Friday, October 31, 2008

Could Sarah Palin get a job at McDonald's?

Probably not.

"Ken Duberstein, former Republican chief of staff to President Reagan, told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell today that the pick of Palin has undermined John McCain's credibility.

"What most Americans I think realize is that you don't offer a job, let alone the vice presidency, to a person after one job interview," Duberstein said. "Even at McDonalds you're interviewed three times before you're given a job."
Duberstein is voting for Obama.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More bad news at The Herald

As I predicted last month, circulation figures released today for the latest reporting period show the Herald's readership continuing its sharp decline.
"...daily circ [at the Herald] was down 11.8% to 210,884. Sunday was down 9% to 279,484."

By comparison "The Orlando Sentinel lost 3.3% of its daily circ to 206,363 and about the same on Sunday (-3.2%) to 307,976 copies" which means the Orlando Sentinel now has a larger Sunday circulation than the Herald.
The Herald once boasted the largest circulation of any paper in Florida. The St. Petersburg Times now has a larger daily and Sunday circulation than the Herald.

And as the latest fiigures show, The Orlando Sentinel has surpassed the Herald's Sunday readership and has posted smaller daily circulation losses than the Herald. It's quite possible that if the Herald continues to experience similar circulation losses that it will find itself as the state's third largest newspaper.

The Herald has posted an AP story on their site on the just released circulation figures but it doesn't contain any info on their own dismal numbers. It will be interesting to see if they have a local angle to this story in the paper tomorrow.

Some analysts are already dissecting the latest circulation numbers and reading between the lines. Former Knight Ridder exec Ken Doctor explains what he believes is behind the double-digit declines in circulation at some newspapers:
"One big reason the numbers are declining is the product itself. In the last year, we've seen unprecedented cuts in the product -- and the customers are noticing. It looks like the amount of newsprint is down about 10-15%; some in stories, some in ads. Trusted bylines have disappeared overnight. Readers notice, and talk to their friends, and they're saying: it's not the newspaper it used to be. When the subscription notices come, they're a little less likely to be acted upon."
I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to the Herald.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Republicans + bathroom stalls...what's up with that?

The Herald's Ace Crime Reporter David Ovalle breaking a story late this afternoon that's sure to set tongues wagging at the courthouse tomorrow.

Ovalle did some digging and came up with a disturbing story of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Douglas Chumbley getting himself arrested back on Sept. 25 after allegedly exposing himself in a Starbucks bathroom on the University of Miami campus. Chumbley was busted after following a male student into the Starbucks restroom.

Ovalle tells us that the hizzoner is a Palmetto Bay Republican and a former English teacher at a Catholic high school. He was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006. Chumbley served as a judge in the juvenile division.

Chumbley's bio and photo have disappeared from the website of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida but Random Pixels was able to find the page in Google's cache.The question Ovalle leaves unanswered in his otherwise excellent story is why Republicans seem to be fascinated with bathroom stalls!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who won the debate? Joe the Plumber by a knockout!

Random Pixels welcomes America's newest instant celebrity. Joe the Plumber! Enjoy your 15 minutes, Joe!

Joe was mentioned no fewer than 20 times during the hour and a half debate.

Joe talks about the American Dream among other things in this interview:
" American Dream was to have a house, a dog, a couple rifles, a bass boat. I believe in living life easy and simple. I don’t have grand designs. I don’t want much."
Yeah, but who's he voting for? He told the AP: "That's for me and a button to know."

Death by a thousand cuts [UPDATED]

UPDATED at 3pm, Thursday:

A newsroom source now tells Random Pixels that Herald publisher David Landsberg said as recently as yesterday that the talked about and anticipated job cuts in January may not be necessary.


A few brief notes on the current state of affairs in the newspaper business:

  • A source at the Herald tells me that despite two rounds of buyouts in the space of three months, some staffers are bracing for more bad news.

    Executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal has already told his staff that more cuts in the newsroom may be necessary - as early as January. As many as 10 more staffers may lose their jobs.

    The newsroom buzz is that with the previous round of cuts taking a toll on reporters, photographers and support staff, some senior editors may now find their heads on the chopping block.

    My source tells me that some of them [editors] are sitting at their desks with "thousand-yard stares. They're shell-shocked."

  • Some Herald staffers are complaining about the Herald's new website re-design. "While it may look like it's new and improved, all they did was put lipstick on a pig," said one newsroom insider. "They did it on the cheap." Another staffer tells me that the design was mandated by the Herald's parent company McClatchy. The source says that all McClatchy papers will soon have similar looking sites.

