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Sunday, July 12, 2009

May the good news be yours: Ralph Renick's South Florida TV scene 18 years later; Where's the news in Broward? Or local investigative news anywhere?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06U7uhK1YS4



July 12th, 2009

I'm writing today on what is the 18-year anniversary of the
death of South Florida TV pioneer and journalism icon
Ralph Renick.


I was already living up in Arlington County when I got
a phone call 18 years ago today from my mother saying
that Ralph Renick had died, and that everyone she knew
seemed out-of-sorts after getting the news.
He was the FDR of Miami, always there in the background.
And then he was gone.


To me, one of the most unpleasant changes I've observed
in South Florida over the years, while living here and on
visits, has been the dramatic loosening of journalism
standards from the era when I was growing up down here
in the '70's & early '80's, with anchors like Ralph Renick
and Ann Bishop -or sharp folks like Gene Miller at
The Miami Herald- who while perhaps considered cool
and imperious to some viewers, to me, always seemed
to convey a real sense they DID have the viewer's best
interests at heart.

For me, that meant reporting the news straight-up and
letting the facts guide the story, rather than cover stories
with hidden agendas, in order to appease the myriad
business/ethnic/cultural interest groups, in the area
who are STILL sensitive to even the slightest sign of
public criticism, constructive or otherwise.

(I know one thing, if Ralph Renick was around today
making his editorials, he would definitely have zeroed-in
on Frank Nero's salary at The Beacon Council with
a specificity and delight that would have caused that
particular story to be much better known than it currently
is, and used it as a jumping-off point to discuss other
examples of so-called South Florida leaders, who
talk-the-talk but who seem hard-pressed to point to
any tangible results of there being in charge, instead
of someone else.)

Renick and Bishop's success in achieving that goal was
reflected by both their enduring popularity, and, I suppose,
by the simple fact that people like me who grew-up here,
STILL bring their names up at the drop of a hat to suggest
a sense of contrast and proportionality with the present
sad state of affairs.

Back then, savvy reporters with a nose for news and an
eye for uncovering corruption and hypocrisy, especially
at City Halls and County Halls, like Ike Seamans,
Brian Ross, Fred Francis, Bernard Goldberg,
Susan Candiotti, Richard Schlesinger, Steve Kroft,
Wyatt Andrews among other consistently enterprising
types -so many of whom went national- would see
the amazing menu of stories they were presented with
on a daily basis because of South Florida's special
circumstances and geography, cultural diversity and
inherent tension among its population, unique weather
problems and omnipresent criminal element, and take
full advantage of it, instead of merely being a drone
doing a LIVE stand-up for the 11 p.m. newscast for
something that was over and done with at 4 p.m.

One of the few advantages offered by the current bad
economy is that Miami-area TV stations seem to be
cutting down on those awful extraneous LIVE shots,
long the bane of my existence and many of my friends,
who wonder why the reporters involved hadn't already
gone on to the next story.

As a person who regularly attends events and functions
around South Florida that are often the subject of print
and electronic news coverage, certainly more than the
average newspaper reader or TV viewer, it's really quite
shocking to me how many local reporters -excepting
the exceptional few- who now can't seem to even be
bothered to pretend to do even the most basic of
research that the pre-Internet era required.
They show up woefully prepared!

It's almost as if the reporters I'm complaining about here
fail to understand or appreciate that those noted reporters
mentioned earlier, got to that respected status locally by
developing a solid reputation for returning phone calls
promptly, which is part of why they always received so
many tips in the first place.

I can't begin to tell you how many times over the past few
years I've personally tipped-off individual reporters to a
developing story that they ignored at their peril, with the
logical result being that their tardiness and indifference
led to someone else beating them to it.

For whatever reason, there seems to be a much steeper
learning-curve for many current TV reporters here than
there used to be, reporters who, in my opinion, really
ought to be in much-smaller TV markets than ours if
they are going to continue to be so smug and
self-important.

These are the very reporters whose email addresses
I've deleted the past two years, even as other reporters
I deal with somewhat regularly are smart enough to
know to either email or call back promptly to see what
I've got to share with them.

I'm also regularly shocked by the number of TV stations
who routinely only send a cameraman to an event or
hearing of some importance, rather than send along
a reporter as well.

That was the case last year when I attended the final
public meeting of the Broward County Charter Review
Commission at the County HQ on Andrews Avenue.
That afternoon, the most publicized issue -though by
no means only important issue- was whether or not
Broward County voters should be able to vote in the
upcoming November election for a County mayor,
rather than continue with the absurd and meaningless
charade now where the County Commission votes
amongst themselves and appoints a member mayor.

That's 'mayor' lower-case as far as I'm concerned,
since if a citizen didn't vote for that title, it's a
completely meaningless appelation.

