I'm following up on my angry blog post of yesterday morning bemoaning and hectoring the two local South Florida newspapers -Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel- that insist -or is it persist?- in claiming that they're STILL major dailies, for their consistent lack of backbone and commitment to hard news coverage locally or nationally, by way of offering you three videos featuring South Florida's first TV news anchor and journalism icon, Ralph Renick.
For 36 years Renick's distinctive voice was the defining voice of Miami-area journalism and public policy, and for most of those years, he was the most well-known, most-recognized and most-respected man in all of South Florida. (Compare to now.)
Ralph Renick was a smart and shrewd man and cleverly used that power he'd earned over those many years in many very positive ways to help guide a somewhat-isolated and sometimes-youthful and unruly South Florida, towards becoming a more civic-minded place to live and work.
To not accept a poor work ethic and mediocrity and insist on high ideals in politicians and government officials so that when those standards sagged, they knew that he would goad them or go after them.
Renick was not only a man who anchored and reported on the news, but someone who, when he actually showed-up at a government or political event around the area, actually made that event news itself, and always caused a stir when he showed-up.
His being there made it news, and something that you would mention to other people the next day at work or school, back before you could immediately Tweet or blog about it with a photo to boot.
That trust and respect Renick earned came from being very demanding of himself and of the people at the TV station he was so widely identified with, which had a very positive national reputation within the TV news industry, too.
His influence on the reporters, producers and writers he hired and molded was profound, and since his general renown in the area, plus his status as station news director, which was and is very, very unusual, gave him lots of natural advantages that other stations couldn't compete with, like being able to groom young reporters in his serious image, but with their faces and talents, he could keep the standards very high, which only served to give the people who worked there a very real sense of well-earned satisfaction.
There's a reason that people like myself who grew-up or who lived here in the '70's can still remember the names of the field reporters at that station, and that is because they were very talented and worked very hard and didn't cut the corners on quality.
And, in many cases, were so good that many of them wound up working as national reporters for CBS News.
That these traits were also his traits only caused that station to hum in ways that most TV news operations never ever do.
For almost every month that Renick was the anchor, his 6 and 11 p.m. thirty-minute newscasts were the number-one newscast in the market, and the fact that he also did his trademark civics-minded editorials before signing-off and the intro to the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite or Dan Rather, gave his newscasts an extra heft and punch that the three others couldn't match for most of his reign, even with talented people in place there, too.
August 25, 1982 Ralph Renick editorial on WTVJ-4, Miami, on the filming of Scarface in South Florida. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyuJGHrjbRY
I guess what I'm trying to say here today, is that when I talk here on the blog about news reporting and journalism, and doing things the right way, what most stands in contrast to how things are now is that Ralph Renick wasn't just a newsman's newsman, he was an attitude.
A professional arms-length relationship with people and personalities in the news.
I don't want anchors and reporters to be pals and chums with elected officials or Dolphin or Heat players or head coaches, and playing in their charity golf or tennis outings, I want them hungry to keep them honest and above board.
That's an attitude that I and many of my friends seldom see in this TV market now, despite amazing technological innovations that make their jobs easier, and which ought to make it easier as well to tell compelling stories in new and original ways.
But it isn't happening, especially at the newspapers, where things only seem to be getting worse quality-wise.
Renick's last newscast for WTVJ was in March, 1985. He died in June of 1991. http://youtu.be/aCVUJmoBN1M
Honestly, I never feel older than when I think about how influential Renick's newscasts were on me and my friends as kids growing-up in NMB in the 1970's, and our way of looking at South Florida and what it could be someday if only...
And naturally, I can't help but wish that this area now had more people who took their jobs as reporters or govt. officials or community leaders as least as seriously as I want them to take it -and as seriously as Ralph Renick took his big responsibilities- not only for myself, but also so that kids growing-up down here now would know that there are some people here entrusted with power and influence who really take their positions seriously, and don't cut corners and compromise on ethical standards and behavior, so that frivolity and excess are not always shown as the easiest way to go through life.
I want more serious, hard news coverage of local news and so does everyone I know and respect.
In the year 2013, it's fair to ask, "Where's the quality 24/7 Miami/FTL local news cable channel we need and deserve?"
"May the good news be yours..."
My previous four or five blog posts that mention Ralph Renick can be found here: