The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's vending machine outside Hollywood City Hall
My fact-filled email to a Sun-Sentinel reporter sheds long-overdue light on the behavior of both Florida state Sen. Eleanor Sobel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's sloppy and incurious brand of journalism, and how both negatively affect Broward residents; After today, I give up on the Sun-Sentinel until the Tribune Co. sell it off to someone savvy enough to give beleaguered Broward residents the quality newspaper they deserve, not more of the same old unsatisfactory status quo that is so gallingWhat follows is a copy of an overdue email that I sent Friday afternoon to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Specifically, Tallahassee-based reporter Kathleen Haughney, with cc's to Dana Barker, the Sun-Sentinel Broward metro editor, Rosemary Goudreau, their Editorial page editor, Douglas Lyons, senior editorial writer and columnist, and columnist Gary Stein.
Also receiving it was columnist Michael Mayo and reporter Susannah Bryan, who currently has Hallandale Beach and Hollywood as part of her beat.
I've been waiting, semi-patiently, since Tuesday afternoon to send it off, get it out of my system and finally cross it off of my long list of Draft emails that are going to be dropping around South Florida like little mini-explosions over the next few weeks.
Mostly, though, I waited to see if someone else in Broward County noticed any of the same curious and troubling things that I caught right away when I saw the article shortly after it went online Monday night.
As I fully expected, nope!
Not that the Miami Herald has anything to brag about in any of this, either, since they've ben just as asleep at the wheel.
All matters of great concern to me and many of you that I've written about with lots of skepticism, anger and incredulity over the years when comparing what appeared in-print and online in the Sun-Sentinel, and what they should've been doing to get the true facts and context out about the reality of what has been going on in thsi area for many, many years, most of them bad.
Trust me, it was very liberating to do and my birthday gift to myself.
Per "Lawmakers criticize Hollywood for financial problems"
news/broward/hollywood/fl- hollywood-audit-under-review- 20130211,0,4665582.story
So, where to start with your article?
Hmm-m... I'll start with the most obvious mistake - lawmakers, as in plural.
Not due to you personally, obviously, but a problem all the same since the only lawmaker -singular- that you actually mention by name in your article is Eleanor Sobel, someone with a demonstrated history of NOT caring so much about what things cost, especially when she can try to use her influence to get them from taxpayers.
(See the bopttom of this post for the proof of that.)
You also never mention the name of the joint panel that heard the testimony, the nine-member Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, or mention or quote ANY of its members by name, even those from South Florida or Broward.
Sort of relevant, don't you think?
Especially in an article headlined mistakenly with the word lawmakers?
Three of the committee's nine members are from Broward or Miami-Dade -state Reps Daphne Campbell and Cynthia Stafford from Miami and state Senator Jeremy Ring of Northwest Broward- and yet somehow, for whatever reasons, you couldn't find them or an unbiased legislator to quote, just Sobel?
Sort of curious, don't you think?
But even more egregiously as far as the actual truth is concerned -and reader's understanding of the story- is the fact that you NEVER mention anywhere in your article that Eleanor Sobel is NOT even on that Joint Committee, despite your quoting her.
I already knew Sobel wasn't on it, and spent 25 minutes on the phone yesterday talking to the Committee's staff on how it is that Sobel came to be there in the room, let alone speak on the matter, but you just let readers assume she was allowed to be there as both the original complainant and a sort of pseudo-judge who got to ask questions of the very people she
complained about, which would strike most people as a clear conflict-of-interest.
And how is it, exactly, that you NEVER actually quote ANYONE who's an actual voting member of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee that was holding the meeting?
Yes, that's more than a little curious, and God forbid you actually place a link in the article to the meeting's info pack given how little facts and context you actually provide
As for the context phase of the story, or rather the lack of it, you utterly fail to mention the salient fact that it was members of the Hollywood Police and Fire unions, past supporters of Sobel's, who were the two interest groups that were most adversely affected by the various financials moves the city had to make, however clumsily.
To this day, many of them still won't stop complaining and bitching about the overwhelming vote by Hollywood taxpayers against THEM, to show the two unions that notwithstanding whatever moves were made at City Hall, there was, in fact, a finite limit to the sense of entitlement that these employees were allowed to feel via Hollywood taxpayers' wallets and purses.
Which is precisely why Sobel brought the complaint forward in the first place -to carry their water and stay on their good side prior to last November's election.
Nobody-but-nobody believes Eleanor Sobel genuinely cared one whit about any of that budget melodrama until she realized that there was a mutuality of interests between her and the unions before the election, and most well-informed people in Hollywood I know and respect would suggest that everything else being equal, it probably wasn't even originally her idea to file the complaint, but rather one "suggested" to her by a little bird.
You may think otherwise, of course, but one of the prevailing opinions about Sobel among well-informed citizens who are actually paying attention and hip to her past antics and practices is that Sobel is utterly without guile, besides not always being the brightest bulb, and totally transparent to a fare-thee-well.
