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.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

We Ain't Ignert

So a columnist at the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader in northeastern Pennsylvania went off on Miami Herald Leonard Pitts for pointing out in a column Friday that "people are ignorant in Appalachia."

"I think Pitts is lower than a coal mine, meaner than a mountain winter, sneakier than a Pennsylvania politician voting for a pay raise," wrote Casey Jones. "How dare Pitts paint the mountains with such a broad brush?"

Pitts was criticizing so-called Christians for bashing gays instead of helping people who need it (aka, doing something Jesus would do). But let's be glad that Casey Jones, whose column is on Romenesko, sets the record straight. Now we know that Appalachia doesn't have rampant abject poverty anymore -- whew, that's a relief! -- and everybody there is educated to the nines.

Hell, forget about the mountain folk. They aren't hillbillies anymore, they're Hilfigers.

The fact is, though, that in the heart of Appalachia -- in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee and parts of West Virginia -- the poverty rate is still ridiculously high. America should be concerned about it. And that's the truth no matter what some scribbler from uppity Wilkes-Barre might say.

Newspaper Games
I don't think it was a coincidence that the Miami Herald ran the report, "BSO Brass Escape Scandal Blame," in today's paper. It's one day before New Times hits the streets -- and in that will be reporter (and unofficial Pulp correspondent) Wyatt Olson's in-depth report on the same topic.

Yes, it has all the hallmarks of a pre-emptive strike.

"And damned annoying," Olson adds. "But ahh, the sport of it all."

Olson knows that's the way the game is played. All is fair when it comes to getting the story first. Relentless and well-sourced Herald reporter Wanda DeMarzo was perfectly within her rights to beat him to the punch. She did a good job and she clearly had been gathering this information for a long time. We'd all have done the same and the Pulp tips its hat to her.

But Olson's story will have plenty of exclusive information in it yet.

Story of the Day
Carol Marbin Miller is striking again with another report on state Medicaid cuts to programs that provide feeding for the sickest and poorest folks among us. It's a crime and state bureaucrats are pulling out nothing but excuses while critically ill people literally starve. This the same day big news broke about Miller's other baby, the boot camp death.

Rattling the Democratic Cages

They invited me last night to speak at the Young Democrats of Broward County club at the Downtowner Saloon. We all know from recent events how dangerous those kinds of things can be for newspaper types.

I first met Amy Rose, a past president of the BYDs who is now running for state house seat in north Broward. She told me that Diana Wasserman-Rubin was going to be there. I thought that was great and told her so.

"That's funny, she had completely the opposite reaction," Rose said, laughing.

I couldn't understand why. Unless it had something to do with this story and a few others. Surely she still wouldn't be sore about that, would she?

Even after the meeting started and Wasserman-Rubin swore in new club president Andrew Torres, an impressive fellow who is oddly reminiscent of Vin Diesel, I didn't really know what I was going to talk about. But when I got up there, it came pretty easy.

I looked out at the room -- about 30 people were there -- and said I bet most of them opposed the war in Iraq. A bunch of people nodded their heads. And then I said most of them didn't do anything about it and that Democrats as a whole totally failed the country.

Wasserman-Rubin, who was sitting in the front row and who I've written about in the past, sort of raised her finger and said she opposed the war.

"Really? I didn't know that," I said. "You sure?"

"I did."

She looked a little sheepish as she was saying it. There isn't a published report in the world, as far as I can tell, to show that she spoke out against the war, at least not before it turned into a debacle.

Whatever. The Democratic Party as a whole was scared to move on the war -- and the Young Democrats were definitely part of the problem. Why? Because they were too busy attending little functions like this one. And because they allowed pragmatism and political calculus and their fear to get a little dirty at demonstrations to silence them on one of the most important issue of their lives.

Yeah, I was feeling a little hostile. The truth is I've never gotten over the failure of the grassroots or the cowardice of senators like John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Nelson when it came to Iraq. And I told them that even as they're schmoozing it up at their function and getting caught up in the game of politics, they need to use their minds sometimes. I told them to beware of lobbyists and understand that they are standing in a hotbed of Democratic political corruption. (I know Wasserman-Rubin loved that one). And I said that they need to retain their individualism and not be afraid of doing the right thing, even if the party is against it.

There was a lot of interaction throughout the thing, with people making their own observations about Iraq. Some nodded their heads as I spoke, agreeing wholeheartedly, and a couple of guys, including a young Iraq War veteran sitting in the front row, disagreed. There was some decent debate.

"I liked it," said one Young Democrat after the show. "We usually sit here and pat each other on the back for an hour. You didn't do that."

No. I guess I didn't.

(More later)

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Terrible Drewth

I always found the presence of sports agent Drew Rosenhaus on Channel 7’s Sports Xtra nauseating. Having an agent as a regular to give pro football news and opinion is akin to having, say, a defense industry lobbyist on the Nightly News every night talking explaining the Iraq War to people. How the hell can you trust anything he says?

There have been reports of Rosenhaus’ conflicts of interest on the show (Robert Andrew Powell did a high-larious one in Miami New Times back in 1999), but the agent is apparently glued to Fox like a fly in leftover waffle syrup. Last night broadcaster Steve Shapiro spent a good deal of the show with Rosenhaus, who was in a studio in Phoenix, where he’d just completed a $30 million deal for Edgerrin James to join the Cardinals.