  • Another Herald source tells me that the Herald's Broward bureau in Pembroke Pines has become a ghost town. He reports that many days he's the only person in the once-busy building. "It gives me a creepy feeling," says the staffer.

  • And here's something that Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal is no doubt paying attention to:

    While newspapers will never get back subscribers who have migrated to the web, they're trying desperate measures to hold on to subscribers they still have.

    One of those measures is re-design. The Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel have recently launched re-designed papers.

    Tampa Tribune executive editor Janet Coats thought she'd come up with a sure fire way to re-invent her paper. Coats decided that what her readers wanted was a more compact and condensed version of the Tribune. The problem is she never asked the readers what they wanted.

    The Tribune rolled out a one section paper back on Oct. 6.

    Readers hated it.

    Less than a week after launching the slimmed down version of the paper, Coats had to apologize to readers and announce that the Tribune will it resume publishing a multi-section paper.

    The Tribune is in a no-win situation. It competes with the St. Petersburg Times for readers. The St. Petersburg Times, which is considered one of the best newspapers in the country, outclasses the inferior Tribune in circulation and and quality. The only way the Tribune can beat the St. Pete Times is to give away a $20 bill with every paper they sell. Giving readers less of a newspaper is not the answer, as editor Coats has painfully learned.

    The incident just proves that some people who run newspapers have no idea what readers want.
  • Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    McCain's attacks...they didn't work!

    From the New York Times:
    The McCain campaign’s recent angry tone and sharply personal attacks on Senator Barack Obama appear to have backfired and tarnished Senator John McCain more than their intended target, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found.
    .... the poll found that more voters see Mr. McCain as waging a negative campaign than Mr. Obama. Six in 10 voters surveyed said that Mr. McCain had spent more time attacking Mr. Obama than explaining what he would do as president; by about the same number, voters said Mr. Obama was spending more of his time explaining than attacking.
    Ol' Cranky certainly isn't helping himself with performances like this either. Perhaps after the election is over, whomever was responsible for allowing John McCain to make these sorts of appearances before video cameras can explain why they thought it was a good idea! But by all means, let's have more like these!

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    The Big Lie

    "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

    "It is not truth that matters, but victory."

    If there's heaven or a hell or an after-life in another universe, then there's no doubt that Lee Atwater is looking down on the McCain campaign of recent days and smiling.

    Atwater was a Republican strategist who perfected a particularly virulent form of dirty politics that he used on behalf of various Republican candidates including George H.W. Bush.

    And while Atwater didn't author the above quotes - they were uttered by another politician - he no doubt, knew of them and more than likely adhered to them in principle.

    Eleanor Randolph of the New York Times wrote back on Sept. 19 that Atwater knew how to "get inside peoples’ heads." Randolph explains:
    One of the cruelest examples of this maneuver involved former State Senator Tom Turnipseed, a South Carolina Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1980. As a youth, Mr. Turnipseed had shock therapy for depression, which he talked about on occasion.

    Mr. Atwater, who was working for the Republican, was not sympathetic. He went around the state telling people that the Democratic candidate had once “been hooked up to jumper cables.” No matter how much Mr. Turnipseed talked about education or crime or dirty tricks after that, voters only saw the jumper cables.

    For the 1988 campaign to elect then-Vice President Bush, the indelible image that helped defeat Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was a black man named Willie Horton. Willie Horton committed rape while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison under a program that was actually started by another governor, a Republican.

    Despite his public denials that he had anything to do with an anti-Dukakis commercial featuring Mr. Horton, this film has Mr. Atwater encouraging an outside group to spread the word. The tactic worked. Mr. Atwater and friends managed to turn Willie Horton’s face into the only thing some voters could remember about the Democratic nominee.
    Atwater died in 1991, but as we've seen in recent days, the Atwater style of politics is very much alive.

    John McCain and Sarah Palin have trotted out the big lie and smear politics, instigated no doubt, by their campaign advisors who have probably been doing some reading up on Lee Atwater.

    Sarah Palin on Oct. 4:
    “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?”
    What better way to distract your followers from the real issues and your own shortcomings as a candidate, than by telling a lie and then repeating it over and over again until they start believing it?

    And all of this from a woman, who as mayor of her town, wanted to ban books from the library and as governor reportedly set up a Yahoo e-mail account so she could conduct state business without scrutiny. And now in just the past few days we learn that Palin was running the state of Alaska like some backwater town southern sheriff by abusing "the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired."

