Monday, March 20, 2006

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)


Blogger Gator said...

Bravo for Peter Bailey.

Today, kids go to jail for little more than pranks or immature behavior. Thirty years ago would have resulted in a warning from the teacher or cop.

It's a disgrace and, yes, largely the result of racism, no matter the race of the kid arrested.

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Jeb Bush said...

Zero tolerance works great! We are now woring on zero prudence, zero temperance, zero courage, and our no-justice program.

Up next, starve the hungry, ignore the thirsty, harass strangers, arrest the naked, ignore the sick, increase the prisoners. The dead we will still bury.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Gator said...

"The dead we will still bury."

As long as they can pay for it.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous sam eifling said...

I had the same reaction when the Sunday paper appeared. My girlfriend saw my chagrin at the Neighbors section, flipped through it and asked, "How much do they have to pay to get the paper to run a commercial?"

I'd love to see someone stick up for the communities sections in their current form. Do readers respond well to these blinders?

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Readers who like this crap are unlikely to be reading this blog, much less commenting on it. Still worth calling them on that crap, though. The laws being bent for common sense line is un-freaking-believable!

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Herald's wonderful "where we live" series was cooked up by none other than the great, the wonderful, the NEXT Dade managing editor DAVE WILSON!!!

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