Rosenhaus wore a black and red Rosenhaus Sports Representation shirt, which has a Superman-style S in the middle of it. “I’m wearing my [Cardinals’] colors!” he said to Shapiro, pulling on the company logo.

“Enjoying the red shirt, Superman,” said Shapiro, who trails only Jimmy Cefalo in the sports broadcasting smarm sweepstakes.

Question: What the hell does South Florida care about the stinking Cardinals? And why is our local Fox affiliate allowing Rosenhaus to advertise his stinking agency – where he is renowned for dirty stunts that sully the game of football -- on network time?

But that’s not all – there’s also special graphics with Rosenhaus posing in a suit with a cell phone for the segment, “Drew Or False.”

“I’m just trying to figure out your commission,” Shapiro said at one point during the show about the James deal.

I'm trying to figure out how much Rosenhaus is paying WSVN.

Hemorrhoids Rule
S.V. Date had a good story about a power play in the Florida Senate between Jeff Atwater and Alex Villalobos. A number of Republican Senators switched allegiance from Villalobos to Atwater and the Post included some of their excuses. The best excuse, perhaps of all time, came from Steve Wise, of Jacksonville: "I'm home, I'm sick, I'm under heavy medication for pain (for hemorrhoids), and I thought it was a done deal. ... I wasn't thinking clearly."

For once, a politician admits his head was in his ass.

My Old Beiruty Home
Ethan Skolnick, a sturdy sportswriter for the Sentinel (and once my venerable softball coach), succumbed to exaggeration this weekend in an otherwise compelling feature story on new Miami Heater Derek Anderson. Describing Anderson’s tough childhood, Skolnick wrote:

“Dodging daily disasters in Louisville's drug-infested Southwick Projects, which have since been torn down. Seeing someone shot once or twice a week. One of his closest friends shot and killed someone, then was shot and killed himself. It was common enough to become normal.”

For a guy with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anderson has got a nice jumper. Hear about people getting shot once or twice a week? Maybe. See them? Flat-out impossible.

This Just In ...
Chris Kovanes took a bowel movement at Davie City Hall six months ago and failed to flush. Will update whenever close to fathomable.

Crocodile Jeers
From the Sentinel Lifestyles section today, we get a feature story on shoes.

"They're colorful. They carry celebrity cachet. And they're everywhere. Those comfy Crocs shoes have walked into our hearts and onto our souls."

Then they reached their finger down our throats and triggered our gag reflexes. Them's some talented shoes.

Gary Pruitt Takes Over Miami

McClatchy. Some call it the new owner of the Miami Herald, I call it a big fat new target. But we'll just have to mourn Gannett's failed bid for KR. God, those would have been good times, watching that awful corporation slowly transform the Herald into a tidy little disaster and reporting every awful step of its zombie-walk into oblivion.

No, instead we wind up with the 149-year-old McClatchy company, which, dang it all, is probably the best big journalism corporation going. Definitely a notch up from Knight Ridder. And apparently the Herald isn't on the list of 12 KR newspapers that McC is going to sell again. Talk about dull.

But this Gary Pruitt fellow (photo left). I'm not sure about him. Too perfect. He looks too nice, a little bit like the Easter Bunny or something. AJR called him a wunderkind, and I never trust anybody who is dubbed one of those. He's also a lawyer. Here's what Susan Paterno wrote about him in that AJR article back in 2003:

"Pruitt presented himself at the Ritz as he often does, a modern Candide, always positive, always on message, always looking as though he stepped from the pages of a Ralph Lauren catalog, running a company as trim and fit and athletic as he is. He has a smile that probably broke a hundred hearts in high school and an endearing goofy charm, stumbling over Hegel and rattling off Rolling Stone lyrics in the same conversation, likening his Wall Street strategy to a Lenny Kravitz tune for analysts, talking as guilelessly about journalism as he does about redecorating his office from the dark wood paneling of the previous regime to a streamlined modern gray and blue, with matching Expressionist paintings and a light fixture that his mentor and predecessor Erwin Potts told him looks vaguely pornographic."

I don't know. This could get interesting. Anybody with vaguely pornographic light fixtures can't be that boring. The big question about Pruitt is: Is he more beholden to shareholders or great journalism? He's been walking a tightrope between the two. But when the chips are down, I think we can all guess which way he'll fall. And the rope just got a whole lot higher.

Homeless Hypocrisy

I'm starting to think those punks who beat the street people deserve a medal along with life sentences. I've never seen the Sun-Sentinel take so much interest in homeless people. The beatings prompted photographer Robert Mayer to shoot a series of portraits of homeless people that is undeniably powerful. It's the Story of the Day in pictures.

But I have to say that Mayer's work sure does resemble the stuff done by Mike Stocker on survivors of the Holocaust (reportedly a finalist for the Pulitzer this year). Black and white faces, similar lighting, same exact power. Actually I think the homeless stuff is the better of the two. The subjects of the photos are on the streets right now and they are, more than anyone else, the people society doesn't want to look at. Also it clearly took a lot more work getting homeless people into the studio than a bunch of seniors from Century Village.

And it's about time the Sentinel paid a little bit of attention to homeless people. After all, the Sentinel sends them in the middle of traffic to hawk their newspapers, a management decision that has led to a truckload of carnage and numerous deaths. But when the newspaper is involved in a homeless death, it gets a brief inside the Local section, not front page treatment.