But now that I think about it, "obvious" is probably a much-better description of her than "transparent," because Sobel was certainly anything but transparent or responsive when she was repeatedly asked by residents of SE Broward and news reporters to declare where all that mysterious "outside money" came from in her first FL Senate campaign in 2008, which proceeded to use it to malign, libel or otherwise bitch-slap anyone who ever looked at Eleanor Sobel so much as cross-eyed.
I knew as much in 2006 when I personally observed Sobel displaying her trademark gall by standing-up and trying to speak into a microphone before a Hallandale Beach City Commission meeting started, and because she's pals with Mayor Joy Cooper, she was allowed to make a partisan plug for herself at a govt. facility full of people gathered there to conduct govt. business -the meeting- to get signatures for a petition to get her name on the ballot without paying the S.O.E.
Not signatures for a charity for kids or pets or something else, but rather for herself.
Sobel then proceeded to ignore any notions of normal decorum while the City Commission meeting was going on when she worked the aisles to get signatures on her clipboard.
I just looked at her, aghast, when finally she got to me.
This, of course, was back when Sobel pretended that she really, really cared about education and kids' futures and wanted to be on the Broward School Board.
It was common knowledge that she only wanted the School Board gig, a govt. job with little heavy lifting, while she waited for bombastic state Senator Steve Geller's term-limited seat to open.
And that's what it was, wasn't it?
After watching that exhibition of narcissism that night in HB, nothing she ever did or said afterwards surprised me
And seriously, tell me again why it is that more than three months after-the-fact, after the City of Hollywood has already taken Jeff Marano and the Broward PBA to court for breaking Hollywood's voter-approved campaign finance law, which the Broward PBA completely trampled in order to get its favored candidates elected, as if their illegal efforts were always their plan, and that any associated court costs, if any, were just the cost of doing business, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has still yet to mention this litigation even ONCE, much less, reported on the latest activities?
Not even once.
No articles, no columns, nothing in the Broward Politics blog and certainly no editorials.
You call that journalism?
I hope that you and your colleagues at the newspaper can manage to be considerably more accurate with the facts and include more useful context the rest of 2013, and that your editors can better manage their self-evident biases, or else it's going to be a very, very long year for the Sun-Sentinel readers who have chosen to remain readers instead of bailing-out because of their continuing disappointment with the current state and direction of the newspaper.
By the way, since I'm sure you've noticed, I've chosen to include other people in this cc, not because I think they care at all about hearing more about Sobel, so much as the fact that some of them were (and continue to be) completely oblivious and complicit the last few years in not only self-evident factual scre
The fact is that your paper has even endorsed one of the worst offenders.
Despite my best efforts and taking the time and effort to educate them via email about the nature of those problems, those managers and editors have consciously avoided, ignored or acted oblivious to the facts-on-the-ground that citizens here could and can see with their own eyes.
Instead of being enterprising and rising to the occasion, the Sun-Sentinel collectively and those people individually, chose not to respond when it really mattered -or since.
Which is why I've consistently posted my fact-filled criticisms of the newspaper and them personally on my blog, so others would be just as well-informed about the facts and their identities as I am.
October 30, 2012
October 29, 2012
October 17, 2012
August 14, 2012
Today's email then is not directed at you individually, per se, so much as you just happen to be the very last straw after dozens of similar fact patterns, ones that don't seem intent on presenting the whole story to residents of this area who want all the facts.
I've been consistent about wanting facts, context and honesty to matter even while your newspaper continues showing a type of consistency of a completely different sort, and one that is chasing its few remaining readers away.
At this point, in my opinion, the best thing that can happen for concerned residents of Broward is for the Tribune Company to sell the Sun-Sentinel to a group led by someone smart and savvy enough to know that the only way that the paper can ever hope to make any money and be truly relevant and of value to readers in the future is by giving intelligent readers more of what they want.
Someone who will cut out the saturation of fluff and dead stories that makes people so reluctant to buy the paper because they think the whole thing can be read in less than five minutes.
Readers want more in-depth stories on local government and agencies, more/better reporters who are genuinely curious and self-motivated, don't take things for granted and who actually hustle to create a broad array of resources in the community to turn to and quote, instead of relying on the same old familiar cadre of suspects making the same old blandishments.
Clear-cut the deadwood that doesn't seem to aspire to more than banal, and who perpetually want to be begged to show-up to cover the news, and then, seem to want the public to be grateful if they DO show-up.
Since that isn't going to happen in the next few months, I'm going to make things much easier for myself and simply pull the plug on the Sun-Sentinel and give up on thinking there's any logical reason for me or any of my well-informed, civic-minded friends to contact anyone there about anything at all, when it's like spitting into the wind.
I'll start on that later today by posting this on my blog, sending links to it to the circle of people I know locally and around the state who've come to trust my judgment from experience, and then, I'll start deleting every single Tribune/Sun-Sentinel email address I have on my computer.
(So, there's no point in you or anyone in that cc field responding to this, since it'll just go straight to spam. It's a little late to be concerned now.)
After all, you can't wake people up who are pretending to be asleep, and I and so many people I know who wanted this city and that paper to be much-better than they are, are tired of pretending that anything we say or do is going to change things at the Sun-Sentinel until that new owner eventually comes in and starts making BIG changes in personnel and employee attitudes.