As I recall it, Channel 10 sent Michael Putney and
a cameraman, Channel 4 sent a reporter and cameraman,
Channel 6 sent a lone cameraman.
Channel 7 sent nobody, as did the various Spanish
language TV stations, which seems to be par for the
course for the latter in Broward County, since they are
rarely if ever on the scene of an important govt. hearing
in my personal experience, which explains a lot,
if you care to think about the logical results of such
civic short-sightedness.

The stories that appeared in the newspaper the next day
and on local TV that night about that critical CRC meeting,
the most important one in their two years of meeting,
and the votes that took place there, which could've gone
a long way in giving Broward voters a means of making
Broward County government more accountable, in the form
of a single person directly voted into power by the entire
county, not just one slice of it, all had one thing in common.
As it happens, bad things as far as I was concerned.

The news stories
a.) didn't identify how the individual members of the Broward
CRC voted on the proposal -which failed- and
b.) neglected to mention that ALL the elected city mayors
appointed to the CRC voted to NOT ALLOW voters to vote
on the issue and decide it themselves.

As it happens, all those mayors saying "nyet" to Broward
voters were women.
I mention that here just in case you think that women are
inherently more democratically-inclined by nature.
Maybe in other parts of the country, but certainly not here
in Broward County.

In fact, it's the exact opposite, as Hallandale Beach mayor
Joy Cooper proves rather convincingly, year-after-year, by
continually having the City Commission vote on items that
AREN'T on the public printed agenda, and held in a small
room at City Hall different than the Commission Chambers,
which just happens to have no TV cameras to record their
votes.
Because that's that's the way she wants things to be.

(I've written about that CRC meeting here many times
over the past 15 months and explored the rationales
for why things may've happened the way they did.)

Maybe after five years of being back here, I ought to stop
being so easily shocked, huh?

I was scared-straight back in 2007 when I penned an email
to then-Daily Business Review reporter Julie Kay,
of which this is but an excerpt:

Subject: re your 6-29 DBR story; illegal disclosure/sale of arrest data by FDLE;
Thursday January 18th, 2007

Dear Ms. Kay:

My letter to you today is actually long overdue, as I had planned on congratulating you earlier, before the end of the year, on the consistently great job you did last year of covering what passes for the South Florida legal system in the
Daily Business Review, and imbuing your stories with the proper amount of anger, enthusiasm and curiosity -and incredulity- for the peculiar way things have of sorting themselves out here, regardless of any actual law, statute or precedent.
Or, of course, common sense.
While much attention was paid to your recent stories on the 'missing' court records of judges/elected officials -and what passes around here for celebrities and VIPs- who surely must've preferred those records of theirs existing in some parallel universe, where the curious public couldn't discern their content, the story you wrote that most impressed me was actually your June 29th DBR story titled, "Legal Boomerang," on Broward County and the state of Florida continuing to sell expunged legal case data to private firms for their own databases, though they're not supposed to do so.
Perhaps you've already heard about it by this late date, but on the chance that you haven't, the day your story ran,
CBS-4 led it's 6 p.m. Local News with that same exact story, down to the point of interviewing the very same person you interviewed for the majority of your insightful anecdotes, without reporter Mike Kirsch ever giving you or the Daily Business Review proper credit/attribution for the story.
I wrote a draft of a note to you about that slight that night on my computer, but I regret to say that I never finished it, much less mailed it, and for that I'm sorry, since I really hate seeing a reporter, esp. a TV reporter, get credit for hard journalistic leg-work they didn't actually perform.
That feeling became particularly ingrained in me during the 15 years I lived in D.C. from 1988-2003, because so many media friends of mine, esp. at the Washington bureau of the New York Times, who'd regale me at ballgames, movies or over hot dogs across the street from their office at a favorite hot dog stand of ours during breaks, with instances of having discovered, after-the-fact, clear-cut examples of out-of-town reporters using their stories as a paint-by-numbers primer for stories that small town reporters couldn't previously get a handle on.Clearly, that's not the smartest move to make in the era of the Internet and searchable databases.

For what it's worth,
Kirsch added absolutely zero to your original story, not even bothering to supplement his version of your story with additional interviews with other parties, just to cover his bases.
Nope, it was strictly paint-by-numbers;
your numbers.
Since that initial report back in June, I haven't taken anything
Kirsch says seriously, since I now have a clear sense of what he's capable of.
Maybe he should stick to doing stories on 'hot' new celeb-filled boutiques or trendy restaurants on South Beach, that way, there's no real public harm or misrepresentation.
In the three years since I returned to South Florida from DC, I've had to reconcile myself to lots of changes to this area, many of them for the good, of course, but just as many for the bad I'm afraid.
Not that things before in local/state govt. or local legal circles were so rosy and on the level, of course, since I know that clearly wasn't the case.
Starting roughly around 1979, when I'd return to South
Florida from school or work in Bloomington, Evanston,
and DC, for visits during Christmas and spring break,
or even Baltimore Oriole spring training trips or weekend
weddings, I could still see that Miami had the kind of
scrappy and innately curious reporters who make a real
difference in a community.
Frankly, the sorts of reporters that so many of my friends
at Ernie Pyle at IU and Medill at Northwestern aspired
to emulate by making a positive contribution.