    Palin's ugly rhetoric and lies became so intense last week, that some of her supporters on Florida's west coast felt obliged to match her hate speech one ugly word for another with threats shouted from the audience against Obama and some members of the media.

    And even though McCain and Palin never said some of the more outrageous things that their supporters are screaming at rallies, they planted the seeds of hate and pollinated them when they sprouted.

    Some of their followers have even resorted to making up their own lies. One woman actually believes that Obama is "an Arab."

    John McCain, to his credit, has finally decided to scale back the attacks: "I have to tell you — he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared" of "as president of the United States."

    With less than a month to go before the election, let's see if McCain and Palin can stick to the issues.

    Oh, by the way, who uttered those two quotes at the top of this post? Not a Republican, although they could have been.

    They were both said by Adolf Hitler.

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    Actually...her face is not what worries me!

    The world economy's in the dumper, we're stuck in a war with no end in sight, people are going broke just filling up their gas tanks and ten of thousands of Americans are being forced out of their homes.

    So what are the folks at Fox News and a Republican twinkie named Andrea Tantaros upset about?

    The fact that Newsweek magazine didn't Photoshop Sarah Palin's ultra-close-up photo on the cover of the current issue.

    Tantaros thinks it outrageous that Newsweek makes Barack Obama look so gorgeous on their covers but not poor Sarah. Hell, they even gave Barack a halo on a recent cover, she whines!

    Here's Tantaros on Fox News complaining about Newsweek's "slap in the face" at Sarah Palin. She uses the term "a slap in the face" no fewer than six times. This is a woman who clearly isn't getting enough time off.

    Tantaros apparently has no problems with Palin sliming Obama by using rhetoric that borders on hate speech.

    But she does have a problem with Newsweek not using the cloning tool on Sarah's pics.

    What a lot of these complainers don't understand is that Newsweek is news magazine and not a fashion magazine. And Photoshopping newsphotos is a "no-no."

    Here's another guy who asks the burning question "Did 'Newsweek' Have to Show Palin's 'stache?"

    Who cares? It's not Palin's facial hair or large pores or moles that scare me. It's her Neanderthal-like political views and the fact that she has absolutely no business running for the second highest office in the land!

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    George W. Bush's 8 years...suitable for framing!

    Click to enlarge

    This Saturday George W. Bush will have just 100 days remaining in office.

    To mark the occasion I slapped together a poster celebrating some of the more memorable moments of his presidency. It was hard to choose...there were so many.

    It's just my little way of saying "Thanks for everything Mr. President!"

    -from your friends at Random Pixels.

    George W. Bush's 8 years....FAIL!!!!

    As America inches closer to the day when George Bush packs his bags and heads back to Texas - 103 days and counting - it's only fitting that we take a serious look back at some of the promises he made and judge whether or not he kept them.

    I'm sure C-Span and the Newshour on PBS will be doing in-depth analyses of Bush's eight years in office. But who has time to sit around and listen to, what will no doubt, be a bunch of talking heads?

    I'd rather hear it directly from the man himself! And all of it in under 2 minutes!

    The political staff at The Late Show with David Letterman has put together this video compilation of Bush's achievements. How did he do? You be the judge.

    OK, OK. That wasn't really all that serious. But the video below is a little more introspective and scholarly...just like George Bush.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    John McCain's service to his country...the stuff he doesn't talk about

    John McCain ended tonight's debate with these 13 words:
    "...the great honor of my life was to always put my country first."
    And now consider this passage from the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine that quotes Air Force lieutenant colonel John Dramesi who was also a POW in Vietnam:
    Dramesi says he has no desire to dishonor McCain's service, but he believes that celebrating the downed pilot's behavior as heroic — "he wasn't exceptional one way or the other" — has a corrosive effect on military discipline. "This business of my country before my life?" Dramesi says. "Well, he had that opportunity and failed miserably. "If it really were country first, John McCain would probably be walking around without one or two arms or legs — or he'd be dead."
    John McCain likes to talk of his military service. McCain and his supporters bring up his years in uniform almost daily.

    At the Republican convention Sarah Palin said of John McCain: "There is only one candidate who has truly fought for America and that man is John McCain," as if that alone makes John McCain qualified to be commander-in-chief.

    What they don't mention is that many great presidents never served in the military.

    There's no doubt that McCain suffered while a POW in North Vietnam. He reminds us of that every chance he gets. But there's much more to the story. Stuff you won't hear McCain or Sarah Palin talking about between now and election day.

