Thursday, March 23, 2006

Daily Pulp Moves!

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The Herald's Copout

In its story on the homeless beating case today, the Herald's Nikki Waller and Sara Olkon led with sort of a Kitty Genovese approach, highlighting the fact that "several people passed up opportunities to find help and possibly save" Norris Gaynor from the baseball bat-wielding teens who killed him.

But there was only one bystander pinpointed in the story who might have actually been able to help , a "Parkland man" who witnessed part of the beating on his way to his truck after a night at bars. I can understand him not intervening -- he didn't want a baseball bat upside his head. But the fact that he saw Gaynor dying and didn't call call police for at least a day -- the Sentinel said it was a few days -- is flat-out appalling.

But here's where it gets galling. Though the Herald's story was dominated by the "Parkland man," the newspaper chose not to name him or even state his age. This despite the fact that he's in public records and will play a major role at the trial, if there is one. Why? Obviously the newspaper got cold feet. Editors must have misconstrued journalistic duty -- naming the guy -- with being insensitive or unfair to the man who let Gaynor die without telling anybody.

To get the Parkland man's name, you have to read the Sentinel's story (both were based on yesterday's release of 450 pages of discovery by prosecutors). It was 33-year-old Anthony Clarke.

What Clarke did was unconscionable. How outraged would you be if that was your loved one this guy saw pummeled and bleeding and dying and then just drove home like nothing happened? I don't know if the state's criminal negligence laws cover what he did, but at the very least he should be held up to public scrutiny. Yet the cowardly Herald let him hide under the cloak of anonymity.

The newspaper also failed to name a 16-year-old who went along for the ride with his buddies who did the beating. Again, the Sentinel did the right thing and named him, helping to earn it Story of the Day honors.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jimenez Impeaches DBR

There's an interesting little brouhaha going on between former U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez and the Daily Business Review. Reporter Julie Kay wrote a story about Jimenez's remarks concerning the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping. He mentioned the I word in regards to Dubya and has been trying to live it down ever since. You can get into the guts of the thing at The Southern District of Florida blog.

For the Love of the Game

Rushed today because I'm on deadline (yeah, I'm still trying to hold down a newspaper job myself), but I have to give the Story of the Day to Sara Olkon for her story about Tank Carter, a man who was sentenced to five years in prison for missing a court date to watch his brother play in the Super Bowl. Judge Stanton Kaplan obviously lost his mind on this ruling, but Tank says it was worth it. I couldn't agree more. He got to party with Snoop Dogg and that alone would be worth five years of anybody's life. You all know Snoop, he's the guy from that Soccer Dog movie and the Chrysler commercial. I think he used to rap, too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Kane or a Crutch?

We've been having a little fun with reporters' repititions lately, from Dan Le Batard's prediliction for repeating the same phrases to Palm Beach Post writer Leslie Gray Streeter's fancy of the word "yummy." Here's a new one:

Buddy Nevins' chronic use of the words "Jim Kane."

In a Sunday story about Congressional candidate Katherine Harris's visit to South Florida, Nevins turns to the "pollster" for his sage political wisdom. Or his nonsensical sputterings, as was the case Sunday:

"Harris's dramatic television announcement was a 'double-edged sword,' said Jim Kane, a Davie-based pollster who teaches at the University of Florida. Kane said the millions would chase away any potential opposition in the GOP primary. 'Nobody is going to run against her $10 million,' he said. 'It also tells the GOP donor world that she doesn't need their money and that puts her out there on her own. That's not good.'"

But Kane is more than a pollster and teacher. He's a lobbyist for the powerful -- and very partisan -- Forman family. There has been much written about his problematic dual roles, but that hasn't slowed down Nevins, who calls him just about every time he needs an inane quote to fill up space in his copy. A Nexis search shows that he's used Kane in 157 stories since 1998. That's one hundred and fifty seven and that verges on downright creepy. It's like a journalistic mind-meld. You can't tell where Nevins end and Kane begins.

Good Night Sunshine

Dara Kam of the Palm Beach Post does a great job today of showing how the boobs in Tallahassee are trying to put a lid on public records. This is something that should spark a lot of healthy outrage out there.