Reporters who had the talent & ability to convey to the
waves and waves of newcomers to the area, who were
without a sense of South Florida's very mixed past,
the proper amount of perspective and sense of disbelief,
before dropping the hammer on whichever corrupt/
incompetent/miscreant elected pol or agency hack was
the target zone, for attempting to perpetrate something
of a dubious nature.

Even while watching the local TV news out of Indianapolis
or Washington, D.C., while clearly recognizing that there
were a handful of TV reporters of the sort who'd be good
no matter what city they were based in, I always had the
sense that, in general, the reporter culture in those cities
lacked the kind of focused energy and zeal I'd seen down
here, which was their town's loss.
(I even mentioned this particular line of thought, such as it is, to CNN's Larry King once at an American Cancer Society Ball in DC, around '89, that I was involved with in a small fashion, with Larry being honored as the guest of honor. While I know that many people often laugh at Larry's own unique brand of infotainment and news, and I'm quick to admit that I've heard the reels of crank calls at his expense, that night at the Hilton Towers, while his then-wife was being photographed with friends and various DC celebs like Al Haig and former FBI Director William Webster, Larry and I stood in a corner for about ten minutes, just the two of us, reminiscing about life in Miami, mostly about local radio and TV personalities we'd known and liked and wondered about every so often.

I'd grown-up as a kid watching Larry's interviews on Channel 4, and was a daily listener to his late night nationally-syndicated radio show out of D.C. on Mutual, starting while I was in school at Indiana, making tapes of individual shows with interesting guests.
After moving to Chicago my collection of tapes accumulated as I got to know his routine and came to recognize his little idiosyncracies, as well as the names of the people who did the news breaks, as well as got to know his substitute, Jim Bohannon.
I was driving from Chicago to Florida and first got word of the passing of the great Jackie Gleason while Larry read the news bulletin, and I stayed at a FL Turnpike rest stop early in the morning for a bit to compose myself, while he poured out one great Jackie Gleason story after another.
I knew most of them by heart, but that didn't make them less precious or make me laugh any less.
It only made me much sadder.
Which I told Larry in person when I had the chance.

Larry and I also talked back and forth about the great sense of competition that once existed among the Miami TV stations, and between the Herald and the late, great Miami News, where as some of you may know, I spent a lot of time while in high school, and got to know and make a number of friends over the years in their sports and entertainment departments.
We lamented that the kind of rough but honest competition we both knew of down here, which really pushed reporters, often seemed lacking now, despite how counter-intuitive that seemed with all the new technology that was making reporting easier. And that was 20 years ago.)

But now?
Well, it seems that the low TV standards that I saw
elsewhere and have read about and followed for years
in myriad media journals, blogs and newspapers,
have found a home-sweet-home right here.

And as for my my own clearly antiquated and sentimental
notions of what journalism is, based on years of Renick
and his successors, and being part of Walter Mondale's
advance team in '76, and accompanying him to the old
Channel 4 studio downtown, for an interview with Joe
Abrell, host of Montage, a place where I recognized
nearly every single reporter's face I saw in the hallway
-and actually knew their assigned beats?

Well, I guess I thought the news management at local
stations would have done a better job of insisting on
keeping higher standards for what's considered news,
and what passes for journalistic ethics than what appears
to be the case.
More than ever, this area seems to be on the losing
side of a journalism slippery slope.
C'est la vie.

Personally, among many other things, I think this area
would be much better served if there were tons more
criticism in the local newspapers at what local TV news
churns out, and a corresponding series of frequent jabs
at the Herald and the Sun-Sentinel for what they are
-or are not- doing with their resources, which in too
many cases, is appeasing elements of the local population,
at the risk of only further corroding their connection to
the local populace.

I mean as you all know by now by my repetition,
the Herald hasn't covered a meeting in Hallandale
Beach in over 13 months.

There are still so many local people and organizations
down here who've heretofore escaped both accountability
and brickbats for their years of unsatisfactory results,
despite receiving city, county or state taxpayer funds,
that in other parts of the country, with the current
technology available, would've put them front-and-center,
and certainly under the microscope.
But here, because of cronyism and back-scratching,
or something, they aren't.
I'd call them sacred cows, of course, but we don't live
in India quite yet.

In the past, an enterprising local TV reporter might've
addressed these matters of concern to me, which
while affecting public policy or the lives of thousands
of people on a daily basis, currently go unexamined.
Nowadays, that same reporter is assigned to go to
a Mall and report on either holiday shopping tips or
trends/fads among the seemingly endless armies of
affluent teens of our area.

