Miami Herald vending machine in front of Denny's restaurant, Hallandale Beach, FL.July 3, 2011 photo by South Beach Hoosier
Below is the email that I sent last Friday afternoon to David Landsberg, President and Publisher of McClatchy's Miami Herald, with cc's to Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marques and Managing Editor Rick Hirsch, along with certain Broward County elected officials and activists I keep in regular contact with.
This is the first of two emails sent directly to him about the Herald's considerably lackluster performance for the year 2011, where sins and errors of the past were neither corrected nor forgiven but merely repeated over-and-over to an inexplicable fair-thee-well.
In the subject header that day, I wrote: More lumps of coal in your Christmas stocking for such a consistently lousy year of journalism at the Miami Herald covering Broward County.
December 16, 2011
Dear Mr. Landsberg:
You're the publisher and president of the Herald, and yet as of 4 p.m., it's now been more than 65 hours since the Broward County Commission formally approved new district maps based on 2010 Census information, and as of right now, your newspaper has printed absolutely NOTHING about it in-print or online.
But then the Herald also NEVER wrote in-print about any of the myriad issues arising out of the many public meetings that've been held in the county the past few months about that required redistricting in Broward.
Nothing about what the maps might look like given that some members will soon be termed-out, or even whether or not it was likely that a 'Hispanic-majority' district might somehow be carved-out of it somewhere, which might necessarily change the county's current dynamic.
That's certainly entirely in keeping with the strange and counter-intuitive journalism decision-making that beleaguered Broward readers have continued to see coming out of 1 Herald Plaza the last few years, with enough bad decisions having emerged to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to your remaining Broward readers that you all consider Broward to not just be terra incognita, but almost persona non grata as well, given how Broward barely exists at all in your blogs, too, regardless of the subject area.
To my eyes, among the worst and most unforgivable sins for a media enterprise that still contends that they're RELEVANT now is how week-after-week, month-after-month, NOT a single instance of an article, column or essay written by a Miami Herald employee -or even a Guest Op-Ed- will appear in that embarrassing excuse for a Sunday public policy section, Issues & Ideas, that directly concerns issues, people, pols, government and personalities of and in Broward County.
The self-evident facts, the actual newspaper itself, don't lie, and they could hardly be more
glaring or damaging to the newspaper's faltering credibility.
Here we are at the end of the year 2011 and there is NOT a single Broward-oriented columnist appearing in print in your newspaper.
How can you possibly think that's a good idea?
As for your decision to go seven-plus months without an official Reader's Ombudsman, since
Edward Schumacher-Matos left for NPR, and the curious management decision to NOT
replace him, well, there's yet another completely counter-intuitive journalism decision that
further shows the newspaper's lack of seriousness and integrity.
But hey, who's counting all those curious decisions, right?
I mean there's only... well, now that you mention it:
-the longstanding lack of even one South Florida-based conservative columnist with both some historical knowledge of the area and some flair & verve in their writing that could challenge the stagnant South Florida status quo to readers 2-3 times a week
-the complete lack of an Education blog in the year 2011
-the Editorial Board's abject failure to consistently run meaningful well-written dissenting
points-of view in your so-called "Opposing Views," as you instead prefer running columns
and essays that merely replicate the prevailing status quo orthodoxy of the Editorial Board,
even to the point of running crummy columns by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star that sound eerily like Herald editorials.
But she's even more condescending and patronizing, if that's possible; and she proves it
whenever you deign to put her words into print.
To most reasonable people, Mr. Landsberg, calling something Opposing Views conjures
up a mental image of an actual opposing point-of-view, not merely uttering the same exact
ideological nostrums or cant with someone else's name attached to them.
It's the difference between a voice and a chorus.
A more accurate name for the top of that editorial page in the Herald now would be "The Choir."
And lest you forget, as we approach 2012, there is NOT a single Broward-oriented blog on the Herald's entire website.
That said, you sure have managed to corner the market to yourself on useless minutiae on
Cuba, or writing sycophantic stories about commercial and residential real estate 'upturns'
in downtown Miami.