V Is For Vendetta At FLPD

I missed a great crime story in the Sentinel on Sunday (it was in the Palm Beach edition, which I have to read more often). Missy Stoddard's story about a teenaged mother who stabbed her 34-year-old boyfriend in a cheap motel is total Pulp. Stoddard knows it's all in the details, the flipping off of the photographer, the Pall Mall cigarettes, the quotes ("I told her you don't get no abortion"), and she knows how to tell a story. It's a belated Story of the Day.

And while I'm on good crime stories, I have to mention this crazy tale in the Sentinel today about a cop who tried to use the P.D. to go after his girlfriend's estranged husband. The good news: There's no evidence that he was on steroids at the time.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hippie Freaks, Evil Twins, and Dangerous Feds

Both the Herald and Sentinel sent reporters out yesterday to cover a local protest on the third anniversary of the Iraq War. And both articles, by Vanessa Blum in the Sentinel, and Shannon Pease and Carli Teproff in the Herald, seemed pretty solid, although the Herald described the protest as having "several hundred" in attendance while the Sentinel minimized it as only "about 200."

Somebody's wrong there. But it was pictures that really told the story. The Herald's photos -- both in the newspaper and on the Web -- seemed pretty representative of the protest, which featured "Raging Grannies" and plenty of political stunts. Here's one that ran in the paper:

You get a sense of the size of the thing and the passion and creativity of those involved. Then we have the Sentinel's photo that ran as the dominant art on the front of the Metro section. Check this out:

Can't you hear some jackass on the desk snickering about this one? That guy on the left looks like he just woke up after a long nap at the Spahn Ranch. Who's against the war? Crazy freaks you can't relate to dancing to Hare Krishna, that's who. And there's only five of 'em.

Gimme Some Truth
I'm starting to dig the Listening Post in the Palm Beach Post by C.B. Hanif, an editorial writer who doubles as the paper's ombudsman. It's sort of like the Earl Maucker column, only with a dab of real brains and a pinch of actual accountability.

Dead Ringers
I just had to point out Joe Kollin's story on this set of twins, one good, the other evil. The good brother named Raymond, the bad seed Raymund. It's a hoot, especially the picture, where the good one holds a picture of, well, might as well be himself. And you know that's got to be one pissed off twin, if he's willing to go public like that on his brother. Sometimes the newspaper business is just flat-0ut fun, man.

And Finally ...
Is this citizen's report about Secret Service agents training their machine guns on a bunch of suburban moms true? And, if so, why the hell haven't the dailies picked it up rather than let it be told only by a vigilant letter writer? If it did happen, and I'm assuming it did, the Bush Administration has truly got some serious bats in the belfry, or to stay true to the reality of South Florida's post-Wilma world, rats in the attic.

Whoray For Hollywood

It's known as "community journalism," but more often than not it's just pimping out reporters to governments, towns, and businesses. In the Miami Herald, it's called "Neighbors," but this weekend it should have been called "Prostitutes."

The Pulp has already gotten up in the Sentinel's grill for its horrible Sunday Community News section. On Saturday, the Herald managed to surpass the Sentinel in obsequiousness and groveling in Neighbors with a take-out on the City of Hollywood. There were a bunch of stories in the section that were nothing more than public relations articles for the city under the bylines of Herald reporters. I don't even need to get into the content of the articles. The headlines will do just fine (but if you want to see how bad they are, just click it):

"This Hollywood gets it right for residents"

"Hollywood has finally found 'its sense of place'"
(Lede: "OK, what's not to love about downtown Hollywood?")

"A sunny escape"

"HARRISON RENAISSANCE: Through efforts of the downtown Community Redevelopment Agency, Harrison Street has experienced a rebirth, bringing in new people."


Okay, you get the picture. It's a Chamber of Commerce and city government wet dream. And, alas, even reporter Todd Wright, who has been doing some of the first good stuff the Herald has run on Hollywood in years, was sucked into the seedy act.

This is nothing new for the Herald; it has performed fellatio on numerous other Broward towns in it's "Where We Live" features. Look, I know the "community news" has always been nothing but an excuse to ingratiate the newspaper with the powers-that-be, a place to pay the piper. Sometimes it's merely bad, other times its a stinking disgrace. The Herald's Saturday coverage definitely falls into the latter category. And it brings down the entire newspaper in the eyes of discerning residents. In case you didn't know it, Hollywood is practically run by lobbyists Bernie Friedman and Alan Koslow, is rife with scandals involving huge "incentives" to developers, is being investigated by the State Attorney's Office for corruption regarding its waste treatment plant, and has a police department in disarray.