Maybe it's me, but I keep thinking of
Jane Fonda's
character in The China Syndrome, Kimberly Wells,
forever banished to covering cute human interest stories
before stumbling upon a great story by accident.

At least Channel 7's Deco Drive, one of my few guilty
pleasures, is totally upfront about what it's reporting on,
and doesn't put on airs.
That is the only place where I can accept seeing 'soft'
stories on trends, diets, fashion and social causes of
celebs, even ones I like or adore.

I DON'T want to see any of that on a regular local TV
newscast, nor do I want to see network video footage
of national stories on the local eleven o'clock News
that are done from a "Satellite Center," where the VO
storyline is verbatim from what I saw on the national
news show a few hours before, as if you were WIOD
repeating their news stories over and over, verbatim,
all afternoon and early evening, except for traffic
conditions.

(WIOD: Telling me the same exact thing 14 times
in a row on your news breaks, with the very same
actualities, doesn't make me 14 times better informed,
just really, really annoyed.)

I want more in-depth local news coverage on TV and less
time wasted on the weather if it's a carbon copy of the past
week.
Stop dragging the weather segments out un-necessarily!

Just to mention one story that cries out for greater examination,
given the amount of tax money involved, how come the
patently false financial numbers offered up by the likes of
Nikki Grossman of the Greater Ft. Lauderdale CVB as proof
of the financial impact on the area of hosting the Super Bowl
or BCS Title Game, or even more egregiously, my Orioles
staying in Ft. Lauderdale for spring training, or the number
of jobs created by a new Marlins stadium, are never held-up
to anything even remotely resembling basic fact-checking
scrutiny, much less, oh, forensic accounting?

They still do that sort of thing in other parts of the country,
and at Channel Four in Great Britain as I've recently posted,
but other than CBS4's I-Team here, under WFOR news
director Adrienne Roark, that whole public scrutiny thing
seems to be ancient history in local South Florida TV, even
though it's needed now more than ever before, with tough
decisions on the horizon for years to come at Dinner Key
Auditorium and up on Andrews Avenue.

-----------------------
Miami Herald

WHERE'S THE NEWS IN BROWARD?

By SANDRA EARLEY Herald Television Critic
May 27, 1982
In the eyes of South Florida television news, Broward is an adolescent stepchild, growing quickly but not mature enough to be taken seriously.

Sometimes local stations ignore it all together. When thunderstorms flooded the region earlier this month, one TV reporter noted the hazzards "throughout Dade," never mentioning its northern neighbor.

Other times, it's just the basics -- stories about county commission and school-board meetings, I-95 traffic tie-ups and robberies. Sophisticated, investigative analysis and feature reporting are for Dade only.

Yet Broward's TV audience increased 86 per cent during the last ten years. By comparison, TV homes grew only 36 per cent nationwide and 43 per cent in Dade. If Broward were a TV market all its own, it would rank alongside Syracuse, N.Y., and Richmond, Va.

But it isn't. Broward is wrapped into a viewing area dominated by three network-affiliated stations based in Dade. It doesn't have its own VHF broadcast station. And while 40 per cent of South Florida's viewers live in Broward, stories about it occupy only 10 to 15 per cent of the available time in 6 p.m. newscasts.

"I don't think they cover us to the extent that their market would indicate," says Marcia Beach, Broward County Commission chairman.

To a large degree, Dade's dominance is justified. The southern county, with its much-publicized crime rate and refugee camp, is more newsworthy than Broward's bedroom communities. Still, the future of Dade's stations is tied to Broward, with its large concentration of affluent residents. "It's a very Anglo-oriented market, with Dade being more Hispanic and black," says Dave Choate, WCKT-Ch. 7 news director.

In response, each station has added staff in the last two years. In January, WTVJ-Ch. 4 moved into a larger Broward news office with anchor Ralph Renick broadcasting from the facility on opening night. Ch. 7 will occupy a new building come September, and WPLG-Ch. 10 is searching for larger quarters.
WCIX-Chs. 6/33, the Dade independent station, has a small news operation in Broward.

Other changes, albeit small ones, have been incorporated to emphasize the region as a whole. Ch. 7 calls itself "South Florida's 7." Anchors and reporters at Ch. 10 must say "in Broward," not "up in Broward," lest the "up" isolate the county.

But Broward remains a quandary: How do you cover Broward without boring Kendall?

Chs. 4 and 7 acknowledge the differences. Each has given Broward its own anchor, and most Broward news is presented in a short, self-contained segment. The stations say the format increases credibility. A separate Broward anchor is "more authoritative than me speaking from Third and Miami Avenue in Miami," says Renick.

Ch. 10 uses its format to emphasize the unity of the Dade- Broward region. There is no separate anchor, and Broward stories are placed throughout the broadcast according to their newsworthiness. "We do not ghetto-ize our coverage," says Steve Wasserman, news director. "It trivializes the stories and sends signals. It's like telling Broward that it's different, that anchors Ann Bishop and Glenn Rinker are too good to read Broward news."