So it's nice to see the sudden compassion.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Wilson To Replace Judy Miller

Dave Wilson will take over the Managing Editor reins at the Miami Herald from Judy Miller, who is leaving to work for a private investigation firm.

It's not a surprising promotion -- as Managing Editor in Broward County, Wilson was basically the heir apparent to the controversial Miller. The announcment was made to staff earlier today and the promotion took effect immediately.

And he tells the Pulp he's ready to go.

"The best thing about it is that I have more fabulous people to work with than I do now which is good," he said, adding that Miami is "special and wonderful and weird and corrupt and a great place to live and to be a daily journalist."

But with the impending sale of Knight Ridder, is it a difficult time to take over the day-to-day operations of the newspaper?

"I don't think there's ever an easy time," Wilson said. "The sale will work itself out in due course. There's literally nothing than I have to do with it. We have to wait for what happens. I am absolutely convinced that no matter how it plays out, not matter what the staffing levels, the Herald will be the largest, deepest and most talented newsgathering operation in South Florida."

He said he doesn't have a dog in the fight between the two leading contenders to buy KR, McClatchy and a Gannett partnership, but did talk mention that he admired the McClatchy company. "But I've heard good things from people at the [Gannett-owned] Detroit Free Press, too," he added diplomatically.

Wilson began working at the Herald in 1976, at the age of 18, as a copy boy and later as a sports writer. He worked a stint at the Orlando Sentinel before regurning to the Miami newspaper in 1986. In 1995, he was promoted to the position of executive sports editor, replacing Paul Anger (current editor of the Detroit Free Press). At the time, Anger said of Wilson:

"Dave is one of the most creative editors I've ever been around. He has a great knack for coming up with something different, something that will make the reader say, 'Look at this.'

"Often in brainstorming meetings there would be an impasse, a frustration level that would be erased when Dave, deep in thought, would say, 'What if we . . . '"We'd all look at him and say, 'That's it!'"

During the past decade he has also overseen the Neighbors sections and is currently serving as the managing editor for the Broward Bureau and sports.

He said he met with department heads today and assured them he would let them do their jobs.

"I told them I'm here to brainstorm with you, to try to find resources, to bust through obstacles and to create great newspapers," he said. "I'm here as a collaborator and co-conspirator with the department heads, not to try to do their jobs."

Go to Main Page for more South Florida media news and criticism.

Terry Stiles Is Just Super

The Sentinel -- thanks to good stories by Burstein (about an actor turned loser), Wallman (about a politician turned loser), and Mayo (about a flat-out loser) -- had a strong newspaper today. But bringing down the whole operation was a feature story in the Business section by Paul Owers, the same reporter who brought us the Huizenga Jr. debacle a few weeks ago. This time he's doing P.R. for Terry Stiles, downtown's mega-builder. Here's some choice Owers lines:

-- "Stiles' unassuming manner belies his status as a South Florida business leader."

-- "He also established himself as an aboveboard businessman who avoids controversy."

Controversy? Did you ever hear about Stiles involvement in an insider North Broward Hospital District building deal with Austin Forman that was investigated by the feds and would have wasted taxpayers $100 million? And I guess that whole airport expansion thing that Stiles is pushing with the Broward Alliance has universal appeal.

But it's the quotes, from a lineup obviously handchosen by Stiles himself, that take this thing beyond the pale.

-- From a Broward Workshop muckety muck named Kareen Boutros: "He's got a sterling reputation. He's not a snob. Everybody can relate to him."

-- Wayne Huizenga endorses him -- and we all know what that endorsement means: "I trust him ...".

-- And from Broward Mayor Ben Graber, who is becoming more and more schmuck-like (that's him grinning there at the left): "He's a guy to do business with."

It might not have been so bad if there was one -- oh merciful god, just one -- critical view of the most powerful developer/builder in town. But no. Not surprising, really, considering that he's an unassuming, aboveboard, trustworthy, guy with a sterling reputation that everybody can relate with.

Odds and Ends

-- A spiritual message to Heraldites: Pray for McClatchy.

-- The Herald had this ditty by Dan Christensen and Nikki Waller on former Davie manager Chris Kovanes. Okay. Great. Can we all promise to stop writing about this thing now? Kovanes is a thief. We all know it. It's been proved many many times. Save the rest of it for the trial. Please.

-- The good folks over there at the FrontPageFlorida website have an interesting piece on an ongoing newspaper turf battle. Only it's not the one between the Post and the Sentinel. It's the never-ending war between the St. Pete Times and Tampa Tribune. The story is by Joe Registrato, who was apparently a Blues Brother in another life.

-- Just when you thought Carlton Moore was a potential nominee for "Good Samaritan of the Year" (the State Attorney's Office "cleared" him of wrongdoing in his little house-buying adventure) his nemesis, the Broward Times' Elgin Jones, comes up with more dirt. I'll call this the Story of the Day.

-- You can only imagine how hard that FEMA team from the Sentinel is gonna celebrate tonight. After getting the news about the Pulitzer, it was announced today that they won a Scripps Howard Foundation award. Not bad, but the best part: It comes with good cash. From the press release:
PUBLIC SERVICE REPORTING South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, receives $10,000 and the Roy W. Howard award. "FEMA: A Legacy of Waste" uncovered a trail of fraud and waste in federal disaster aid that cost taxpayers more than $530 million. The Sun-Sentinel reported that after Katrina, the agency gave $172 million in emergency aid to people never displaced by the storm. Reforms are underway. Finalist: Joy Blackburn, The Virgin Islands Daily News.