I will give you credit for that, if that's what it is.
At some point in the next few weeks, you might want to avail yourself of a blog post I wrote
on November 27th of last year that connects-the-dots rather well on what I and many other
well-informed and civic-minded residents of Broward County continue to see as your and the Herald's failings.
How a video of Paramore in Stockholm & Razorlight in London proves the Miami Herald is too damn slow. Iceberg dead ahead!
It's just one of many posts on the decline we've all seen at the Herald, and in particular, your perfectly awful news coverage of Broward County.
I don't know whether you plan on making any meaningful, positive changes to the newspaper and website in the new year or not as part of some collective New Year's resolutions, but if you aren't, you're making a huge mistake.To quote myself from that post:
When specifically is Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg finally going to publicly share with Herald readers what his actual plan is to rescue the newspaper, and make it relevant to readers and news consumers, which it increasingly is NOT by any stretch of the imagination? It's getting kind of late in the voyage with Landsberg at the helm, and while I'm no expert on icebergs, I can see with my own eyes that the known and unknown icebergs keep getting closer and closer to the Herald's bow as it steers into unchartered waters without a compass or, seemingly, a legitimate plan to get to its destination. And like you all, I know with absolute certainty that most of an iceberg is unseen -and below the surface.Just like the Herald's myriad problems.But some problems are too big to hide.
Continuing to routinely treat so many of a newspaper's readers with profound condescension and almost child-like indifference is the sort of thing that at other newspapers would quickly get people fired, but is something which at the Miami Herald is simply called business-as-usual or, Sunday.
You can either change that or you can just ignore that.
We'll all see in January which choice you made.
In my original email to Mr. Landsberg on Friday, I made a small mistake.
I called the column on the page opposite the Herald editorial page that, rather than being contrary to the Herald Editorial Board's position as you'd think, based on what they call it, it's usually complementary, "Opposing Voices."
It's actually called "Opposing Views."
Regardless of what the Herald calls it, the point is not just valid, but still just as sheepishly embarrassing as well.
For those of you who are new to this blog and have never seen it before, when I first started my South Beach Hoosier blog and Hallandale Beach Blog in 2007, I made a conscious point of posting the following as an anchor to the blog -something that would always be present- so that anyone coming to them would know precisely where I stood on the issue of the Herald and its faltering news coverage of South Florida and fleeting influence within it.
I mention this because there are a lot of people in the blogosphere who are Miami Herald sycophants, from whom "seldom is heard a discouraging word..."
The following is what was on South Beach Hoosier in 2008 and 100% accurate at the time it was written, though many changes have taken place since then -just not enough positive ones for South Florida residents who want more 'hard news' coverage in their newspapers more often -everyday.
I hope it provides some helpful context for understanding what I wrote in Part 1 above and
what you'll soon see here in Part 2.
South Beach Hoosier will also examine the latest amusing or not-so-amusing scandals, cover-ups, controversies, contretemps and mis-adventures bedeviling South Florida, something I became used to while growing up in North Miami Beach in the late 1960's and the 70's.
Fortunately, because of my news-junkie DNA and myriad magazine subscriptions, and long-standing relationships with media types in Miami, I was able to keep up pretty well with the South Florida area while living in Bloomington, Chicago, Evanston, Wilmette and Washington, D.C./Arlington, VA.
Communities where sensible civic activism and high standards of journalism were the norm and not the exception.
Due to my own personal/business/political interests and experiences in those cities, as well as my good fortune to have a large number of well-informed and well-connected friends and former housemates while living there, many but not all of whom are or were reporters, columnists, editors, TV/film producers, along with a few who are now well-placed in Statehouses and legal circles across the country, I'll have a deep bench of facts, opinions, point-of-views and fact-checkers to work with.
That's the goal for South Beach Hoosier.
It's my hope that this'll help me offer up pinpoint criticism, whether of national and South Florida pols, media organizations and sports or show biz personalities, that have heretofore evaded public scrutiny, transparency or accountability -as well as well-aimed brickbats.
