Friday, February 10, 2006

Credit Is Due

No question the Pulp is focused on the Sentinel, the Herald, and the Palm Beach Post. But there are a whole lot of other publications in South Florida and the Pulp, unlike the often myopic and arrogant Big Three, isn't going to ignore them. You have a lot of quality journalists out there, many of whom simply don't fit into the often colorless, official, corporate world of the MSM.

I could go on and on about the New Times, for instance, but since this isn't a navel-gazing operation, I won't. Suffice it to say, the Big Three often, um, borrow our stories without attribution. (Actually, I'm not sure that is has happened so much with the Post, so I'll call it the Big Two for now). Look at the Daily Business Review, which routinely busts out news that the Big Two habitually rip off. Reporter Julie Kay is one of the cogs of that machine. Check out the Sentry in Pompano, where Ross Shulmister (pictured left) and JP Bender (forebears to the legendary Ed Foley and his Ledger) are continually calling out the powers-that-be on their ridiculous shenanigans. Even the Plantation Forum, one of those Sentinel-owned community rags known more as a Chamber-of-Commerce vehicles, has been doing a good job covering the city's union-busting tactics against paramedics. (Please send in other examples of good "small journalism" in town if you have them).

But today the Pulp especially honors the Broward Times, which is the best black newspaper in Broward County (see this about its ridiculous rival, the Westside Gazette). The BT's star reporter, Elgin Jones, runs circles around your average daily newspaper reporter. The man is relentless and resourceful as all get-out, a walking primer on the power of will. He's sparked a handful of State Attorney's Office investigations and turned upside-down the City of Fort Lauderdale. He's always controversial, from his mostly right-wing political views to his eternal muckraking. I could write for a week about Jones, so I'll leave it for the curious to look him up on the Internets, as our commander-in-thief calls it.

As it happens, our Story of the Day comes from Jones, who filed an excellent report about Davie this morning. The article is so hot, it's not even on the Internets yet, so I'll link it as soon as possible. It's another Chris Kovanes-related ditty, but it focuses on Town Attorney Monroe Kiar, who did legal work for one of the accused embezzler's shell companies. Jones dug deep and found out that Kiar has also done legal work for a company owned by city councilwoman Lisa Hubert. Here's what Hubert told Jones: "I paid him [Kiar] that work and I only wanted an attorney I could trust."

Yes, and, good for her, it was also an attorney with whom she holds sway over hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay. I wonder if that has anything to do with why Kiar has been so zealously supporting Hubert in her reelection campaign and got into a news-making fracas with her opponent, Bryan Caletka.

A note to the Sentinel and Herald: Please try to cite the Broward Times when you follow the story. It's the right thing to do.

This Just In: Jim Mullin, former editor of Miami New Times, can't catch a break. After the Teele controversy in Miami, he heads to San Luis Obispo New Times (which, oddly, isn't owned by NT/Village Voice) and immediately stirs up a hornet's nest by publishing a "how-to" story about crystal meth. Here's his apology, which was just posted on Romenesko.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good small publication is the Boca News. It's almost healed from the Heller days. John Johnston and Dale King are workhorses.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Earl M. said...

What you don't mention is that the Sentinel and Herald steal from each other every day. Get over it.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Whitey Fraud said...

Hey, how about that Jim Mullin!

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob,

I wholeheartedly support freedom of the press. The press should be so free that it makes me uncomfortable. That whole cliche about making the powerful uncomfortable and comforting the afflicted and all that. Also, I raised my right hand and swore to die if necessary to defend the freedom of others to say and do things I find obnoxious and repugnant.

But, I'll tell you what, with freedom comes responsibility.

On May 30, my best friend west of the Mississippi took his favorite heirloom hunting rifle, stuck it under his chin and pulled the trigger.

Sean Patrick Wetmore was a wonderful, wonderful man. An Irish-American with that Irish wit, a lightweight boxer's build and blue eyes that seemed to sparkle as much as his ready smile.