Prizing the Pulitzer

The Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel have both fared very well in the Pulitzer contest, if the early scuttlebutt is to be believed (and it almost always is).

According to E & P, the Miami Herald was named a finalist in the explanatory reporting category for its series, anchored by Debbie Cenziper, on breakdowns in the hurricane warning system (which also just won a National Headliner's Award).

And the Sentinel was named a finalist in an impressive three categories -- breaking news for Wilma coverage, investigative reporting for its FEMA reports, and feature photography for a Holocaust survivor thing (if someone can please send me info on this, I'll post a link).

The news prompted South Florida Business Journal reporter Susan Stabley to cajole the Pulp:

"Hey, let's give props where props are due. The local rags are all right, at least if the leaked information about the Pulitzers is true. ... Say Bob, ain't that worth a blog...and an happy fuzzy, furry puppies one at that?"

Okay, Susan, here's your wish. And I think it's also worth mentioning that the Sentinel was a finalist last year for hurricane coverage as well in the breaking news category, a prize driven by pity that usually goes to whatever place was unlucky enough to have the most horrible disaster you can imagine (the Times Picayune in New Orleans is a lock to win the thing this year, by the way). In fact, every single writing nomination for both the Herald and the Sentinel is hurricane-related. Just keep your fingers crossed that we get a direct hit from a Cat 5 this season so the Sentinel can finally win that ever-elusive Pulitzer.

Yes I'm complaining. The Sentinel's Wilma coverage was undoubtedly excellent. It made Fort Lauderdale proud. But I kept wishing the newspaper would show that same greatness in covering its everyday beats. There is huge corruption in Broward County that goes ignored while the newspaper trains its best reporters on a federal government bureaucracy. Why? Because going after local corruption takes more courage and is far more unpopular than beating up on a flabby faraway agency. Digging into local corruption is basically shitting where you eat and it would hurt the Sentinel's oh-so-cozy relationship with the fine folks at the Broward Alliance and their political sources.

I'm not saying the Sentinel shouldn't have gone after FEMA. Reporter Sally Kestin, Megan O'Matz, Jon Burstein, and John Maines did great great work and deserve every award they get (and I think the conditions are right for them to win the Pulitzer). And God knows the Herald's "Blind Eye" series was worthy -- it dug damn deep in a way only a big newspaper can and it found journalistic gold (though, ironically, the forecasts were AMAZINGLY ACCURATE throughout the season, especially for Wilma).

But it would be nice to see more of that same spirit when it comes to covering, say, Tamarac city hall. Or the Broward County Commission. You might get a black eye, but it's just as important as a hurricane.

(More Later)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hear The One About Ben Wallace's Afro Yet?

You know, before the post on Herald sports columnist Dan LeBatard yesterday, I hadn't paid much attention to him. Read his column occasionally was all. But I was inspired to check out his radio show on AM 790 yesterday for the heck of it. Talk about a guy with a voice for newspapers.

The man is silly as hell. I haven't heard so much giggling since the seventh grade when I used to feel up out-of-the-way-girl Jennifer under the stairs at the school gym.

But while I'm on the topic, I thought I'd share with you some research dug up by unofficial Pulp correspondent Sam Eifling. He went through LeBatard's columns and inadvertantly found that Dan has "a funny tendency to recycle some of his material."

(Yeah, that's the kind of thing New Times reporters do with their spare time. It's sort of sad and beautiful at the same time.)

Here's the examples, beginning with Ben Wallace's afro:

"Ben Wallace, all fast-twitch muscle fiber and cartoon biceps, might be the league's best defender. But Shaq dropped 36 points and 20 rebounds on his Afro in one Finals game last season when Larry Brown tried to guard him one-on-one."
* April 11, 2005

"It was less than 20 months ago that [Shaquille] O'Neal dropped 36 and 20 on the Afro of Ben Wallace, the league's best defender."
* Jan. 22, 2006

"Detroit doesn't have any answers for this O'Neal, as three-time Defensive Player Of The Year Ben Wallace learned recently when O'Neal dropped 31 on his Afro."
* Feb. 26, 2006

Mind you, that's in the space of about less than a year. As is the next recurring theme concerning the 1980 Olympic hockey miracle thing:

"The greatest and most moving upset in the history of American sports was a 1980 hockey game, and we don't even care about hockey as a country."
* March 20, 2005

"I don't want him (Castro) to even have the chance to feel the way our triumphant country did with the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team. That was only the biggest and most emotional upset in the history of American sports. And America doesn't even care about hockey."
* Jan. 21, 2006

"What is the most emotional sports event in America's history? The underdog United States hockey team defeating the Russians in the 1980 Olympics. That's a pretty staggering thing when you consider that America doesn't even care about hockey."
* March 5, 2006

Sam hastens to add that he'd probably be guilty of the same thing if he wrote all those columns and did all that ESPN and was babbling on the radio half the day at the same time. Only his tics would concern The Simpsons, George W. Bush, and "sexually based analogies."

