Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Miami Herald bungles another major story

As this image from video shows, TV crews were on the scene 
within minutes of the mass shooting at The Spot nightclub, but 
it took the Miami Herald more than 8 hours to dispatch a reporter 
and photographer. 
(Click image to enlarge.)

I'm 100% certain that if you asked anyone who works at the Miami Herald if the paper is guilty of racism in its coverage of some communities, the answer would be a unanimous "absolutely not."

But there's mounting evidence that suggests otherwise.

This morning at about 1 a.m., an unknown gunman - or gunmen - opened fire into a crowd of people at a nightclub in Liberty City.

One witness thinks he heard as many as 100 shots.

At least 15 people were injured. Some of those hit by bullets were children. Why children were at a nightclub at one o'clock in the morning is something that investigators will hopefully be looking into in the days ahead.

From CBS Miami:
The incident took place at N.W. 7th avenue and 64th street.

When Miami police and rescue crews arrived at a club called The Spot around 1 a.m., they said they found chaos among the large throng of adults and teenagers gathered there. Rescuers found wounded people inside and outside the club, some too hurt to flee, Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.

He told The Associated Press that the first emergency crews arriving on the scene were warned to use caution “because there was still active shooting taking place in the area.”
Authorities said there were many young people at the site. At least three of those hurt were transferred to a pediatric unit.

“What was very surprising to the responders was that these were kids that were out at 1 o’clock in the morning in a club and this type of violence took place where a bunch of kids were gathering … it’s very disturbing to see that,” Carroll said.

But despite the seriousness and magnitude of the crime, a full seven and a half hours passed before the Miami Herald posted anything on the mayhem that had taken place.

A Herald reporter and photographer were finally sent to to the scene, arriving more than 8 hours after the shooting.

Last July 4 it took the Herald more than 10 hours to post anything on a holiday weekend boating crash that left four people dead. All because no one knew about the accident until the morning crew arrived.

I'm sure those in charge at the Herald would laugh if anyone suggested they send a reporter to cover a city commission meeting 8 hours after it started....or have a photographer arrive at a Dolphins game well into the 4th quarter. But for some unknown reason, those same bosses think nothing of waiting 7, 8, or 9 hours after a breaking news event has occurred before sending someone to cover it.

The Herald's complete lack of urgency in its response to last night's shooting shows that in the months since the bungled coverage of the boating crash, no one at the paper has shown any kind of leadership by making changes to the way major overnight breaking news is handled.


January 8, 2013: Checking up on the Miami Herald's "24/7 Information Specialists"


Several Herald insiders told me this morning that the paper has no coherent plan to cover major news that occurs overnight. "It's hit and miss," said one staffer who added, "but mostly miss."

But aside from no leadership, what explains the Herald's lethargic response to news that occurs in some Miami neighborhoods? Is it racism, or incompetence, or a little bit of both?

Imagine that the circumstances of last night's shooting were exactly the same, except that it took place at a party at an upscale Coral Gables restaurant instead of a sketchy nightclub on N.W. 7th Avenue.

Does anyone think for one second that the Herald would wait 7 or 8 hours before sending a reporter and photographer to cover the story of someone firing 100 shots at diners inside Christy's Restaurant?

Last March I reported that the Herald had virtually given up on covering any kind of violent crime in one northwest Miami neighborhood.

It appears that those in charge plan to keep it that way.

By the way, the story of the club shooting was pushed aside on the Herald's website this afternoon for coverage of your beloved Miami Dolphins.

Because there's nothing more important than a football game.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How career con man James Peter Sabatino fleeced Miami-Dade taxpayers for a quarter-million dollars...all while sitting in jail

James Peter Sabatino.
(Miami-Dade Corrections photo)

Here's a lesson for all you cub reporters out there: Always answer the phone...especially when a jail inmate is calling.

Miami Herald food editor Evan Benn recently took a call from Miami-Dade's Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. On the other end was James Peter Sabatino.

Sabatino, a career con man, has been cooling his heels in the lock-up after being arrested a year ago on a laundry list of charges ranging from having sex with a minor, to fraud and grand theft.

But all that time in stir apparently hasn't dulled Sabatino's senses when it comes to spotting an easy "mark."

In a story just posted on the Herald's website, Benn writes:
A lot of things are crooked about Jimmy Sabatino, but a lazy eye is no longer one of them.

The career con man — Sabatino, 37, has spent all but a few weeks of his adult life behind bars for running scams from Miami to London — claims his latest caper came at the expense of Miami-Dade County taxpayers.

Sabatino, while in Miami-Dade Corrections custody, underwent surgery Aug. 28 at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute to repair a lazy right eye that has plagued him since his youth.

“It’s not lazy no more,” Sabatino said in a phone call to the Miami Herald from Miami-Dade’s Turner Guilford Knight jail.

Sabatino, who is set to be sentenced Tuesday on theft and fraud charges from last year, recounts with amusement and disbelief how he talked his way into the operating room for what he considers a cosmetic procedure.

“I kept saying I was having these headaches, and how can we make them stop?” Sabatino said of his visits to the Corrections Health Services clinic. “Next thing I know, they approved the surgery.”

Evan Benn. 
So how does a food editor get a scoop like this?

Turns out that before being named the Herald's food editor earlier this year, Benn covered the story of Sabatino's arrest last September.

In an email today Benn told me that Sabatino called him from jail to let him know about his sentencing set for next Tuesday, and during the conversation he dropped the bombshell about the surgery.

"Too good of a story to pass up," Benn said, "I put out two food sections and wrote a 1A Sunday news story. Great week in Miami journalism!"