He was a 36-year-old roughneck who'd worked his tail off since he was about 16 on Gulf of Mexico oil rigs, Oklahoma gas rigs and Alaska rigs. He was a highly intelligent man who among many other things earned his pilot's license.

Unfortunately, he also had the same addictive streak I have, which was how we met. He'd been clean and sober four years after some wild years in his youth.

But methamphetamine is prevalent in the gas fields of New Mexico and Southwest Colorado. The roughnecks use it in part to facilitate their sometimes 24-hour shifts.

Sean found meth. Or it found him. The mechanics of it don't matter. It took 18 months for him to go from trying it in the cab of some pickup in the middle of the night in some dusty piece of desert to killing himself.

As a result, I know a great deal about meth. Much more than I ever wanted to.

You know, freedom of the press is kind of like the M-16 I carry when I'm in uniform. It's loaded with live rounds and when it's in the ready position it only takes a few pounds of pressure to let one of them loose. But man, oh man, I better be careful how I use that power.

Just because it's there doesn't mean it has to be used indiscriminately, just to show it can be.

I don't care how many meth recipes there are on the, ahem, Internets. It's despicable, disgusting, grossly irresponsible, self-serving, self-righteous bullshit to lift one and republish it.

Excuse me the melodrama, but if one person dies because of that recipe, it's on everyone involved. Just like it would be if I pulled that trigger without bothering to think about where the barrel was pointed or whether unleashing all that power was such a good idea.

A lot like publishing second-rate, inferior, delibaretly provocative cartoons that ridicule someone's sacred values just in the hope of controversy. I'll defend anyone's right to do that, and I'll stand up to anyone who tries to meddle in my country's freedoms ... but do we HAVE to just because we CAN?

You're doing an outstanding job with this blog. I hope it keeps gathering momentum.

Jim Greenhill

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob, I'm disappointed in the passes you keep giving the Post on your blog. Like any newspaper, they are just as quick to follow up stories their competitors broke (or ripping off, as you put it) as the Herald or the Sentinel. And I've never seen them give credit, either.

You need to read and compare the Palm Beach County edition of the Sentinel. The Post way outnumbers the Sentinel in staff, but the Sentinel does a good job keeping pace.

If you're covering the media, please make sure you're casting a critical eye toward them all.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Florida Pulp said...

Very sorry to hear about your friend, Jim, and I deeply appreciate your powerful post. After finally reading the Meth Made Easy story, I basically agree with you. The article, though it did allude to the dark side of meth, was way too tongue-in-cheek with that poisonous shit. It was piss-poor judgement over-all and printing the recipe was just idiotic.

Unless I'm missing something, the version they have up on the Internet now (and the one I've linked) doesn't have the recipe in it anymore. They must have excised it. Another wonder of the Internets.

Jim Mullin, who was the steward of much great reporting and writing for many years in Miami, has pulled two gigantic fuck-ups in a row at two different papers. He should get some kind of award, maybe a Foolitzer.

That said, I wouldn't lay anybody's death at his door, not someone who reads that article and idiotically blows himself up in his kitchen and certainly not Teele. Some people are prone to self-destruction and they simply won't be divorced from that destiny. They'll find an excuse. And Jim Mullin can't be blamed for that.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Gator said...

The Sentry?! What a pathetic rag -- completely devoid of any journalistic ethics or, for that matter, good writing.

The Sentry is more wrong than right, and when they happen to be right it is often on a technicality. I see no reason to laud its mean-spirited efforts, other than the fact that they carry your columns on their website.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Florida Pulp said...

Gator, the Sentry isn't without its flaws, and owner Ross Shulmister certainly has his own political motives at times, but it's been a helluva watchdog at Pompano City Hall. Compared to, say, a Chamber of Commerce rag like the Pelican, the Sentry is the Washington Post. (And just for the record, I've never been paid a cent by the Sentry and it hasn't run a column of mine in years.)

7:02 AM  
Blogger Gator said...