People notice those kinds of thing -- and they also notice the Herald's shameful "journalism." NT writer Trevor Aaronson, who has done strong investigative work in Hollywood for more than a year, reports that he received several e-mails from residents about the Herald whitewash of the town.

Here's the text of one of them:

"I read the entire section and wondered what PR man told the reporters who to interview and what nonexistent utopian city the section was all about. One statement I particularly love from Clare Mitchel's column, "This Hollywood gets it right for residents," says "laws have been bent and rules legally altered to ease the limits of the building codes and make them flexible, using common sense." How wonderful is that?"

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
In the same newspaper as the crap above came Peter Bailey's outstanding story about Miami-Dade schools sending more than 2,000 kids to jail for minor fights and graffiti and other ticky-tack offenses. It's called zero tolerance, another term for zero brains, and not surprisingly most of the students cuffed and hauled to the hoosegow are disproportionately black. I mean, why would we want troubled students in school when we can go ahead and get them started on a life in jail. The Bailey piece, our Story of the Day, is illuminated by excellent reporting, common sense, and, unlike the the school system, possesses some real intelligence.

(More later)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Le Batard Leaks In The Pulp

I can't get serious right now. I just had a good lunch with a good source, March Madness is maddening (I just lost my first Elite 8 team, Iowa, on a last second three from the baseline), it's St. Patrick's Day, and it's the end of the damn week. Reporter folk, it's time to celebrate life a little.

So I'm gonna end this with some fun, perhaps at the expense of Miami Herald sports columnist Dan Le Batard, who I'm sure can take it (unlike a few thin-skinned, humorless weasels out there -- oh yeah, you know who you are). Anyway, you may remember Sam Eifling's little study on Le Batard's weirdly repititious use of phrases concerning Ben Wallace's afro and the 1980 Olympic hockey miracle [you can see it below].

Well, unbenowst to Eifling and the Pulp, a similar study was undertaken back in 1995 in the Miami New Times. A Pulp reader and veteran of the journalism scene remembered the piece, which was in the form of an unsigned "Best Of," and dug it up for me. It's believed to have been authored by the esteemed Tom Finkel, now editor of the New Times-owned Riverfront Times in St. Louis, and it is a thing of strange and hilarious beauty.

Dan Le Batard

On January 10, 1994, this babyfaced Herald sportswriter clambered into a literary catapult of his own making and hurled himself toward greatness. “The stink keeps seeping into sports,” he ventured in the topic sentence of a commentary about the recent assault on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, and then proceeded to find his incomparable voice, writing, “You can’t escape to these pages anymore, can’t always find quiet near the boxscores. The poison leaks in from the rest of the newspaper and next thing we know Michael Jordan’s father is dead.”

Thus was born one man’s love affair with a verb.

“The mediocrity begins at the top and trickles down, engulfing the entire Heat organization. It touches everything from the coach to the end of the bench, and it leaks into the front office, too,” Le Batard wrote less than two weeks later.

By spring the budding stylist was courageous enough to broach the gerund: “Magic Johnson is dying. The averages say he’ll be gone in about 11 years, life leaking from his body as predictably as seconds off a scoreboard clock,” he dispatched on April 10, then proceeded to turn in an even more adventurous April 22 entry: “Miami Arena was leaking now, sound being sucked out like air from a deflating balloon.”

In June Mexican soccer players competing in the World Cup “could feel the life leaking from their legs,” while December brought a high school football coach whose rage “leaks out occasionally, with a single word you wouldn’t want your children to hear” and a Dolphins special teams mentor undergoing “nearly six months of chemotherapy that made the life leak out of his body.” New Year’s Day 1995 informed us that “the game was done, clearly, but Joe Montana was behaving as if the life were leaking out of him.”

And only then was Le Batard truly ready. A January 19 article that began with the greatest single sentence in Miami Herald history (“He could barely walk, this strong man the Dallas Cowboys needed to run”) built to this corker: “And just when you thought Emmitt Smith didn’t have an ounce of emotion remaining in his body, just when you thought he had spent everything on the field, you noticed he had a little something left. It came leaking from both eyes.”

