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Spotlight >> The Powers Behind the Throne: Eileen Rodriguez/el Nuevo Herald

“Every person who visits here is an important person.”

Spotlight feature photo
Eileen Rodriguez, el Nuevo Herald
Photo by ROBERTO KOLTUN/el Nuevo Herald

Eileen Rodriguez, executive secretary to el Nuevo Herald Executive Editor/Director Humberto Castelló, is a bit like the secretary general of the United Nations. She deals with consuls general, ambassadors, representatives of international corporations and journalists from many countries.

A Spanish-language daily published in Miami, el Nuevo Herald has an international audience unlike that of most U.S. newspapers. Although Miami is well-known for its large Cuban community, the area is also home to thousands of people from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, all of which are part of the paper’s target audience.

Rodriguez’s background has elements in common with many of el Nuevo’s readers and journalists. She came to the United States from Cuba in 1960 and is fluent in both English and Spanish. (She estimates that at least 75 percent of her work is conducted in Spanish.) She attended school in the United States and has lived in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Mexico.

“El Nuevo does not only report the local news in Spanish, it has more international coverage,” Rodriguez said. Because of that, she considers it part of her job to keep up with international news, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean. “I like to read a lot and keep myself abreast of what happens in the world, about different cultures and different people.”

And, like a U.N. official, Rodriguez often must exercise diplomacy when dealing with disgruntled readers who are convinced that other countries are getting more – or more favorable – coverage than their native land. “Sometimes we get callers who say we are putting too much emphasis on Cuba, let’s say, or ask, ‘Why are you not covering Peru the way you are covering Paraguay?’ But during the course of a week, all countries are covered – not necessarily in a single day.”

Before coming to el Nuevo in 1998, Rodriguez held various positions at The Miami Herald and in Knight Ridder’s corporate offices before the relocation to San Jose. She has served as an assistant to directors of circulation, community relations and corporate communications.

“It has given me a background in all aspects of the newspaper business and enhanced my knowledge of how to handle any type of circumstance,” she said. “I can screen calls and direct them to the people who can really help.”

Rodriguez also has a talent that is appreciated by many visitors to Castelló’s office: She can brew a delicious cup of Cuban coffee. She stresses that being in charge of the cafecito is not demeaning to her but a way of showing hospitality to guests of the newspaper.

Those guests have included Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush; the governor of Puerto Rico; foreign ambassadors; the heads of U.S. companies trying to reach a Hispanic audience; and the late salsa singer Celia Cruz and her husband.

“Every person who visits here is an important person,” Rodriguez said, “and I am here to welcome them for the newspaper.”

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