Story Of The Day
Nothing left me awestruck today, so I'm going back a couple days to something I failed to mention: Fred Grimm's column concerning the voting process. A buddy urged me to post it and he was dead right. It's spare and powerful and includes this instant-classic line: "In Florida, real heroes just catch hell." I've seen more people crucified for doing the right thing in South Florida (Jose Touron and Lee Hillier are two that come immediately to mind) than I care to remember. Thanks Fred.

Oh Katherine Harris, You Slut

I just had to steal this from Interstate4Jamming who picked it up on a meesage board on the Daily Kos. More pictures like that and we might be able to overlook the fact that she's a GOP shill, that she lied about dirty campaign contributions, and that she's partially responsible for George W. Bush's disastrous presidency. Okay, that's not going to happen, but we still can't complain that she's whoring it up a little the old-fashioned way.

No Fellowship Of The Ring

I got an e-mail yesterday with the the subject line: "Post rips off Sentinel." The claim was that Post reporter Sofia Sontana had blatantly stolen Jerome Burdi's life-confirming story from March 3 about a Boynton Beach firefighter who found an extremely valuable ring in his home and returned it to the former owner of the home, who was grateful as all get-out. The e-mailer, who went by the name Malcolm English, wrote:

"And look at how the Post backed into the story -- talking all about the national media attention but not mentioning until deep in the story that the reason the guy is getting national media attention is because he found a couple's ring that had been missing for decades. Perhaps you should link to both stories and let your readers decide who is purloining from whom."

Okay, here's Santana's story, which ran five days later. I'm siding with Mr. English on this one. Because so much of Santana's article was about the impact of the Sentinel exclusive, she should have cited the original source. But let's face it, that ain't gonna happen between those two newspapers. Not here. Not now. Not ever. It's a low-down dirty fight -- and it'd be disappointing if it weren't.

Speaking of Credit

For all I write in this thing about newspapers not giving credit to other publications, I honestly don't get very mad when the Sentinel and Herald steal my stuff. Low expectations, I suppose. But I still don't like it when they follow my stuff and then mislead their own readers about how the information came to the surface. It's happened more times than you would think -- including today. The Sentinel's Ihosvani Rodriguez did this story about the state ethics commission's ruling on Southwest Ranches' private town manager John Canada. In it, he writes: "[Town Attorney Gary] Poliakoff was asked for his opinion after a number of residents and council members questioned Canada's actions."

In the words of Martin Landau's Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, "Bullshit!"

An investigative piece I did on the town called Cash Cow led to that ruling and everybody who knows the Ranches knows that, including Herald reporter Amy Sherman. She cited New Times in her article today, which was actually far superior in every way to the Sentinel flop. But that was only because Sherman made the same mistake as Rodriguez while following the Cash Cow fallout last year. I told her about it and that prompted the Herald to look at the issue.

"From talking with Amy, it sounds like your report played a significant role in bringing some of the town issues to a head," assistant city editor Scott Andron wrote me last year. "I can see how it might have been helpful to our readers to mention this in our story. Your note prompted some internal discussions here, and we will be clarifying our guidelines on when to mention an article in another publication."

Why, that ... no, it can't be ... I don't know, but that looks like responsible leadership.

The CJR Nails FitzSimons. Hard.

The latest edition of CJR came in the mail yesterday and I'm betting that most of you haven't seen it. That's why I thought I'd post this stinging rebuke of Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons' December speech to Wall Street analysts in New York. Though it doesn't mention the Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune bastard child when it comes to national attention, it brings much-needed context to the company and gives us a clue as to what is really valued behind the walls at 200 East Las Olas. Click on the page there and then blow it up to read it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bob Marley's Nine Mile

In today's Herald, there's a story by Jacqueline Charles about Bob Marley's home and final resting place in Jamaica, a beautiful spot on this earth called Nine Mile. Don't get the Pulp wrong, it's a decent story, but it leaves the single most interesting aspect of the place out: The fact that, at Nine Mile, giant spliffs are smoked aplenty by all, including the tourists.

How do I know this? Well, I've never had the distinct pleasure of going, but a friend of mine did and told me all about it right after he returned. He told me about Yoto, the excellent tour guide, who smoked the biggest gnarliest joint he'd ever seen during the tour. Once there, local townspeople sell marijuana to tourists from outside the walls of Nine Mile. My buddy partook and said American tourist families -- parents and their teenaged kids -- were smoking together. That's called bonding, people.

In other words, it may be the greatest tour in the world. Unfortunately my friend couldn't get me his picture of Yoto on the toke for this post (it's coming people), but a fellow named Matt Hall has a great photo tour on his website. There's Yoto above on the left and on the right is a local townsman selling his wares over the wall.

Bob Marley is dead. Long live Bob Marley.

The Bastard
I'm no Dan LeBatard basher. The Herald sports columnist has made his mistakes, huge ones (see breaking stories about Ricky Williams' "early retirement"). But he's not always terrible. In fact, sometimes he's downright entertaining. Today, though, he was definitely terrible.

I've gotten a couple of e-mails about his piece (of garbage) today belittling Sport Illustrated's explosive story about Bonds' cheating with steroids (an issue that, as the father of a 10-year-old baseball player, means a lot to me). LeBatard compares Bonds steroid use to Kirk Gibson's use of cortisone to mute the pain of his injury when he hit the homer heard round the world. That's a B.S. argument. First of all, cortisone is legal. Secondly, it's not cheating. And thirdly, it's a completely different class of drug as anabolic steroids. LeBatard should know that.