The stations have other differences, too. Here are some evaluations based on monitoring newscasts and visiting each bureau:

Ch. 4: In Broward since 1961, this granddaddy of news operations has the least air time but the largest staff and the best facility of the three stations.

Ch. 4 produces 30 minutes of news at 6 p.m., while Ch. 10 has 90 minutes, beginning at 5:30, and Ch. 7 an hour at 6.

Fourteen people--including three reporters, a reporter/ anchor and bureau chief Frank Lynn-- work out of a large, relaxed office and mini-studio above a Fort Lauderdale movie theater. It is the only bureau to have a remote truck assigned to it full time. When other stations want to broadcast live from the scene, a truck comes in from Miami.

The combination of a big staff and little airtime should translate into more thoughtful stories, since reporters have time to work on them. Sometimes it does. But day by day, there's significantly less Broward news -- usually two or three stories in two minutes, compared to three to five stories occupying four or five minutes in the other early-evening newscasts.

Still, the ratings show Ch. 4 is the station preferred at 6 by most Broward viewers. As in Dade, Ch. 10 runs second, Ch. 7 third.

Ch. 7: It's the best overall effort in Broward news, balancing quantity of stories with quality and position in the 6 p.m. broadcast. A Broward story usually runs in the show's top segment. Later segments feature one or two groups of stories, with Steve Dawson anchoring.

Ch. 7 opened a Broward bureau in 1962 but did not begin building staff until 1 1/2 years ago. These days, two reporters, a reporter/anchor, bureau chief Jere Pierce and seven others work out of a jammed storefront office.

These days, WCKT's Broward studio has a static, old- fashioned look on the air, but Pierce says that will change when the bureau moves to its new facility.

Ch. 10--Traditionally, it has been an afterthought in the Broward market. "I guess Ch. 10 also does some coverage, too," is the way Marcia Beach puts it.

The station didn't open its bureau until 1974 and continues to play catch-up. It has the smallest staff: a total of eight, including two reporters and bureau chief Elaine Hume in an office on the 19th floor of a Fort Lauderdale building. June 1, a third reporter and two-man crew will join the bureau full time.

For all the late start, the Ch. 10 bureau bustles more than its sisters down the dial. Every workday hour, a staffer calls local police and fire departments to check for breaking news; the other stations check twice a day.

And when a big story breaks, Ch. 10 quickly calls in Miami reinforcements. On the day bodies of Haitian refugees washed up on a Hallandale beach, "they swarmed all over the story," a competing newsman says.

Ch. 10 promises more coverage in the future. "Broward is where it is all happening if you want to build up the ratings," Hume says, "if you want to beat the pants off the other stations."
-----
(Steve Bousquet is now a political reporter with the St. Pete Times
and a must-read for me.)

Miami Herald
STATE'S FIRST TV STATION IS NOW BROWARD'S FIRST

By STEVE BOUSQUET Herald Staff Writer
July 31, 1998
Steve Bousquet was a Broward-based news reporter for WPLG-Channel 10 from 1981-84, before joining The Herald.
For 50 years, history and geography conspired to deprive Broward of an electronic identity: a hometown TV station. But that became old news Thursday as WTVJ-Channel 6, Florida's first TV station, announced plans to relocate to Miramar.

The same station that gave South Florida its first news anchorman, Ralph Renick -- on a different channel and different network -- will be broadcasting from Broward in two years.

To appreciate the historic significance of Channel 6's decision to move to Miramar, it helps to remember when Broward TV news consisted of film cans being shuttled down Interstate 95 at rush hour or snippets of news delivered from ``the Broward bureau'' -- a small studio in the Yankee Clipper Hotel on Fort Lauderdale beach.

Stations pay more attention to Broward than ever before. But there are still some nights when Broward TV coverage is little more than a crime newsreel sandwiched between longer Dade stories, and Miami-based meteorologists still warn us about those thunderstorms ``up'' in Broward.

By moving its studios, satellite TV trucks and anchors to Miramar, NBC-owned Channel 6 is moving closer to the region's population center. But the TV station is making a public-relations commitment to Broward that no amount of promotion can buy.

Station executives described the decision as a move to the center of the region's booming population. Don Browne, WTVJ's vice president and general manager, said the ``artificial'' county line is meaningless in today's society.

``We're making a natural response to the population growth and shift,'' Browne said. ``We look at this as one community. . . . This is a decision based on an understanding of the dynamics and growth of our entire community.''
Effects on coverage

The questions are whether a Broward location will mean better Broward coverage on Channel 6 -- and whether Channel 6's rivals will feel pressured to beef up coverage because a competitor is headquartered there.