He would polish that particular gem in a March 13 epic about golfer Mark O’Meara’s caddie: “‘Yes,’ he screamed, and then he threw his arms skyward, too, so much joy rushing through him that he couldn’t keep it all inside. It came leaking out both eyes.”

No more could possibly be wrought, you say? Wrong. April 16 was occasion for a paean to Glen Rice’s 56-point effort against the Orlando Magic: “And when it was done, when he made that last long jumper...Rice could no longer keep all the joy inside him. It leaked out in a burst, right on the court.”
We say write on, Danny Boy. Let ’er drip!"

You Have The Right To Remain Juiced

Yesterday we learned from the Sentinel that slain cop Todd Fatta had anabolic steroids in his system when he was gunned down. Also yesterday, the Herald's Charles Rabin told us of the bust of a Miami cop for buying and selling steroids and the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis.

Today, the Sentinel's Peter Franceschina writes about 13 West Palm Beach police officers who were getting 'roids from the same place as Fatta: An online dealer called PowerMedica. BSO has already cleared at least eight deputies who were scoring 'roids from PowerMedica. PBSO investigated four deputies and slapped a couple of them on the wrist. It's outrageous -- and to understand how local law enforcement agencies are justifying it, you have to read Franceschina's strong explanatory piece (the Story of the Day), which was inexplicably buried on page 5B in the Broward edition.

Note to Sentinel editors: Broward County is interested in Palm Beach news when it's this good. So is Miami for that matter. We don't live in such narrowly defined boxes as you seem to think.

(More Later)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Never Trust A Guy Named Molehead

Palm Beach Post reporter Rochelle E.B. Gilken reminds us why we should all wish to be put on the Belle Glade beat. I mean where else would a mayoral candidate get arrested for trying to keep some hothead named "Molehead" from harassing his daughter? On election night, no less. It's a real place for real people and today Gilken did a wonderful job telling us about it.

In the Can
Malcolm English is back and this time he's calling B.S. on the Pulp's own turf. Here's what he, or perhaps she, says:

"You seem to get a great deal of pleasure reporting the gaffes by South Florida's major daily newspapers. Well, here's one a little closer to home. This missive was part of your New Times' "Tailpipe" column. (It's an unsigned "news" column, but that's an issue for the media ethicists to debate.)

New Times writes: 'Yes, except that at 12:30 p.m. on February 26, 2006, another woman was raped at FAU, the circumstances of the assault suspiciously similar to the first. This time the crime alert was emailed to the student body two days after the fact.'

Trouble is, Mr. Norman, there WAS NO RAPE. The cops declared it a hoax and knew it was such from the beginning. This is the exact kind of mistake that you chide the dailies for making, yet New Times--which doesn't even have the strain of daily deadlines -- can't get it right. It will be interesting to see if you have the guts to post this on The Daily Pulp. To not post it would be hypocritical."

So there it is: Proof that I'm no hypocrite. As for the newspaper, it posted an update to Tailpipe today on the Internet. To wit:

"As New Times went to press Tuesday, Tailpipe learned of a breaking development in the FAU rape case: According to an e-mail from FAU President Brogan, sent at 5:30 p.m., the February 26 rape never happened. 'It became clear to the investigators that the reported sexual assault never occurred,' Brogan noted.

The Palm Beach Post reported that the alleged victim of the rape admitted to police that the intercourse was consensual, FAU Chief of Police Will Ferrell said."

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Our New Leader
Daunte Culpepper hasn't even padded up yet for the Dolphins, but he's already doing the Miami double-talking two-step. He did nothing wrong and, for that, he is sorry.

An Error For The Books
Sorry I'm so late with this, since it ran on Sunday, but I haven't found the space for it until now and I'm betting most of your Broward and Miami-Dade folk haven't seen it. It's an explanation of a really strange Palm Beach Post error and correction over the headline, "Colleagues joshed while chief lay dying." Well, Martin County fire battalion chief Charles "Chip" O'Hara's friends and co-workers weren't really joking around while he was succumbing to injuries from a boating accident. At least the newspaper now says they weren't. With such a horrendous error, I'm with the reader on this one. It's not enough to say you're wrong. How the hell did it happen?