    More from the cover story in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine on John McCain's military years:
    At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation's capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It's the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.
    On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

    "I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

    "Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

    "It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says.

    "Why? Where are you going to, John?"

    "Oh, I'm going to Rio."

    "What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

    McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

    "I got a better chance of getting laid."

    Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."
    [At Annapolis] when McCain was not shown the pampering to which he was accustomed, he grew petulant — even abusive. He repeatedly blew up in the face of his commanding officer. It was the kind of insubordination that would have gotten any other midshipman kicked out of Annapolis. But his classmates soon realized that McCain was untouchable. Midway though his final year, McCain faced expulsion, about to "bilge out" because of excessive demerits. After his mother intervened, however, the academy's commandant stepped in. Calling McCain "spoiled" to his face, he nonetheless issued a reprieve, scaling back the demerits. McCain dodged expulsion a second time by convincing another midshipman to take the fall after McCain was caught with contraband.
    McCain's self-described "four-year course of insubordination" ended with him graduating fifth from the bottom — 894th out of a class of 899. It was a record of mediocrity he would continue as a pilot.
    Sometimes 3 a.m. moments occur at 10:52 in the morning.

    It was July 29th, 1967, a hot, gusty morning in the Gulf of Tonkin atop the four-acre flight deck of the super carrier USS Forrestal. Perched in the cockpit of his A-4 Skyhawk, Lt. Cmdr. John McCain ticked nervously through his preflight checklist.

    Now 30 years old, McCain was trying to live up to his father's expectations, to finally be known as something other than the fuck-up grandson of one of the Navy's greatest admirals. That morning, preparing for his sixth bombing run over North Vietnam, the graying pilot's dreams of combat glory were beginning to seem within his reach.

    Then, in an instant, the world around McCain erupted in flames. A six-foot-long Zuni rocket, inexplicably launched by an F-4 Phantom across the flight deck, ripped through the fuel tank of McCain's aircraft. Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain's stubby A-4, the Navy's "Tinkertoy Bomber," into the fire.

    McCain, who knew more than most pilots about bailing out of a crippled aircraft, leapt forward out of the cockpit, swung himself down from the refueling probe protruding from the nose cone, rolled through the flames and ran to safety across the flight deck. Just then, one of his bombs "cooked off," blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers. McCain was stung by tiny bits of shrapnel in his legs and chest, but the wounds weren't serious; his father would later report to friends that Johnny "came through without a scratch."

    The damage to the Forrestal was far more grievous: The explosion set off a chain reaction of bombs, creating a devastating inferno that would kill 134 of the carrier's 5,000-man crew, injure 161 and threaten to sink the ship.

    These are the moments that test men's mettle. Where leaders are born. Leaders like . . . Lt. Cmdr. Herb Hope, pilot of the A-4 three planes down from McCain's. Cornered by flames at the stern of the carrier, Hope hurled himself off the flight deck into a safety net and clambered into the hangar deck below, where the fire was spreading. According to an official Navy history of the fire, Hope then "gallantly took command of a firefighting team" that would help contain the conflagration and ultimately save the ship.

    McCain displayed little of Hope's valor. Although he would soon regale The New York Times with tales of the heroism of the brave enlisted men who "stayed to help the pilots fight the fire," McCain took no part in dousing the flames himself. After going below decks and briefly helping sailors who were frantically trying to unload bombs from an elevator to the flight deck, McCain retreated to the safety of the "ready room," where off-duty pilots spent their noncombat hours talking trash and playing poker. There, McCain watched the conflagration unfold on the room's closed-circuit television — bearing distant witness to the valiant self-sacrifice of others who died trying to save the ship, pushing jets into the sea to keep their bombs from exploding on deck.

    As the ship burned, McCain took a moment to mourn his misfortune; his combat career appeared to be going up in smoke. "This distressed me considerably," he recalls in Faith of My Fathers. "I feared my ambitions were among the casualties in the calamity that had claimed the Forrestal."

    The fire blazed late into the night. The following morning, while oxygen-masked rescue workers toiled to recover bodies from the lower decks, McCain was making fast friends with R.W. "Johnny" Apple of The New York Times, who had arrived by helicopter to cover the deadliest Naval calamity since the Second World War. The son of admiralty surviving a near-death experience certainly made for good copy, and McCain colorfully recounted how he had saved his skin. But when Apple and other reporters left the ship, the story took an even stranger turn: McCain left with them. As the heroic crew of the Forrestal mourned its fallen brothers and the broken ship limped toward the Philippines for repairs, McCain zipped off to Saigon for what he recalls as "some welcome R&R."
    There is no question that McCain suffered hideously in North Vietnam. His ejection over a lake in downtown Hanoi broke his knee and both his arms. During his capture, he was bayoneted in the ankle and the groin, and had his shoulder smashed by a rifle butt. His tormentors dragged McCain's broken body to a cell and seemed content to let him expire from his injuries. For the next two years, there were few days that he was not in agony.