``There will be more coverage of Broward. We're talking about two broadcast facilities,'' said Ramon Escobar, WTVJ's news director. ``Covering South Florida is more about preparation and strategy than it is about position. Having a Miramar location does help us have more Broward [coverage].''

Station executives spoke of a ``dual studio'' in Miami and South Broward, with an indoor-outdoor studio on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. It is important that in moving north, WTVJ not appear to be abandoning Miami-Dade.

The move is the second half of a positive civic 1-2 punch, coming after the Florida Panthers agreed to move to a new arena in western Sunrise.

A television station, like a newspaper or a sports team, gives an area a sense of place, an identity -- and not having a hometown station has been one reason why Broward lacks a stronger identity.
Stepchild perception

Even in an age of cable and satellite receivers, South Florida TV news reinforces a perception that Broward is Miami's suburban stepchild.

``You turn the TV stations on here, and it's mostly Miami news, so you do not have that daily confirmation of where you are,'' said Jack Latona, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who grew up watching three hometown TV stations in Buffalo.

In a modern age of media saturation, Latona said, the boundaries of communities are not municipal lines, but the circulation of a newspaper or the reach of a TV signal.

As a city commissioner in Fort Lauderdale, Broward's largest city, Latona can count on one hand the number of times a TV crew has been inside City Hall -- but that may change when WTVJ moves to its new six-acre site near Interstate 75 and Miramar Parkway.

``It stands to reason the news is going to be skewed more toward Broward, and I'm not so sure that's a bad thing,'' said Joe Angotti, a Miami TV consultant and former NBC News senior vice president and former dean of the University of Miami communications school. ``I know a lot of people who think Dade is losing an important media outlet, but I'm not so sure that Broward doesn't deserve a little more on newscasts than it's been receiving up to now. It's not going to happen overnight, but there will be a gradual tendency to have more Broward news on the newscast.''
Beyond local cable

That would be good news for people in Broward, who have to drive out of the county to get on network-affiliated television. Top politicians must settle for what exposure they can get on cable TV, or go to Miami's WPLG to appear on This Week in South Florida with Michael Putney.

BECON TV, the Broward school system's television network, airs a weekly Broward public affairs show called Countyline, but not all cable systems pick it up.

Two dueling state Senate candidates, Mandy Dawson-White and Matt Meadows, squared off Thursday in their only TV debate so far -- in the West Palm Beach studios of WPTV-Channel 5.

``Broward doesn't have its own TV station, and yet there are little towns in Montana with TV stations,'' Latona said.
It was not by accident.

When the first VHF television licenses were issued in the late 1940s, Miami already was a big city. Broward was still largely swampland. A half million people lived in Dade in 1950, compared to 84,000 in all of Broward -- fewer people than live in Pembroke Pines today.

Smaller West Palm Beach, just out of range of the Miami TV stations' signals, also qualified for licenses. Broward got a couple of UHF station licenses instead.

Broward's current population is estimated at 1.4 million. It consistently ranks among the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States. It is the 16th most-populous county in America, larger than Riverside County, Calif.; Montgomery County (Philadelphia), Pa.; Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio; and Alameda County (Oakland), Calif.

Herald staff writers Jane Bussey and Neil Reisner and researcher Harriett Tupler contributed to this report.
--------
Miami Herald

RAZING OF WTVJ'S OLD HOME STIRS UP STATION'S `GHOSTS'

By ANABELLE de GALE
August 18, 2002
Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You and 2 Yanks in Trinidad, starring Pat O'Brien, were rolling on the big screen. Pocket change got you into the double feature playing at the Capitol Theater in downtown Miami.

But that night - March 21, 1949 - what was debuting on the small screen in the theater's backroom would make history. Television.

More than half a century later, it's curtains for the site of Florida's first television broadcast and home to the only station south of Atlanta in those early days. In the coming weeks, the historic but crumbling Capitol Theater and former WTVJ-NBC 6 studios will be reduced to rubble. In its place: a new $120 million U.S. courthouse, one of the largest in the Southeast, which federal officials hope will be majestic enough to bring back life to the once animated area.

Designed by Arquitectonica, the local architecture firm that designed AmericanAirlines Arena, the massive court building will house about 16 courtrooms, 16 judges' chambers, detention cells, U.S. Marshals Service offices and other facilities.

The 316 N. Miami Ave. site once lured throngs of South Floridians to the theater, then dubbed Wometco's ``first-run'' premier movie house. It was built in 1926 as the Capitol Theater and converted into WTVJ in 1949 by Miami pioneer Mitchell Wolfson as an outgrowth of his Wometco theater chain.
RUNNING LIGHTS

``I remember going to the Capitol Theater even before it was WTVJ. It had the most dramatic theater front in Miami with running lights,'' said Miami historian Arva Moore Parks. ``Everybody went downtown to see the movies.''

Among them: a young and mischievous Howard Kleinberg.

