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Bernard Diederich, Legendary Caribbean Correspondent And Author: 1926-2020

Bernard Diederich Collection
Bernard Diederich covering the U.S. invasion of Grenada for Time Magazine in 1983.

One of the greatest journalists to cover the Caribbean has died. Bernard Diederich passed away Tuesday at age 93 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Diederich’s pioneering, award-winning coverage helped make the world more aware of the Caribbean basin’s importance.

I was the last Miami bureau chief for Time Magazine; Bernard Diederich was the first: he founded the bureau in 1981. I worked beneath a framed photo of Diederich in a canoe, a transistor radio pressed against his Hemingway-esque beard, as he reported the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada.

I never got to meet Diederich. But colleagues who worked with him say few non-native Caribbean journalists knew the region as sharply as he did.

Former Los Angeles Times correspondent Ken Freed calls Diederich “the single most influential correspondent to ever cover the Caribbean.

"His reputation for complete and honest reporting, combined with his personal connections throughout the region, placed him at the top. Every reporter new to the area had to go to Bernie for contacts, insights - and for finding the best rum sour."

Diederich's feel for the Caribbean may have stemmed from the fact that he himself was an island native – a New Zealander. After World War II he took a sailing trip to Haiti and fell in love with the country. Dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier expelled him in the 1960s for his critical journalism. But Diederich had the last word when he co-authored a book on Papa Doc after his death in 1971.

(In 2014 Diederich shared his thoughts about the Duvalier dynasty with WLRN after the death of Papa Doc's dictator son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who was overthrown in 1986.)

Diederich covered the falls of other strongmen – including the assassination of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, which he chronicled in the book “Death of the Goat.” Diederich, who retired in 1989, was also friends with famous British novelist Graham Greene, who shared his fascination with the Caribbean.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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