LeBatard basically endorses the cheating and use of steroids by ball players and that makes it the most idiotic drug piece that's come out since the San Luis Obispo meth debacle. Shame, the Pulp says. Shame.

The Key West Citizen's Pulp Debut
Speaking of competing publications, check out this this story in the Key West Citizen. As the journalist who alerted the Pulp to the story put it, it's "in the great tradition of 'public officials spending taxpayer money with the competition to refute stories they don't like in the newspaper' stories." You'll have to read it to see what that means.

Judy Miller Stays In Florida

This just in from Romenesko: Judy Miller isn't taking the AP job after all. Instead she's going to the shady world of Kroll & Associates, a giant mercenary outfit of private investigators. Read her e-mail about it -- it'll just about have you second-guessing your breakfast. Like this line: "When it comes to investigations, Kroll is second to none." She's already doing P.R. before she walks out the door.

There's probably some interesting subplots here, but I'm done talking about Judy Miller and wish her only the best of luck. I made a mistake when I invited y'all to sound off about her. It turned the Pulp into a gossip site rather than the vibrant media news and entertainment forum that it has become. I learned more about Miller than I cared to know and almost none of it wound up on the blog. In the end I found out that she's possessed of strengths and flaws, like the rest of us. Big f-ing deal.

Courageous Doc Does Nothing!

Just when I think I got nothing to write about in terms of local news, the Sun-Sentinel drops a gift in my lap. Check out the front page story by Jerome Burdi. It's accompanied by a great overhead photo (at right) by Lou Toman of flaming wreckage on U.S. 27 (Toman, btw, also scored big yesterday with a great trial pic). The story focused on the potential heroics of Dr. Pedro J. Gonzalez, who was coptered to the scene to amputate a man's arm caught in wreckage. A hint of the letdown comes in the subhed: "Trapped man almost needed roadside surgery." After a huge 11-paragraph build-up, full of dramatic "Oh God, I hope I don't have to do this" quotes, the doctor gets to the scene and ... sits around and watches while paramedics ultimately saved the man's arm. Burdi does an admirable job with his material. It's just that the material was ultimately lame and the thing ends up smelling like some concocted hospital P.R. deal.

The editors buried the general story on the wrecks on U.S. 27 on page 5B. Done by Andy Reid and Brian Haas, that article was sturdy. Any report with a wreck victim who says "next thing I see, I was driving into a split trailer full of meat" can't be all bad. Problem: Not a single person died. So rather than the "huge pileup but nobody died" story the editors went with the "heroic doctor who did nothing" story. The beauty was they could trick the reader, before the jump, into believing that it was actually a great article.

A look at the website indicates how proud the editors must be today of the bait-and-switch. The original AP story on the U.S. 27 pileups, however, is the No. 3 most e-mailed article of the day. Toman's photo is No. 4. The front page story is nowhere to be found on the home page at all.

So what should the Sentinel have done? Well, they should have called up the editors at the Palm Beach Post and gotten some advice. This morning's Post also put the U.S. 27 mess on the front page with an equally compelling photo. But it led headlined the news -- three truckers cited -- and the Story of the Day, written by Kelly Wolfe and Rochelle E.B. Gilken, begins with the crash and combines a little bit from the do-nothing heroic doctor in a complete and very well-done article. This is the starkest example I've seen so far of the Post running circles around the Sentinel. And it has nothing to do with the reporters (the Sentinel has just as much talent as the Post in that department). It's all about leadership.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pray for Little Noah

Broward County has a new star: 9-year-old Noah Applebaum, who is starring in a new series called Sons and Daughters. Sure y'all noticed the stories in Herald (by Diana Moscovitz) and the Sentinel (by Robert Nolin -- I can't link his story right now because the Sentinel web site, for the first time I've ever noticed, is down right now). Noah told Moscovitz what he did when he found out he'd landed the part: "'We screamed and said `Oh My God'"

An appropriate reaction. Obviously he was terrified as the images raced through his mind. Here's just a few of the spectres haunting the poor boy:

May God -- and Elizabeth Taylor -- be with him.

Shaw and Cheney Hang Up Broward County

This from Florida News: Not only did Clay Shaw show he is out of touch with all but the 18-percent who actually approve of the job that Dick Cheney is doing by campaigning with him, but now add to that the traveling problems that just got a lot of people in the area pissed off at Clay Shaw. Steve Clemons at The Washington Note has the story:

"Air Force Two flew into Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport late this morning and just shut the ENTIRE airport down.Nothing could leave. Nothing could land.I was there, one of those stuck while our imperial and imperious Vice President and his team, shut down an entire airport.Don't we have enough military bases that Cheney can leave the private sector runways alone?

Cheney was stumping for Republican Congressman Clay Shaw who represents parts of Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida's 22nd District. He is considered by National Journal to be the most vulnerable incumbent in Congress.

CLAY SHAW everyone. Cheney was there shutting down the airport, the highways, making many miss connections, at huge cost to the private sector and to taxpayers on behalf of Rep. Clay Shaw."

What I want to know is why neither the Herald nor the Sentinel included the airport closedown today. Why do we have to go to the Washington Note for this info?

