Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 18, 2016

South Florida Journalism in 2016: The ever-expanding gulf between what the South Florida press corps offers up and the quality, local-centric news coverage the South Florida public craves, has never been as large as now; Margaret Sullivan gives as good as she gets in her final NY Times Public Editor column that hits out against elite/institutional bias

South Florida Journalism in 2016: The ever-expanding gulf between what the South Florida press corps offers up and the quality, local-centric news coverage the South Florida public craves, has never been as large as now; Margaret Sullivan gives as good as she gets in her final NY Times Public Editor column that hits out against elite/institutional bias
Revised April 21, 2016 at 3:15 p.m.

As most of you longtime readers of Hallandale Beach Blog know well by now -but which you newer readers don't, especially those of you who have only discovered me the past two years via my tweets @hbbtruth- I started this blog in 2007, largely out of a fit of frustration and anger at the self-evident failure and lack of individual/collective effort I saw on a daily basis by the South Florida news media. Specifically, its collective failure to evolve from what it once was -home to nationally-respected who were in some cases some of the best and most-dogged investigative news sleuths in the country.
It's why so many of them eventually wound up at the then-three national U.S. TV networks and the fledgling CNN when that cablenet debuted.

My complaint, summed-up, was that the South Florida's press corps' failed to build upon this track record, and failed to expand its level of news coverage of public policy and local government in ways that readers/viewers clearly wanted to see and rather expected.

Though I was born in San Antonio, Texas a few years before, my family arrived in Miami from Memphis when I was seven years old in the Summer of 1968, the day after Miami Dolphins #1 Draft pick Larry Csonka of Syracuse signed with the Dolphins.
As everyone who knows me then or now can tell you, I have been a devout news, sports and public affairs junkie ever since then.
But the difference between then and now is that when I was growing-up in South Florida in the '70's, there was an All-News AM radio station, WINZ AM 940 that was a CBS News affiliate and provided lots of news reportes to new York, especially those covering weather, immigration and the Sapce Shuttle.

That has NOT been the case in several decades, nor has there been even one attempt by anyone to lay the groundwork for a Local News Cable channel of the sort that has existed in many media markets throughout thsi country, including some smaller than South Florida's.

Why has COMCAST, long the dominant cable provider in South Florida, utterly failed to deliver on that potential? Well, you know who never asks?
The South Florida news media themselves, including the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
If you want to waste an hour, try going thru their newspaper archives and try to find a single story about the subject in the past 20 years.
That's the sort of media area South Florida is.

That's made worse because with my crazy accurate memory, I've been able to recall  at the drop of a hat the names of individual reporters and anchors at local TV/radio stations and reporters and editors at the Miami Herald and the late Miami News -that I spent so much time at as a High School student- and the individual beats their reporters covered and owned .
And the important news stories they broke or gave much-needed historical context to when it really mattered to residents of South Florida, NOT after-the-fact months later in some investigative piece clearly designed to win journalism awards, NOT keep South Florida properly informed.

I still have an institutional memory of what those people were able to do with much less in the way of resources and technology than the current crew of South Florida journalists have and take for granted, for whatever reasons.
That doesn't just rankle, it makes me cringe, because so much of what I regularly consume from local South Florida media isn't just parochial but even shallower than the above ground swimming pools that once seemed to dominate South Florida and North Miami Beach in the 1970's.

And that means that getting to the heart of some of the endemic and unique problems of South Florida, much less their possible solutions, are one day farther away than they need to be for our community's long-term sake.

Over the past nine years that I have been writing this blog, a recurring theme here has been the cleavage between what the South Florida news media believes is perfectly acceptable in terms of effort and end product for news consumers, and what the public wants and expects from them. 

A graph where X never meets Y.

Over the years, the insufficient level of individual and collective effort expended by the South Florida press corps and the dominant English-language news outlets has only gnawed away at me and other well-informed observers I know and trust, as we are continually see both individual reporter bias, institutional lack of historical knowledge and lack of torpedo every well-intentioned effort to make local South Florida residents better informed about their community and the state that is now the third-largest in the country.