Sentinel Scoop

Didn't get to post yesterday afternoon due to actual work. So for the first time, didn't get to post a story of the day. I'll atone for that later, but first let's jump into today's top story, written by Sentinel reporters Vanessa Blum and Paula McMahon.

They report for the first time that BSO deputy Todd Fatta had anabolic steroids in his system when he was shot down by a terrible scumbag named Kenneth Wilk during a raid on a home in Fort Lauderdale.

Cops pumped up on steroids -- a society's nightmare. I've known people on steroids who say it made them ten times more aggressive. A bouncer once told me in vivid detail how the things made him want to crack skulls -- and he said he did so on a regular basis at the club where he worked. Wilk seems guilty as hell, but the revelation will undoubtedly play on a jury's mind, as will the chaotic nature of the raid itself.

Hats off to Blum and McMahon. My only question: Why the hell wasn't this on the front page? And why is it next to impossible to find it on the Sentinel web site?

Driving Down
Herald reporter Jennifer Lebovich did an outstanding job on this story about a woman who took matters into her own hands. Which were on her own steering wheel. The woman, named Suze Telfort, became so frustrated in traffic that she slammed into a bunch of other cars to get onto Federal Hwy in Fort Lauderdale.

Unfortunately for the woman, an FBI agent and insurance investigator were in the area to make sure she was taken down. I just really dug the way Lebovich wrote the thing, so much so that I was inspired to drive to Telfort's house to follow the story. There, I met Telfort's husband, who said he worked in the "defense industry." The man was highly distraught and seriously disturbed. At one point, he reflexively referred to me as "Bob," and that really angered him.

"Why am I calling you by your first name? I don't know you. I call my boss 'mister' after years, but I walk in here, a stranger ... and I' m calling you Bob like we' re in an AA meeting. I don't want to be your buddy, Bob. I just want a little breakfast."

Breakfast? I knew nothing about any breakfast. He rambled on.

"Take me, for instance. You know what I thought paradise was? Making babies. Ain't that a kick? Making babies."

I realized I was in the presence of a very sick man at this point. I sort of stammered something and he came right back at me.

"You come to my country, take my money, and don't even have the grace to learn how to speak the language?"

I tried to bring the conversation back to his wife, who was in jail at the time. Then he just said, in utter disbelief, "I'm the bad guy? How did that happen." It was time to go. Thankfully, he let me snap this photo of him before I left.

And Lastly ...

The Sentinel still has Larry Masters prominently displayed on its website as being a 51-year-old man who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, when he was 14 years-old. I don't think they realize that the longer they keep it up, the more insulting it is to real veterans out there.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Visible Lies

No wonder Larry Masters is homeless. The poor fellow was sent off to Vietnam to become a “tunnel rat” -- one of the most dangerous and traumatic duties in that horrible war -- when he was just 14-years-old.

Or maybe, just maybe, he duped the Sun-Sentinel in one of the most common tricks played on reporters: The ol' fake Vietnam Vet con.

A sharp Palm Beach Post reporter gave the Pulp the heads-up on a slight discrepancy in photographer Robert Mayer's homeless photo gallary, titled Invisible Lives, that was published in the Sunday paper. Larry Masters, who is 51 years-old, told this story:

“I'm a Vietnam veteran. I served from 1969 to 1971. I was a tunnel rat because I'm small. But I got out in '71. I came home, and I messed up. Then, I met my wife and we moved down here. … I worked in roofing, carpentry and [Hurricane] Andrew and all that. I made money, I got us a house, and we lived together."My wife, she went out and she got on dope, so then she was ripping off dope dealers. … They gave her some corrosion off a battery of a car. She had a brain hemorrhage, and she died. It ruined my life. …"

It's an interesting story, but if he’s telling the truth, he went to Vietnam at 14 and left the jungle at 16 as a grizzled veteran. Either Masters got his own age wrong, or he's lying about his service in Vietnam. The Pulp is putting its money on the latter. And there are few things that piss off real Vietnam vets more than a poser.

You sort of expect this kind of thing if you're a reporter. In fact, my editor didn't believe it the day it came out and told me so. Neither of us noticed the date discrepancy -- but you'd think the Sentinel would have done it before so prominently publishing Masters' story.