To examine the proverbial case of the latest dog that doesn't bark, or analyze why the latest case of media conventional wisdom has -again- been proven wrong, and why.
This is especially true of The Miami Herald, the morning newspaper I grew-up with and have suffered with since first leaving North Miami Beach for Bloomington in the Fall of '79, as its most talented people jumped ship and the paper become evermore a shell of what it once was: an excellent newspaper with talented and respected reporters and editors telling compelling and intriguing stories of intrinsic value to its readers throughout polyglot and transient South Florida.
Television news-wise, when I'd return to South Florida from school or work in Bloomington, Evanston, and DC, whether for Christmas vacation, Baltimore Oriole spring training games or visits for weddings, I could still see that Miami had the kind of scrappy and innately curious reporters who make a tangible difference in a community.
The sorts of enterprising reporters that so many of my friends at Ernie Pyle at IU, and Medill at Northwestern were already well on their way to becoming.
Reporters who might have the talent and ability to convey to the waves of newcomers and visitors to the area, a nuanced sense of South Florida's decidedly mixed historical past, by writing with the proper amount of factual research, balanced perspective and sense of disbelief, to describe the events unfolding around them.
Then, ending the piece by dropping the hammer on whichever local corrupt/incompetent miscreant, pol or agency hack was the target of their ire, for attempting to perpetrate yet another in a long of of dubious acts against the people of South Florida.
Sadly for the people of South Florida, things have gotten so bad now that The Herald's numerous flaws are as much for what they don't publish, as much as for the self-evident mediocre quality of its writing and reporting, lack of thorough fact-checking, and inadequate search for conflicts of interest.
For all the talk of improving the paper by the new McClatchy management, it shows no tangible signs of changing for the better any time soon, a great disappointment to its readers.
It's common knowledge within the industry that The Herald's website is a joke compared to the efforts of many smaller circulation newspapers. www.miamiherald.com
Frankly, the website itself remains a constant source of embarrassment for Herald reporters and columnists, who are constantly besieged by readers and told yet another horror story about not being able to find recent Herald stories that should be on the paper's website but aren't.
The reporters can do little more than shrug their shoulders in response.
Even in the year 2008, The Herald still DOESN'T have a permanent Public Ombudsman to represent the interests of both its readers and basic fairness, like many newspapers with much smaller circulation numbers!
Meanwhile, with much more to fear and lose, The New York Times has an independent Public Editor, currently Clark Hoyt, who weekly takes the Times' policy, owners, editors, reporters and columnists to task publicly, even providing links back to the original story or column in question, unlike the once-in-a-while effort at the Herald.
Meanwhile The Herald's Sunday attempt at high-minded opinion-shaping and public policy, Issues & Ideas, is so embarrassing and muddled on so many different levels that it's all one can do to not laugh from crying, so feeble is its effort, so low is its aim, so puny the actual result.
Yet rather than seeking the creative input of bright and knowledgeable new faces who are familiar with the real problems of South Florida, The Herald still regularly farms-out the Guest Op-Ed space in the paper on Saturday to people living outside of the area, more than any other newspaper in America I've ever read. They continually run long excerpts in their editorial space from parochial interest groups whose political sentiments echo that of the the Herald's own Editorial Board.
Even worse, if possible, in many cases these particular guest editorial tangents have already appeared in other forums or publications! And speaking of the Herald's Editorial Board, who's on that exactly, anyway?
It's a great mystery that nobody seems able to fully explain away, yet The New York Times, under the guidance of Andy Rosenthal, has an entire webpage specifically devoted to detailing the background and credentials of its Editorial Board. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/opinion/editorial-board.html
Hmmm... call me old-fashioned, but South Beach Hoosier prefers transparency!
By the way, as I write this post on early Wednesday morning, it's now been exactly a week since the Broward County Commission vote on redistricting and the Herald has STILL NOT published anything in print or online.
Part 2, my follow-up email to the above, will be here soon.