We see the growing gap between what the public expects from print/TV reporters and columnists and TV Assignment Editors and News Directors, in the form of interesting and compelling ways to cover local news, and what is actually presented to us as readers and viewers, as the very seeds for our area's growing technology and information gap.
A growing class and income chasm that won't be made smaller by simply pretending that it doesn't exist.

These same national trends are regularly and correctly decried in Washington as harmful to the nation's future and economic vitality when presented calmly as facts by politicians of varying political persuasions and august public interest groups with demonstrated track records for being non-partisan, but somehow, closer to home, these same problems are largely ignored when they are pointed out by people like myself and other public observers in South Florida who want this community to be MUCH BETTER than it is,.
Even when we use self-evident facts and the news media's own track record as our opening and closing arguments.

It's not exactly a secret that compared to the rest of the country, South Florida's relative youth historically -the City of Miami not being founded until 1897- and large and ever-growing population of Northeastern and Midwestern transplants whose history and allegiances remain elsewhere years after they've moved here, has always worked against the long-term interests of South Florida institutions, civic groups and foundations, even ones who profess laudable societal goals and do try to show some spirit and verve.

But this also means these groups are NOT front-of-mind and front-and-center when it comes to focusing the community's attention on problems the way similar groups are elsewhere in the country.
It's not an excuse, merely a reflection of history and common knowledge, borne of experience living in and growing-up in South Florida.
But at some point, these same groups current unwillingness to point out the problems at hand and suggesting tangible solutions, has to be called out, and I will be doing just that in a future post with some energy and enthusiasm that I know will surprise and anger many with its ferocity and focus.

So be it!

My blog has never been interested in carrying the water for South Florida's elites or well-off.
#disrupt

But as it concerns today's theme of journalistic lack of effort in South Florida, it's hard to shake the notion that many of these civic groups ansd foundations, so dependent upon the South Florida news media for positive attention and charity dollars when they can get it, seem to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy denying self-evident problem in large part  because of whose oxen may well need to be gored. (Or is it a case of being afraid to bite the hand that feeds them?) 
The South Florida news media's.

To me and many of the people I regularly speak with and confide in here in South Florida and throughout the Sunshine State -even many reporters, editors, columnists and TV anchors whose names are known instantly to many of you- the gulf in South Florida between what is possible in local journalism because of advances in technology that make it easier than ever to report accurately and in real-time, has, unfortunately, never seemed so large as at it does at present.

This is made all the worse by what takes place everyday with the two largest South Florida-based daily newspapers, McClatchy's Miami Herald and the Tribune Company's South Florida Sun-Sentinel, both of whom are and have been going in the wrong direction from readers desires for far too many years.


Since the majority of my focus on this blog, despite my 1,001 other interests and passions, has always been what is happening in South Florida -for good or for bad and why- I write to day to share some much-needed wisdom from a trusted source I have long depended upon, even while never mentioning her previously: Margaret Sullivan, the departing New York Times Public Editor.
At the end of her term as the the Reader's Ombudsman, just as was true throughout when she never hesitated to challenge long-established Times icons and the Times' often counter-intuitive ways of thinking about the larger public interest, Margaret Sullivan gives as good as she gets.

As I have remarked here many times in the past with fact-filled blog post and copies of letters to the Miami Herald's management, the Herald never replaced their Ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, after he left for NPR. And they consciously ignored many of the common sense suggestions he made about journalists.

That includes his April 25, 2010 column, Reporter-columnists tread fine line with readers' trust about the need for journalists to publicly come out to readers as one one thing or the other, i.e. not being both reporter AND columnist, because of the damage that such dual roles can cause to perceived bias and credibility with readers.

The Herald ignored that advice when it came to dealing with both Beth Reinhard and later, Marc CaputoIf you want a copy of that column, just write me and ask for a copy.
It's not been available at the Herald's website for many years.

To see how indifferent the Herald's management was to reader perceptions of bias or unfairness, take a poke at my blog post from May 21 of 2012 titled, 
"What's going on at the Miami Herald? More than a year after the last one fled, the Herald still lacks an Ombudsman -and shows no sign of getting one- to represent readers deep concerns about bias, misrepresentation and flackery on behalf of South Florida's powerful & privileged at the Herald. And that's just one of many unresolved problems there..." 