Kleinberg, a newspaperman and long-time Miami resident, was a teenager in high school when he went to see a rerun of The Four Feathers, a 1939 colonial-India epic.

As the film's thirsty hero made his way across sun-scorched land, Kleinberg jumped from his seat in the balcony, screaming ``Water! Water!''

His friends got a kick out of it. Kleinberg got a kick, too - out of the place.

In 1952, WTVJ remodeled the building. It added to the three-story structure 200 spectator seats for its 68-by-100-foot studio on the second floor. The ground floor housed the executive offices, programming and sales departments. The control and projection rooms were on the third floor.
END OF THE ROAD

The building's demolition marks the end of an era, said Parks, who remembers that Monday evening in March 1949 when she walked to a store on Northeast 97th Street and Second Avenue to watch the first broadcast on a set in the shop's front window.

``I stood in front of an appliance store with most of the rest of Miami Shores to catch it. It was only an eight- or 10-inch screen, but most of us had never seen television before and it was very exciting,'' Parks said. ``They were having a lot of technical difficulties that first night. The test pattern and signs that said `Please Stand By' were probably on more than the programming.''

Only about 1,000 homes in the Miami area had sets that night to tune into WTVJ, which was then Channel 4.

The station had but 21 employees and two cameras. The 16th television station in the country, WTVJ would be South Florida's sole station for the next seven years.

From behind an office-like wooden desk, 21-year-old Ralph Renick - ``a skinny, little kid,'' Parks said - delivered the station's first news broadcast in July 1950.

That amateurish 15-minute segment would pave the way for electronic media in South Florida. ``We were pioneering,'' Renick said in a 1991 interview. ``Pioneering is fun because nobody can tell you you're doing it wrong - because it hasn't been done before.''

Renick would go on to be one of the nation's longest-running news anchors before his retirement in 1985. He died six years later from cancer.
IN THE ARCHIVES

Some of the footage from Renick's early newscasts has survived. The Florida Moving Image Archive has four million feet of WTVJ film, with the earliest newscast dating to circa 1951, said Steven Davidson, the archive's director.

Maps and pointers were used, cardboard backdrops were common and advertisements were displayed on the set during Renick's newscast. Commercials were not taped. Instead the camera would pan over to a spot next to Renick where pitchmen would give their spiels live.

From its small studio carved out of the Capitol Theater, WTVJ would broadcast four hours a night except Tuesdays, when the station went dark.

Before the technology to link the station to national networks was developed, the station was dependent on live, locally produced programs.
STUNT WOMAN

There were sports trivia and Pictionary-style game shows, gardening segments and children's programming. And then there was Lee Dickens. The stunt woman who walked on the wings of planes for the show ``was my idol,'' Parks recalled.

The station, which moved to Miramar in 2000, produced many heavyweight journalists like CNN's Larry King, NBC's Katie Couric and ESPN's Hank Goldberg and former ESPN Up Close host Roy Firestone. It introduced editorials, black journalists and female sportscasters to South Florida television.

``Many great things happened there. The place is overrun with history,'' said senior correspondent Ike Seamans, who joined WTVJ in 1969.

Still, Seamans said, ``I can't think of a more dumb place to put it than an old movie theater, but as [Wolfson] said at the time he never realized the full impact of what he was starting.''

The Miami building was like ``an old pair of shoes,'' Seamans said.

``It was old and decrepit. You had people jumping on chairs to avoid the mice but it felt comfortable. There was a sense of camaraderie there that has not been duplicated. The [Miramar headquarters], as grandiose as it is, will never be the same.''

-----
Miami Herald
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE

Moving Image Archives show Miami's past

By LUISA YANEZ
March 30, 2009
South Florida's most prized film and video collection -- millions of feet of footage documenting nine decades of events that shaped Miami-Dade -- has just been been donated to Miami Dade College.

The Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives are made up largely of newscasts aired by the area's first station, WTVJ -- the flagship station of Wometco Enterprises. WTVJ first went on the air in 1949, fronted by pioneer newscaster Ralph Renick. It is now NBC6.

Louis Wolfson II had presided over the television and cable division of Wometco prior to its sale in 1983 and had preserved the station's video collection.

This month, his widow, Lynn Wolfson and MDC President Eduardo Padrón signed an agreement transferring the archive to the college and establishing the new Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives Media Center to be housed in a new building to be constructed in MDC's Wolfson campus complex in downtown Miami.

Through the years, the collection has expanded to include local footage shot as early as 1910. There are also many reels dedicated to the Cuban Revolution, Miami's civil rights era, the McDuffie riots, the Mariel boatlift, Haitian refugees and the Cocaine Cowboys.

Recently, WPLG-Channel 10 donated 5,000 hours of tapes to the archives when it moved out of its longtime Biscayne Boulevard headquarters.

The historic archives are the latest cultural acquisition by the college. MDC already owns the Miami International Film Festival, Miami Book Fair International, the Freedom Tower and the Tower Theater in Little Havana.

