Friday, February 17, 2006

Done Herald Plaza

Got an e-mail from a homey in the business yesterday urging me to do an in-depth piece on "life now at One Herald Plaza." To wit:

"With an impending sale, the place is more depressing than ever. I would imagine that many of the writers still feel sold out by Fiedler for DeFede’s firing, and it would be interesting to see the overall mood of the place. As well, publisher Jesus Diaz would be a very interesting profile – he is really a numbers cruncher, and no media has attempted to understand his vision and leadership at the Herald. I think the Teele suicide/DeFede firing still casts a long shadow over that place, and an examination of life at the Herald now would serve the South Florida community well."

Journalists seem to expect the worst. DeFede told me he expects the Herald to be sold twice and basically dismantled over the coming months. And people tell me that Buddy Nevins, at the infamous GOP meeting last week, predicted that the Herald would become a tabloid.

As it happens, I've been trying to get some accounts from Herald writers about what it's like these days, with the sale looming. I've received a couple of responses from reporters saying that everyone is worried. Wrote one, "I suppose my biggest concern is over the anxiety that this has created in the newsroom (more than the usual, anyway) and the possibility that some of the paper’s very talented reporters and editors may be scared away from the paper or the profession all together."

There were other comments about a de-emphasis on hard news and an emphasis on radio and Internet reporting.

The feeling of powerlessness is palpable. The paper may have gone down in quality since its heyday, but all things considered, it's still one of the better daily newspapers in America. I would hate to see what would happen if a Gannett got ahold of it. What are other people thinking?

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You automatically assume that becoming a tabloid would be a bad thing, but papers in Europe have converted to that format with much success. The biggest issue is advertising inches and potential revenue loss as a result.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to add that the NY post and NY Daily News are also both successful as a tabloid. I have seen both at publix in south florida, so they must sell some papers.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Florida Pulp said...

Nothing against tabloids -- hell I work for a weekly one. Just thought it was an interesting conjecture and figure such a move would shake up the newspaper tremendously.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tabloid quasi-rumor is just that... there was some talk at KR a year or so ago about trying the tab format. It was largely driven by Mario Garcia, who redesigned the Herald in '03 or '04, and The Herald was considered the leading contender as KR's guinea pig. But there hasn't been much chatter to that effect in many months.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous sam eifling said...

I would love to see someone from the Herald defend the working conditions at the paper (and with more conviction than simply saying that newspaper work everywhere is in a spiral). Ever since I interned there in 2001, I've heard friends and former co-workers bemoan the seeming lack of direction and resources, and the 5-minutization of the paper. On a given day, though, I still think it's a more lively read than the Sun-Sentinel, and still subscribe, even though I live in Broward. Anyone want to stick up for the Old Blue Lady?

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read today's front page (the real version, not the soft-feature Broward edition): the big investigation into sexual predators, Carol Marbin Miller's incredible continuing work in the DCF morass... despite its internal newsroom problems, the paper has been better in the last 3-6 months than it has been in a long time.

10:33 AM  
Blogger s.m. koppelman said...

Though tabloid format and crappiness go hand-in-hand when it comes to daily papers here in the US, as that first commenter mentioned, it doesn't preclude any number of papers abroad from being first-rate. Heck, given the number of people here in South Florida who read while they're driving, a tabloid would be safer to boot.

It's a change of ownership to the likes of Gannett that's unpleasant to think about. Are there any quality Gannett papers?

10:58 AM  
Blogger Florida Pulp said...

uh, no

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worse would be an aquisition by Blackstone or some other vulture group, which would basically signal a hack-and-slash followed by a quick turnaround sale. Best hope might be McClatchy.

But I'd love to see the Herald go independent ala St. Pete Times (an impossible option, I know).

I wonder sometimes why more newspapers haven't done the same. If I were staring down the barrel of a Gannet acquisition, I'd certainly consider it.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it's not the Herald's option to consider nonprofit-owned independence, a la St. Pete. It's all up to Knight Ridder and in a publicly traded company, it's all about the stock price. The most infuriating part of this story, and every other newspapers-are-declining story, is that newspapers are still EXTREMELY PROFITABLE. How many industries get hammered when their profits are not in the 20s, percentage wise?

10:47 AM  

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