You and the Sentry seem to confuse being against the "establishment" with good journalism.

Sometimes that is the case, and good journalists do not flinch from taking on the establishment, when it is warranted.

Your comment that the Pelican is a "Chamber of Commerce rag" is an indication that you have been drinking too much of the Schulmister-Foley-Bender-Stanton kool-aid. If the Pelican deserves any critism, it is that it does not take any consistant stand on Pompano Beach politics. The fact that it does not endorse the Sentry ticket does not make it a tool of the business leaders.

I'm not sure what standards or guidelines you might think is required for good journalism, but I would submit that the Sentry is consistently outside the boundaries of what most thoughtful people would deem appropriate.

No one should object to good investigative reporting, but the Sentry specializes in smears and innuendos not objectivity. It is a classic example of zealotry gone wild.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Florida Pulp said...

What's this about objectivity? Are we talking about newspapers or furniture shopping? Shouldn't be part of a discussion about good, engaging journalism. Good journalists aren't objects; they're breathing, thinking, feeling people who've dug into something and have something to say about it. They better get it right and they should be fair, but "objectivity" only leads to flat, stale, insipid garbage.
And don't EVEN get me started on "balance" ...

7:33 PM  
Blogger Gator said...

You can use whatever term you want, but if a reporter (or columnist) is right and fair, then they are as good as objective.

I never said that both sides of an issue are equally valid. Still, being entertaining does not trump good, honest reporting.

What you seem to be advocating is the FOX news model.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Florida Pulp said...

Gator, you're tenacious and you stay up late on a school night arguing in the Pulp. For that, I give you your propers -- or "props" as the kids say these days.

But how you get that I'm going with a Fox News model, I simply can't figure. I guess it's because I didn't add a very important third word to that last post: Truth. Journalists should work like mad to find out the truth, or at least as close a semblance to it as possible. Fox, as you well know, doesn't give two shits about the truth. It has a political aim.
I hate political aims in journalism, which is why I wind up skewering more Democrats than Republicans.

An example: Taking out the Taliban was justified. That's the truth. It was interlocked so deeply with Osama bin Laden you couldn't tell any difference between the two. That was the truth.

The Iraq War, on the hand, was a criminal act because the truth was that Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat against to America and hadn't attacked us. It was plain fact. WMD? There was no "smoking gun" to prove he had it before the invasion. That was the truth.

Now, you take a Fox News, which automatically backs the president and loves a good war (look at Ollie's show), and see how it twisted everything to make it seem that the truth was that the Iraq War was necessary.

And ... well, I forgot what the hell I was arguing. You get the point. I'm not arguing for the ideologically based, propagandistic Fox News approach. I'm arguing that reporters should using skill, reason, and hard work to find the truth and then show it to their readers. It's hard to go wrong with that, so long as you stick to the standards of good journalistic method.

Now, does the Sentry always find the truth? Is it always pure of political motive? No. Not all the time. But for the most part it holds politicians in that town honest. And that's damn rare in small newspapers these days.

And, Gator, don't tell me you think the milquetoast, power-sucking Pelican is worth a damn. Name me one piece of decent political journalism that newspaper has done in the past two years. Just one ...

9:00 PM  
Blogger Gator said...

At the risk of being accused of being a pajama-clad blog junkie, one more comment:

The Pelican is what it is. It, or rather its publisher, has no pretense to power. In some ways it is often more of a bulletin board than an investigative operation.

By the same token, I can only understand your half-hearted defense of the Sentry as being of "the enemy of my enemies is my friend" justification.

You mention truth -- but truth is not something that is useful in isolation. Without context and at least considering "on the other hand" an isolated truth can be misleading.

Thus my take on the Sentry. It is like a car alarm that is set at too sensative a level. True its wailing may indicate that someone is approaching or even touching the vehicle, but that doesn't mean someone is breaking in.

That is why so many people ignore the Sentry, just as they do the car alarms that go off in parking lots.

7:20 AM  

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