Free Yanni

It was the spring of 1990 and it was time to move on. I was 20 and our relationship was dragging, so I told my long-time girlfriend that I wanted to break up with her. That was 8 p.m. Thirteen hours later, she finally dragged her ass out the door. Thirteen hours of sheer hell, of her screamed profanities mixed with soft pleadings of love. Every mental disorder and insecurity splayed at your feet. Threatened violence, maybe a smack or two from her. Most of you have been there, on one or both sides of that equation.

Two years later, I was sort of going out with an insane girl from England. She was basically living in my apartment and I kept trying to get her out, but she wouldn't leave. I had a squatter on my hands. Now this is all part of the worst (or maybe best in some weird way) day of my life, which starts in the morning when the electricity was cut off in my apartment for not paying the bills, which made me late to work at my waiter job, where I was fired. I drank the better part of a bottle of whiskey, wound up at the U-Club, ended up back at my apartment with another girl. Then at like midnight the British girl storms into the apartment in a rage and attacks me. (Oh, I forgot to mention that I put all her belongings in a pile outside the door, too). I'll never forget it. To keep her from biting me I had to grab her nose. We were rolling around on the kitchen floor and I was playing twister just trying to keep her from killing me. During the tussle, her shoulder pops out. It happened all the time. She had a plastic shoulder from falling off a horse as a child in jolly old England. It was a good thing, because it calmed her down. Instead of screaming bloody murder she was now sitting motionless and wailing in pain. But she couldn't pop it back into place. Sobbing, she asked me if I could take her to the hospital. As an upstanding fellow, I had to do it (and left the other girl, who was sitting there in stunned silence, in the apartment by herself). And the British girl was happy and right at home as we headed to the hospital in her huge, creaking Oldsmobile; it was like we were back together.

There's a lot more to that story (I wound up spending the night in jail on a fucking traffic charge -- not DUI) but I've made my point: Breaking up is hard to do.

Yanni found that out in a big way on Friday night, according to the Palm Beach Post. And he wound up in jail not on a traffic charge, but on misdemeanor battery charges. The scenario, as written up by the Post's Andrew Marra, is that Yanni takes his girlfriend, Silvia Barthes, out to dinner to break up with her. Very smart on Yanni to drop the B-bomb in a public place. I'm guessing that she was cool in the restaurant. Then they went back to Yanni's Manalapan mansion. That's where it got dicey. The story from Barthes: He became abusive at the house, grabbed her by the arms, threw her on the bed, and slapped her on the face.

The only problem with that is it makes absolutely no sense. I mean, I know Yanni has this reputation as a vicious out-of-control outlaw-artist type (almost as bad as Kenny G), but there's no way he's the aggressor here. Yanni, at that moment, just wants her out of the house as quickly as possible. His story is that he had to retaliate after she kicked him in the balls. That sounds more like it. Think about it. This woman is getting evicted from the luxurious ocean-front home of one of the wealthiest entertainers in the world. She's pissed. Real pissed.

But when police arrive, she's got a mark on her lip and he doesn't have any marks on him (that would have to have been one hell of a shot to groin to leave a mark). So in a knee-jerk move, the cops put him in jail and probably left her sitting in his house.

Unless the prosecutor doesn't file the charges, Yanni'll probably wind up without anything on his record and go through some kind of court-ordered program. I really doubt he'll fight it in court. We all know that Yanni is no fighter, after all.

Story of the Day
This was easy. It's Michael Vasquez's most excellent article in the Miami Herald about a corrupt land deal that the reporter learned involves not only Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and a commissioner, but also city manager Joe Arriola. As I've always said: Arriola happens.

Blogging Panel Madness

Those of you who don't check in here a couple times a day missed my very nice post about a planned SPJ panel on blogging. I took the posting down last night after sturm and drang developed over whether the Pulp had actually been pulled from the lineup. I'm 99 percent sure it was true, but out of respect to friends involved in the issue, I put it to the side yesterday evening. I'll update you on it soon.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Huizenga Family Secrets

Did you know that the mother of billionaire garbage and sports magnate Wayne Huizenga died a few weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale? I didn't. And when somebody mentioned it to me recently, I wondered how in the hell that could gave got past the Pulp. I looked up the coverage and found that the Sentinel didn't report the death; it just ran a paid obituary for Jean Huizenga, who was 87, on Feb. 12.

The Herald ran a six-inch story by Ashley Fantz buried in the back of the newspaper about the death in the obits. A clue as to why the Sentinel didn't publish anything at all is contained in Fantz's story: "The Huizenga family declined to talk Sunday for a story about Jean Huizenga."

So Huizenga didn't want a story about his mother's death ... and, surprise-surprise, the Sentinel didn't publish one. It's undoubtedly news, but when the biggest paper in town makes Huizenga -- a buyer of politicians who is one of the great civic vampires of all time -- a sacred cow, you don't get news. You get a paid obit instead.

And you get fluff pieces about H. Wayne Jr. The Sentinel had not one, but two, feature stories the week before Jean's death about the heir apparent. First came Paul Owers' glowing and unquestioning feature about Junior on Feb. 6. Trust me (because I can't find a link), it was bad in a head-exploding way, with mushy quotes about how great the son is from stinking lobbyists. Two days later, religion writer James D. Davis wrote a similarly gushy piece about the kid, who is now 44. It was about how Junior was becoming a proselytizing evangelical Christian. Good news: His faith made him realize that his employees are people too. "The Bible says to `be kind to your slaves," Huizenga explained in the article. No joke.