    But the subsequent tale of McCain's mistreatment — and the transformation it is alleged to have produced — are both deeply flawed. The Code of Conduct that governed POWs was incredibly rigid; few soldiers lived up to its dictate that they "give no information . . . which might be harmful to my comrades." Under the code, POWs are bound to give only their name, rank, date of birth and service number — and to make no "statements disloyal to my country."

    Soon after McCain hit the ground in Hanoi, the code went out the window. "I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital," he later admitted pleading with his captors. McCain now insists the offer was a bluff, designed to fool the enemy into giving him medical treatment. In fact, his wounds were attended to only after the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a Navy admiral. What has never been disclosed is the manner in which they found out: McCain told them. According to Dramesi, one of the few POWs who remained silent under years of torture, McCain tried to justify his behavior while they were still prisoners. "I had to tell them," he insisted to Dramesi, "or I would have died in bed."
    From an Oct. 6, 2008 L.A. Times story on McCain's military service:
    As a presidential candidate, McCain has cited his military service -- particularly his 5 1/2 years as a POW. But he has been less forthcoming about his mistakes in the cockpit.

    The [L.A.] Times interviewed men who served with McCain and located once-confidential 1960s-era accident reports and formerly classified evaluations of his squadrons during the Vietnam War. This examination of his record revealed a pilot who early in his career was cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits.

    In today's military, a lapse in judgment that causes a crash can end a pilot's career. Though standards were looser and crashes more frequent in the 1960s, McCain's record stands out.

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    Is there life after TV news?

    Former WPLG Local 10 anchor Steve Alvarez 'interviews' Angelina Jolie.



    A few years ago I worked at Channel 10 News. After I was there about 3 years an amazing thing happened. I got tired of working in TV news at exactly the same time they got tired of having me work for them. It was beautiful while it lasted.

    One of the friendships I formed was with Steve Alvarez who worked as a sports reporter/anchor at Channel 10. He later switched to being a news anchor.

    Steve and I worked weekends at Channel 10 along with another Steve, weekend news producer Steve Owen who is now assistant news director (and also a friend) at 10.

    Weekends at a TV station can be boring and depressing but I could always count on the Steves to lighten things up.

    In 2001 Steve left Channel 10, sold his Pinetree Drive house on Miami Beach and moved to Los Angeles with his wife and two kids. Once there he launched a new career in the movies.

    He sent me an e-mail this weekend telling me of his latest gig. He's in a new Clint Eastwood film, "Changeling." It stars Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and...Steve Alvarez.
    Steve wants all his friends in Miami to know there is life after TV news!

    I'll let Steve pick up the rest of story....
    Getting let go by WPLG was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got out of the local TV news rut and began to see there was a whole different world out there, other than the tunnel vision of local news. When I first started in news more than 20 years ago, we actually covered news. Now, its all the same entertainment, scandal, trash TV that has taken over the industry. I couldn't be happier to be out of it.

    My family moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and we've never looked back. I figured since local news was all becoming entertainment, why not work in it legitimately. I moved into producing and directing on a number of reality shows over the years, working on everything from travel shows, to dating, you name it, and its all great fun. The biggest bonus, I never have to wear a suit and tie again!

    My wife, who was a producer/writer for WSVN in their special project division, has become a top show runner in reality television. She's been working as an executive producer on some of the top series on the air.

    And now, some people may have seen a familiar face on the screen at the local movie theater. Yes, that's me, in the trailer for the new Clint Eastwood directed movie "Changeling" starring Angelina Jolie. I landed a part with two lines in a pivotal scene. I can't begin n to tell you how exciting it was to be directed by a legend like Clint Eastwood, and to act in a scene with a superstar like Angelina Jolie. It was fantastic. It was all I could do to keep my knees from knocking.

    Its a period piece, from 1929, so we were all in costume. The suit I wore had been made for actor Tom Skerritt, for another film. So I count that as another one of my "Hollywood connections."

    It's a lot more fun to play a reporter in a movie, than to actually be one. When you cover local news, they don't give you your own dressing room, apply makeup, feed you, and treat you like a V.I.P. Movies are definitely more fun to make.