See also, among many others to choose from:

11/12/10 - A day in the life of McClatchy's Miami Herald, as viewed by a reader who's largely given up on them fixing their problems, or surviving long-term
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/day-in-life-of-mcclatchys-miami-herald.html

12/21/11- 
For another consistently lousy year of journalism at the Miami Herald, esp. covering Broward County, more lumps of coal in the Christmas stocking of One Herald Plaza -Part 1

8/13/13 - Former Miami Herald Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos -whose position at the Herald remains unfilled 27 months later by McClatchy execs- as NPR's Ombudsman, lays the wood into NPR's Laura Sullivan & Amy Walters for a 2011 investigation re foster care in South Dakota, which officials there took umbrage with, and for good reason it seems. “My finding is that the series was deeply flawed and should not have been aired as it was”

I hasten to add that this was also during the McClatchy era when the Herald ran a multi-weeks old story about Donald Trump in the "Breaking News" section of the Herald's Broward homepage on Monday December 19th, 2011 at 11:21 p.m.
And there it stayed for days...
Really. :-(

Margaret Sullivan's final column from last Friday is a column of pure gold, for it has much that the South Florida press corps could and SHOULD learn from in the way of perceived reporter/editorial/institutional bias, attention to accuracy and willingness to publicly admit mistakes.

I highly commend it to you and ask you to consider sharing it with others you know in South Florida and throughout the Sunshine State who think as I (we) do -that South Florida and the rest of the state would be much better off with a fully-engaged and curious press corps year-round, not the one we have had for years that habitually takes a Summer slumber or vacation come mid-June, never to be seen again until after Labor Day, no matter how important the story.

New study by "the American Press Institute - almost no one trusts the media. The report found that just six percent of Americans have a great amount of confidence in the press.  To put that into perspective, the API ‘s study showed that Americans trust only Congress less than the media. Other organizations that the public has more confidence in than journalists: banks, organized religion, the Supreme Court, and the military.  The number one reason people mistrust the media is that they found reports one-sided or biased. Following closely behind was that readers found something factually inaccurate. Interestingly, respondents to the API report said that how a media outlet responds to inaccurate reports is extremely important.  “Several focus group participants said they do not expect news sources to be perfect and how a source reacts to errors can actually build trust,” stated the report. “Several people said that owning up to mistakes and drawing attention to errors or mistakes can show consumers that a source is accountable and dedicated to getting it right in the long term.” 
On the heels of this not-at-all surprising survey comes this great rear-view column from Sullivan, soon-to-be the Washington Post's new media columnist.




New York Times
The Public Editor's Journal - Margaret Sullivan  
Five Things I Won’t Miss at The Times — and Seven I Will  By Margaret Sullivan 
April 15, 2016 10:00 am 
April 15, 2016 10:00 am
While preparing to leave the public editor’s office and move to Washington, I’ve been getting together in recent weeks with some people I’ve met while living in New York. One was Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, who asked me over lunch what columns I planned to do before I left. I tossed it back to him, asking what he would like to read, and he suggested I take up “what I love and what I hate about The New York Times.”
This guy’s definitely got a future as an editor! I decided to tweak his idea, with a nod to Nora Ephron’s list from her book, “I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections.” (Of all the people I wish I had been able to meet in New York, she tops the list.)
Read the rest of her great post at:
http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/15/five-things-i-wont-miss-at-the-times-and-seven-i-will/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Opinion&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body&_r=1

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Me in the Summer of 2016

Me in the Summer of 2016
Above, me in June, pre-recent haircut, near acres and acres of orange groves off Scenic U.S. #17 in Frostproof, FL, while visiting hot/humid Central Florida, which I'm convinced is where heat/humidity goes in the Summer to get away from it all... The oppressive heat & humidity there is literally everywhere you go. :-(

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation

In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation
"In the Heart of a Great Country, Beats the Soul of Hoosier Nation." -South Beach Hoosier, 2007.

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers

North Miami Beach Senior High School, the Home of the Chargers
Before I was a Hoosier, I was an NMB Charger, Class of 1979.