WLRN Radio: Joe Cooper's Cuban Disaster and Recent Firings Damage the Herald, Radio Station

Categories: News

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WLRN general manager John Labonia.
WLRN Radio, the area's largest and best public radio station, on Wednesday publicly spanked longtime radio talk-show host Joseph Cooper.

An open letter to the community from station general manager John Labonia states, "We 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."

This follows the firing in July of news director Dan Grech and anchor Phil Latzman. Perhaps worse, the latest public shaming happened during a fundraising drive.

See also: WLRN Cans Anchor Phil Latzman and News Director Dan Grech

Joseph Cooper
The public chastisement of Cooper is rare. He has worked in radio for more than four decades, according to his station bio, and has been at WLRN for years.

LaBonia's public rejection of one of his best-known personalities relates to a decision -- apparently Cooper's -- to uninvite an author who has written a book about the Cuban Five, a group of alleged spies who have been long imprisoned. (One was recently released. The others are still behind bars.) Cooper told El Nuevo Herald that What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five was "incendiary" and canceled an interview with author Stephen Kimber scheduled for Tuesday.

But LaBonia took him to the cleaners: "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."

Ouch. (For blogger Bill Cooke's read on the "apology" click here:

Following the two high-profile firings, the public repudiation bodes ill for the reputation of WLRN, which is owned by the Miami-Dade School Board and partnered with the Miami Herald. The significant instability and repeated bad decisions have tarnished the reputation of a station that has won a passel of state and regional awards.

Because of the station's partnership with the Herald, it also puts the newspaper in an uncomfortable situation. El Nuevo Herald reporter Juan Tamayo, one of the community's best reporters (and a friend of mine), broke the story of Cooper's disinvitation -- yet folks from his newsroom constantly appear on the station.

Let's hope WLRN gets it together.

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Regarding Mr. Cooper's unprofessional public humiliation I posted this on WLRN's page:

I am posting regarding Joseph Cooper's absence from the show. I realize that the station in its zeal to pander to what they perceive the Cuban American community wants decided that a public flogging was in order. First of all, Joseph Cooper IS Topical Currents and the show owes its continued success to him so your extreme criticism of Mr. Cooper leaves me cold. Second and I need to state this, I am an American citizen who was born in Cuba, my parents were Cuban and I don't feel highly offended by Mr. Cooper's actions, I feel offended by yours. I find your actions amazing given Mr. Cooper's track record and his value to our community. I also find your actions divisive. I certainly hope to hear Mr. Cooper's voice on HIS program again, otherwise you will have a former WLRN listener.


I hate Cooper! he is got to be the most boring radio host ever! The most monotone voice and rarely interesting guests...of course he wants no controversy that's how boring, square and close minded he has always been! I am sure he makes a ton of money because he is a "personality" and that could pay instead for real reporting!

frankd4 topcommenter


as the area sinks into becoming another DETROIT it will be no real surprise that more and more bad news,  including from the news SOURCES, will continue as libraries close,  and cops rake in questionable overtime,  and mayors are prosecuted as criminals,  and on and on it shall go,  as cocaine cowboys drive up the price of condos,  and the new modern day marileitos invade, and medicare fraud schemes become the leading local employer, we are simply re-arranging the lounge chairs on the deck of this titanic


The Herald refuses to report on years of problems at WLRN.


@Bego you don't need to listen to him. I appreciate his style and find his guests interesting, especially Miami's historian, when he makes an appearance. The reason I listen to WLRN is the lack of hysteria in their news delivery so there it is. What some people consider boring I consider just right. Professional. Both the Miami Herald and WLRN need to stop the effort to divide the community into us versus them. We are all supposed to be Americans and put our country first instead of catering to small extreme groups. Cooper just made a decision based on his many years' experience with his audience. He was right, the station was wrong. I just hope they have enough sense to allow him to continue to do what he has done successfully for forty years.


@Sonny The Miami Herald has become a third world country newspaper.

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