Click here to read Benn's complete story.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jeff Klinkenberg, Florida's master storyteller, is retiring

Terrace Times, Feb. 6, 1960.
(Click to enlarge)
In the 1950s when Jeff Klinkenberg was growing up on N.E. 110th Terrace in Miami Shores, he thought one day he might like to be a baseball player. Or Davy Crockett, or an astronomer or a priest.

None of those panned out. Instead he became a newsman because that's what they called journalists back then.

He got an early start by putting out a chatty, hand-printed sheet called the "Terrace Times." Miami Shores was his beat.

In high school he wrote a column for the high school paper called "Klinky's Corner."

Miami News,
March 7, 1969.
(Click to enlarge)
Later he edited his college newspaper, eventually landing a job at the Miami News where sportswriter Al Levine saw some talent in the lad and took him under his wing.

Klink - as he's now known by his friends - covered high school sports and the outdoors for the afternoon paper.

In 1977, Klink left the News to join the St. Petersburg Times. (The paper is now called the Tampa Bay Times.)

At the Times Klink was assigned a familiar beat: Outdoors Florida.

But in 1986 he began writing about Florida. And for much of the past 28 years he's traveled virtually every Florida back road seeking out people who are the heart and soul of what he calls the "Real Florida."

Yesterday Klink stunned his friends and readers with this announcement on Facebook:
Click to enlarge.
"You're looking at the ad that ran when I started at the Times in 1977. As you know, these are tough days for newspapers, including the Times, so I accepted a buyout today. My last day as a full-timer will be Oct. 10. I'm 65, I'm on Medicare, I've got money in the bank and I'm married to the astonishing Susan King. So I'm going to do okay. If business arrangements can be worked out, I'll continue to write some Real Florida essays for the paper. If things don't work out, I'll be freelancing elsewhere. In the meantime, look on Facebook for further details. It's been a great run -- and I have to tell you this: Nobody has been blessed with so many wonderful colleagues and readers. You've provided the energy for what I've done for so long. I love you."

Ben Montgomery, one of Klink's colleagues at the Times, tweeted this: "Heart broken. Jeff Klinkenberg is retiring. Florida won't be the same. The Times won't be the same."

Craig Pittman, the Times' environmental writer said this of his colleague: "The Governor should declare him a Great Floridian. He's done more to educate the people in this state about their roots and their culture and their natural surroundings than just about anybody I know."

Today I called Klink and we chatted for the better part of a half hour.

He told me that even though one part of his career was coming to an end he was grateful to have gotten his foot in the door on "the tail end of the Front Page era," but lately he was beginning to feel like the Florida panther he'd written about so many times: "Like the panther...I've watched my habitat [space in the paper] shrink."

I asked Klink what writers or journalists inspired him early on. Without hesitation he mentioned four: Eugene Patterson, a Pulitzer Prize winning editor at the Times who went on to become the paper's chairman and chief executive officer, New Yorker magazine writers John McPhee and Joseph Mitchell, and the Miami Herald's Al Burt.

After Burt died in 2008, Klink wrote: "I was a kid sportswriter at the now-out-of-print Miami News when Al began chronicling our state in his weekly column 'Around Florida.' I wanted to be Al Burt when I grew up.

"When I started writing about Florida in 1986, I religiously mailed Al my clips hoping for a pat on the head from the old master. He always was encouraging, sometimes about individual stories, but more often about the need for reporters to write about Florida culture as if it were worth writing about. I don't think there are many of us around following Al's lead."

I then asked him if he had any favorite stories. Again, without hesitation, he mentioned three - all pieces that were published earlier this year:
1) The last Martin of Gilchrist County: "A traveling day. Nathan Martin is going to town. He is going to have a meal with the woman he loves. He usually hates wearing a shirt, but Vida will tsk tsk if he shows up with chest bare. He also needs to decide what to do about footwear. He hates shoes even more than he hates wearing a shirt." 
2) My dad had an artist's soul, but a temper that left many scars: "A dad can leave another kind of imprint on his kids. When my dad lost his temper, which was seldom, he lost all control. I didn't get spanked; other kids got spanked. He beat me hard enough with a belt to leave welts, bruises and sometimes blood. I have spent years trying to understand the demon that possessed him in those moments."

3) The second coming of Billy the Kid: "Guy on the phone says to "Google 'Billy the Kid' Emerson. He's old now, but he was really famous once. He lives here." So I Google. An African-American piano player born in Tarpon Springs, Emerson ended up at Sun Records in Memphis. Elvis recorded one of his songs. Talk to Billy the Kid, implores the anonymous caller. What a story he must have to tell. In the summer of 2012 I call him. Billy the Kid Emerson says: "I NEVER EVER TALK ABOUT THOSE DAYS" — those days when he played the devil's music and knew Elvis. Now he listens only to spirituals. In fact, he's been writing a suite of religious hymns he calls his masterpiece. I suggest we do an interview at his house. "I'm not looking for glory,'' he says. "But thank you for your interest.'' Click."

Klink's last day at the Times is Oct. 10. But something tells me he's not quite ready to give up on the craft he's practiced so masterfully for the past four decades.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Your early afternoon time waster

True Facts About Marsupials.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chris Poole of Tampa wins $25,000 for cat video

Via Tampa Bay Times:
A Tampa cat owner is $25,000 richer this week after his internet video captured the grand prize in "The Friskies"– the awards for the best Internet cat videos of the year.

Yes, you read that right. $25,000. (Note to self: Adopt cat. Film antics. Get rich.)

(Click here to see the other entries in the competition.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I need your help

If you like what I do here, and you'd like to see it continue, then I could really use your help. I hope you'll consider making a donation to help keep this blog going.

Just click on the Paypal "donate" button at the top of the right-hand column and follow the instructions.

Thank you for your support and continued readership.