Miami NewTimes By Tim Elfrink,
Thursday, September 2 2010 @ 1:39PM
It's only my opinion, but from my own perspective and experience, the Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard can't leave South Florida soon enough.
I know that makes some of you laugh because you know I thought THAT was the case years ago, too. Know that I'd have been only too happy to drive her to the train station to split town if people down here actually took trains.
You're right -it's a long time coming.
But long-frustrated Miami Herald readers finally have a reason to cheer.
Reinhard's oh-so predictable and often deadly-dull Conventional Wisdom take on the passing political scene may've been fine for the Quad Cities in 1966, but among other fatal flaws, she seem handcuffed to the "Usual Suspects," forever quoting the same handful of people with motives she never bothered to reveal.
(And yes, I've been to the Quad Cities area in Iowa, too, spending a week there in Davenport, driving over from Chicago for business in 1987. One night, when I couldn't fall asleep in my hotel room, I went for a walk around midnight, eventually crossing the Rock Island Centennial Bridge (U.S.-67) over the Mississippi River from Davenport to Rock Island.
I was NOT expecting that the bridge sidewalk would be mesh-like metal, since that meant I couldn't look down, otherwise it would have caused me to get dizzy over the water.
It was a VERY weird sensation to walk across the bridge at that hour and just stand there in the middle for 15-20 minutes and think of all the history that has gone past you and below you.
I eventually ate at an IHOP or diner in Rock Island and got back to my hotel room in Davenport around 3:30 a.m. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Island_Centennial_Bridge
I also visited the great minor league ballpark there on the River, then called John O'Donnell Stadium when Quad Cities was a Cubs affiliate. It's now called Modern Woodmen Park and home of the Cardinals' farm team, the River Bandits.
Look at the photos! The Marlins would be lucky to have a view like the one over first base.
It's no wonder that seasoned political reporters and columnists from outside of Florida, including some I know, were always mystified when they came down here and got a chance to read more than one example of the Reinhard Method, or to hear her talk on TV or radio.
It's not like they expected a patrician David Broder clone or an intellectual David Frum-type would be the leading political reporter at the Herald, since this is Miami, after all, the anti-wonk capital, but they were in no way prepared to see that things were just -as bad- as I had described in phone calls or emails about how little respect or column inches Broward County rated.
They thought I'd always been exaggerating.
Earlier this year, after one such reporter friend had visited South Florida and had absorbed some sun and digested some bon mots de Reinhard, and returned home, she emailed me that she's sure that Reinhard probably has some special talent that we're just not privy to.
I replied that could be true but that her writing speaks for itself -mediocre and uninspiring.
Try hard to think of a column or article of her's that questioned the South Florida version of CW, or tried to get to the heart of a matter thru an unconventional approach.
Or even the last time you cut one of her article/columns out of the paper?
You can't, and like 99% of all Herald readers, once you saw the headline of one of her stories, and even more so, of one of her columns, you knew exactly what to expect.
The whole thing was telegraphed because you know she has such a small bag of tricks in her arsenal.
Plus, she never ever surprises you.
Thus, Reinhard never ever veered from her connect-the-dots script, including her failed attempts to seem like a self-effacing Tina Fey at times when it wasn't called for and only served to distract.
Reinhard was too easily pacified and seduced by CW and too often seemed pleased with herself for peddling the mundane.
She was like a slightly less-mean-spirited Tracy Flick, but failed to see the truly compelling stories all around us down here because then she'd have had to leave her comfort zone.
She didn't want to.
That so many people wouldn't return her phone calls, as she recently wrote about Marco Rubio, whom I like and will vote for but who clearly is not without his flaws, may, in fact, not be a result of their not liking what she wrote and actually be something simpler: people feeling that far too often, Reinhard had burned them.
That she called with the article already written in her head, and wasn't open to actually listening to their side or perspective and perhaps re-questioning her original aim with a story.
Facts should matter at least once in a while, shouldn't they?
Seriously, why would you call someone back, much less a reporter, if they won't listen to what you say, and just want to steamroll you about some topic, regardless of what it is?
You doubtless do it all the time with friends and relatives -I know I do.
Why should others be any different?
Reinhard's worst sins in my book was her low-hanging fruit sense of journalism and consistent lack of curiosity, as she failed over-and-over to give readers the sort of insight into some pol or official's motives and outlook that would be helpful to readers in understanding them, and what was going on policy-wise in anti-wonk South Florida.
It was sometimes like she was the daughter of the Beacon Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Knight Foundation, and only wanted to please already-powerful people.
She'd tut-tut them, perhaps, but always like a loving daughter reproaching her father for something he's wearing that embarrasses her.
I didn't need every article of her's to be like a fascinating Vanity Fair profile from the early-to-mid 1990's under Clinton, but one every few YEARS might've been nice!
(Or maybe I was just spoiled by 15 years of daily reading the WaPo's Style section from 1988-2003. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/print/style/)
Seriously, after all this time, do Herald readers now have any added insight from her into why Meek, Crist or Rubio are the way they are and do what they do?
No, which is why out-of-town/national reporters so consistently seem to get to the heart of a local matter, general sense of mood or pierce a local/state political personality's facade when they drop in, yet she's always... what exactly?
(Compare anything of hers to Tim Padgett's fabulous TIME article exactly one year ago on the State of Florida, Behind Florida's Exodus: Rising Taxes, Political Ineptitude
There are many things public officials probably shouldn't do during a severe recession, but no one seems to have told the leaders in Florida about them. One thing, for instance, would be giving a dozen top aides hefty raises while urging a rise in property taxes, as the mayor of Miami-Dade County recently did. Or jacking up already exorbitant hurricane-insurance premiums, as Florida's government-run property insurer just did. Or sending an army of highly paid lobbyists to push for a steep hike in electricity rates, as South Florida's public utility is doing.Read the rest of the article at:
And you wonder why the Sunshine State is experiencing its first net emigration of people since World War II.
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1919916,00.html Though Hoosier-born Tim lives in Miami as Bureau Chief, it's the same principle.)
Rubio and Meek are both from South Florida, but despite all this proximity, Reinhard has added zero to the mix in our understanding of them or what they might do.
As I've written numerous on my blog about the media coverage of the FL-17 congressional race,
her writing about it was perhaps the best example of her lack of curiosity and imagination: dreadful writing of the sort that you'd expect from a mediocre Junior College newspaper you pick up out of boredom while waiting around for your pick-up order at a Kinko's.
The one congressional seat in South Florida that we knew last year would result in sending a 'new face' to Washington would seem like a great opportunity to re-examine some longstanding ideas about this area, and the CD that stretches from Liberty City to Hollywood, including where I live in Hallandale Beach, not far from Gulfstream Park Race Track.
Instead, there was hardly any reasonable coverage of it to speak of until a week before the election, and by then, it was written not by Reinhard but Patricia Mazzei, who's what, five years out of college?
Why is the least-experienced reporter writing about THE most important local congressional race in greater Miami?
That's why it's the Herald.