So why do you think Huizenga Sr. didn't want any stories done about his mother? Well, that's where this thing gets interesting. Let's harken back to a 1994 story in Miami New Times by Steve Almond, who is now a successful author, about Huizenga.

"Harry was not an easy man to live with. In a divorce petition filed in 1954, Jean Huizenga accused her husband of ongoing mental and physical abuse that eventually landed her in a mental hospital. He would demand sex and when she didn't comply, he beat her, she stated.

Police records indicate that she filed a complaint alleging that Harry terrorized her on New Year's Eve 1953. He moved the family to Florida soon after, hoping to salvage his marriage and make a killing in the Florida real estate market. Both plans failed.

On July 26, 1954, a deputy from the Broward County Sheriff's Department arrived at the family's modest home off Federal Highway to serve a complaint filed by Jean Huizenga, accusing Harry of "extreme cruelty" and seeking a divorce after eighteen years of marriage. The deputy left the papers with fifteen-year-old Wayne.

The divorce unfolded in a flurry of nasty motions that laid bare the extent of the brutality in the Huizenga home.

"This past July, he came into the room," Jean recounted in court. "And when I asked him not to wake the children and go back into his own room, he hit me. He walked around the other side of the bed and hit Bonnie and when Wayne came to the door to try and stop him from hitting me, he hit him, he hit Wayne too."

"I don't think we ever got one night's sleep around here," young Wayne testified. "[Harry] was always getting up in the middle of the night and would come in the bedroom and monkey around with my mother and wake us all up…He would push us down on the floor, hit mother, Bonnie, and myself."

After the divorce, the rancor dragged on for several years. Harry, who had buried himself in debt building three homes he couldn't subsequently sell, was reprimanded by a judge for failing to make child-support payments. Jean also accused him of breaking into her home and assaulting a male friend of hers. Harry retaliated by attempting to have custody of his children transferred to his relatives in Chicago, accusing his ex-wife of being a mentally unstable adulterer. (The couple eventually remarried in 1978.)"

If you want to read the rest of Almond's awesome story (which also includes the tale of a business-related altercation during which Huizenga was accused of grabbing a man's testicles and squeezing them to the point of injury), it's here (the Miami New Times' archive didn't have it in there for some reason).

You just have to wonder. Is Wayne ashamed of his past? Does his mother's story not jibe with his tycoon image? Is that why he refused to publicly memorialize his mother?

I don't know but I can guarantee one thing: The Sentinel won't answer those questions.

Story of the Day
Look, it’s not my business to lead you somewhere that will engross you for way too much of your morning. But if you haven’t been reading Larry Keller’s coverage in the Palm Beach Post of the James Sullivan murder trial, you’re missing some pure Pulp. I'm going to give it a collective Story of the Day.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Taste of Medicine, Anyone?

Via Romenesko, we see the shoe being placed firmly on the other foot in a memo from two Knight Ridder editors about the NYT and Washington Post failing to mention that KR had beaten them to the punch of a big story. To wit:

"First, in this post-Jayson Blair era, we believe newspapers must be more transparent then ever about the sources of their stories. That includes acknowledging when others have beaten us to a big story. The Washington Post and New York Times each failed this standard in recent weeks.

... So, why do we harp on this? Because the reporters who do the groundbreaking work deserve the credit. Because Knight Ridder, which invests substantially in this kind of original journalism, deserves the credit, even -- or perhaps especially -- in these trying times for all of us. And because the integrity of our profession, already under all-out assault from partisans, requires that we and others be honest with readers about how news originates."

Oh thank you Lord thank you! I'm having my ceremonial Friday Margaritas early. What? I can't hear you anymore 'cause I'm jamming at full volume. Yeah that's Van Halen's Dancing In the Street coming on right now. Sure y'all can come in. Pass that around, man. Whoa slow down. Sorry, I'm a married man. Hey come back, that's my wallet!

Ah well, it was still a good time. Herald editors and reporters, I hope you're taking this memo thing to heart. It cuts both ways. And it gives me ammunition. Oh, yes, sweet ammunition.

Speaking of Magnolias

In a Herald story today by Ashley Fantz, Steel Magnolia Ellyn Bogdanoff pushes a ridiculous idea to outlaw "cyber-bullying." It of course harkens back to the St. Thomas Aquinas/MySpace mess, wherein the school trampled all over their students free-speech rights. Fantz writes, "Private schools have more freedom." Yes, more freedom to crush freedoms. Why are the Sentinel and Herald -- and their reporters -- so knee-jerk in favor of persecuting kids on the Internet? I really don't get it.

The Story of the Day

Check out the opening paragraph on this Herald story today by David Ovalle: "Two teenage runaways thought they found a place to crash in Coconut Grove. But they ended up being forced to have sex around the clock for weeks with dozens of men for money and drugs, Miami police say."

So which was it? Did they do it because they were forced or because they wanted money and drugs? I suppose since it deals with confused teenaged girls it was a bit of both. And since they are underaged, it's a bit of a moot point. Later, Ovalle hits us with this stellar quote, from one of the suspect's brothers: ''I told him, `Bro, you gotta get rid of that girl.' He didn't listen.'' Alright, Story of the Day time, especially since it reminded me of the movie Thirteen, a flawed but undeniably compelling little flick I saw one late night on IFC. Hey, there wasn't much in the Big Three newspapers to choose from. Give me a better one.