Along with the donation of the video library comes $7 million from the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation to maintain and grow the new media center. And, Lynn Wolfson donated an additional $2 million toward its construction.

"These funds will allow the center to expand its capacity to preserve historically important film and video from around Florida and to preserve our heritage for future generations to better understand their past," Lynn Wolfson said.

Padrón thanked the Wolfson family in a prepared statement:

"On behalf of our nearly 170,000 students, who will benefit immensely from this gift, I thank Lynn Wolfson and family for this extraordinary contribution that will keep giving for years to come."

Lynn Wolfson helped found the Moving Image Archives in 1984, along with newscaster Renick and historian Arva Moore Parks, under the joint sponsorship of the Miami-Dade Public Library System, MDC and the University of Miami.

The archives are presently housed at the main public library.

To learn more about the archives go to:
http://www.wolfsonarchive.org

-----
Back in April, there were a flurry of really terrific articles
and columns that highlighted many of the same points
I've made before about the future roles of newspapers
as well as the common complaint -including from this
blogger- about inadequate local news coverage, so I've
linked them below for you to peruse when you can.

Since she wrote it while out in California, the Maureen
Dowd column I link to here, for a Sunday, has a title
that's a nodding reference to Joan Didion's famous book
of essays on California in the Sixties, and the myriad
cross-currents of history and social change taking place
there at the same time,
Slouching Towards Bethlehem,

If you haven't already heard it or don't already know my
great story about Maureen at the New York Times
employee party at Todd Purdum and Dee Dee Myers's
house in Santa Monica in 1996, during the Democratic
National Convention, back when Todd was still with
the paper -now at Vanity Fair- ask me to tell you about
it if we ever meet.

It's actually quite amusing and illustrative of lots of things
about media and the power of celebrities, and Maureen
in particular, whom I used to find myself defending in public
an awful lot when I was living up there, since lots of
otherwise well-infomed people, especially conservatives
I generally respected, would say outlandish things about
her that simply weren't true.
And I was in a position to know.

The last few years that I was living up in the D.C. area,
she and I were the only two people in the Army/Navy
Building, where the Times Washington bureau is located,
who had subscriptions to Daily Variety, which were
couriered in every weekday and left for us at the concierge's
desk.

Because she lived closer to the building then I did,
Capitol Hill compared to Arlington, if she came into work
before I swung by, she'd often grab my copy if she didn't
look carefully at the name on the label.
Which is why about 5-6 times a month I was walking
around town with her name on my copy.

And why, at least once a month, typically when I was
having some coffee at one of the two Starbucks up at
Dupont Circle, or at the Whatsa Bagels nearby,
just above M Street -home of the best bagels in D.C.,
esp. their banana nut, my fave- and just a few blocks
from the CBS Washington news bureau, I'd be asked the
question by someone sitting next to me, who'd spot her
name on the front page,
"Do you REALLY know Maureen Dowd?"
-----

Slouching Towards Oblivion

Maureen Dowd
April 26, 2009

Her previous four columns have all also been from California,
which is much longer than most of her trips out there over the
past ten years.
To Tweet or Not to Tweet
In an interview with the inventors of Twitter, a simple quest to find out if they are as annoying as their invention.
April 22, 2009
The Aura of Arugulance
On a visit to the Bay Area, there is clarity from two visionaries who inspire cultlike devotion, one for her green cooking and the other for his mythical empire on blue screens.
April 19, 2009
Dinosaur at the Gate
Does Google have the right to profit so profligately from newspaper content at a time when journalism is in such jeopardy?
April 15, 2009
Demi in Des Moines?
The West Coast once glowed with prosperity and was the harbinger of hip new things. Now in the grip of recession, California’s cool has been stolen by, of all places, Iowa.
April 12, 2009
-----
(Sharon Waxman is the former New York Times Hollywood
reporter who covered the world of entertainment from LA.
She now writes for The Wrap, http://www.thewrap.com/
which I'd advise you to make a Favorite if you're smart.)

The Future of Media: The Profit Principle
By Sharon Waxman
April 26th, 2009
It was a packed auditorium and a lively debate at Broad Hall at UCLA today, where we addressed the future of media on our panel -- myself, Arianna Huffington, Marc Cooper (pictured left, with festival's founder longtime chief architect Steve Wasserman) and Andrew Donohue. I'm starting to see a pattern emerge from these conversations, which are going on daily, constantly, all over the country. The pattern is, essentially, legacy media (read 'old media') getting defensive and weepy over their decline, new media feeling fresh-faced and righteous, and none of us having a solution to any of it.
Read the rest of this story at:
-----
Meanwhile, following the sound of his own drum...
Former CBS4 Reporter Very Happy To Be Out of Miami
By Kyle Munzenrieder
March 31, 2009
http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2009/03/former_cbs4_reporter_very_happ.php

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