist forces smuggle guns into Cuba. The penalty was death. Three days later, on April 19, 1961, Anderson was executed by a firing squad. In one final session of torture, Castro’s agents drained his body of blood before sending him to his death, according to court records. In 1978, during her first trip to Cuba as a journalist for the Miami Herald, Bonnie Anderson located her father’s shallow grave. During a second visit in 1998, she said she discovered that Cuban authorities had obliterated the grave and discarded her father’s remains. FACE TO FACE WITH CASTRO Anderson said it was the execution of her father that propelled her into journalism as a foreign correspondent. She attended the University of Barcelona in Spain and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before settling in Florida. There she worked for the Miami Herald and its Spanish-language counterpart, El Nuevo Herald. She later joined NBC’s Miami bureau, becoming one of its first female war correspondents. “I realized that I felt in my bones, in my heart, that a free press is essential to human rights,” she said. And, she said, “I wanted to come face to face with Castro.” She got her wish at the age of 23 while working for El Nuevo Herald. Anderson traveled to Cuba to cover Castro’s first news conference since the revolution, at which he announced the release of 3,600 political prisoners. Anderson said she sat on the front row. After the news conference ended, Castro gestured at Anderson, telling his aides, “I want to speak to that girl.” He knew who she was, Anderson recalled, and the Cuban president let her know it. He asked after her mother, her two brothers, and noted that Anderson’s own Spanish accent had a Colombian rather than a Cuban inflection. But Anderson said nothing of her father’s death. “I shook his hand,” she recalled. “There was a very pregnant pause … But I was there as a journalist.” ‘WRONG PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME’ Anderson was a NBC foreign correspondent from 1981 to 1987 and reported from more than 100 countries and “virtually every war zone” in the world. After joining CNN as a national correspondent in 1992, Anderson covered the Oklahoma City bombing, the Branch Davidian stand-off in Waco, Texas, and the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. Anderson calls it simply “being at the wrong place at the right time.” In 1982, after she and her NBC crew became the first American journalists to travel with the Contras in Nicaragua, Anderson found herself covering her own hijacking when her New York-bound Eastern Airlines flight was diverted to Cuba. Anderson was sleeping on the plane a day after completing a 100-mile hike out of the Costa Rican jungle when she awoke to the commotion caused by the hijackers. “I burst out laughing,” she recalled. She pulled out her tape recorder and then volunteered to be an interpreter for the Cuban hijackers. “It was absolutely wonderful for a journalist,” she said. That hijacking ended without incident, and Anderson said she filed a live shot for NBC as soon as the airliner returned to Florida and she debarked. In 1984, Anderson moved to NBC’s Beirut bureau after overcoming the network’s reluctance to send a woman to the Middle East. Anderson said her sex made her “an oddity” that helped her secure interviews with members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and prompted Jordan’s King Hussein, on occasion, to single her out at news conferences for questions. As NBC’s Middle East correspondent, first in Beirut and then in Rome, Anderson covered the Iran-Iraq war, famine in Ethiopia, genocide in the Sudan and the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union. During her Middle East tenure, Anderson’s colleague, Terry Anderson, was kidnapped by the Shi’ia militia during the Lebanese civil war and held hostage for six years. Anderson was wounded by flying shrapnel in a Beirut car bombing — an injury that she dismissed as “Mickey Mouse” compared to the horrendous civilian injuries she has witnessed. Anderson also has seen her colleagues die. “So many journalists who truly care about informing the public do so at great personal risk,” she said. “So many of the companies running this business don’t give a damn.” Reporting the news, she explained, “should be a tribute to them. These are people who gave their lives doing journalism the right way,” in contrast to what Anderson called “news actors and actresses on the air with the IQ of a kumquat.”

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