    Prior to that, I've had roles on about a dozen network shows , including "The Practice", before it became "Boston Legal", "Nightstalker" the short lived series on ABC, three appearances on "Invasion" also on ABC, "Commander in Chief" on ABC, many on-camera appearances for Jimmy Kimmel live, on ABC..are you beginning to get the picture? Even though I've been off the air at WPLG for the last 8 years, but I still keep showing up on their channel. I've also had two roles on HBO'S hit series "Big Love". I had a role on "Criminal Minds" on CBS, and I have been doing regular voice-over work for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" for several years.

    So, at age 56 (Yes, I said it. 56, my birthday was last month)

    I am still experiencing new adventures. If I had stayed in local news, none of that would have happened. I never would have been in a dozen TV shows and a Clint Eastwood movie, never would have had the great fun of producing wild and wacky reality shows, and my wife would never had gotten the opportunity to excel as a producer/director. I wish I had the money in the bank I had when I was working in Miami; but that's about the only thing I miss.

    A few years ago, my wife and I also got into renovating houses; and have done very, very well in renovating and selling 4 homes in the last 8 years. We're both self-employed, so we can work in TV when we want, and work on houses when we want. We've rebuilt several here in Los Angeles from the ground up, doing a vast amount of the work ourselves. Its always an adventure, moving from one house to the next, taking on the task of renovation, and then selling it for a large profit. That's something else I could never do if I was working in local news. I would never have had the time.

    I have learned that life is a journey, and you need to enjoy every twist and turn of that road along the way. That's what I am embracing now, and having a great time. "The Changeling" comes out on October 31st.

    After seeing it in theaters, make sure you rent it when it comes out on DVD months from now....I'll thank you when the residual check arrives!
    Here's the trailer for "Changeling." Steve's in the crowd reporters at the train station.

    Looks like a great movie! There's more info at the movie's website.

    Congratulations Steve!

    Sunday, October 05, 2008

    Then and now...

    From Time Magazine's infamous Nov. 23, 1981 "Paradise Lost" cover story on Miami:
    "Besides buying such standard gear as pistols and window grates, residents are purchasing attack dogs, alarms that scream out "Burglar! burglar!" and even armor-plated cars usually made for export to the war zones of Central America. George Wackenhut, who heads a giant Coral Gables-based security firm that bears his name, has watched his business in South Florida grow by 22% this year. "When I was growing up, a murder story used to be good for ten days in the papers," says Wackenhut, a onetime FBI agent. "Here a morning kill may not even make the afternoon news.
    "Drug shootouts are becoming a frequent sight in certain parts of Miami. At a busy intersection in Coral Gables last month, for example, a Mercedes Benz was suddenly surrounded and its 30-year-old Colombian driver killed in a burst of machine-gun fire."
    I was reminded of TIME's overblown prose when reading this story in today's New York Times:
    "But tucked on a leafy side street in the Polanco neighborhood is a shop unlike the others, one whose bustling business says much about the dire state of security in this country. At Miguel Caballero, named after its Colombian owner, all the garments are bulletproof.

    "There are bulletproof leather jackets and bulletproof polo shirts. Armored guayabera shirts hang next to protective windbreakers, parkas and even white ruffled tuxedo shirts. Every member of the sales staff has had to take a turn being shot while wearing one of the products, which range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $7,000, so they can attest to the efficacy of the secret fabric."

    Joan says farewell...sort of

    The Herald's Joan Fleischman has filed her last Talk of Our Town column. After 30 years at the paper - the last 16 writing her popular column - she's calling it quits and is among the current group of Herald staffers taking a buyout from the paper.

    Joan started out as a cop reporter at the Herald and covered some this town's biggest stories - and its biggest scandal - in the bad old 80's when the term "cocaine cowboys" was a part of everyday conversation in Miami.

    Joan was all over the Miami River cops case from day one, discovering that just about all of the rank and file officers on the Miami Police Department's midnight shift were supplementing their salaries by working as freelance drug dealers.

    By the time it was over, some 100 Miami cops had been implicated, fired or suspended and at least 16 of those went to jail.

    However in July of 1985, when Joan started covering the River Cops story, the full impact and scope of the case had yet to be realized. One of Joan's first stories was relegated to the inside of the Local section. It wouldn't stay that way for long.

    Miami Herald, The (FL) - July 31, 1985
    Author: JOAN FLEISCHMAN Herald Staff Writer
    Copyright © 1985 The Miami Herald
    Edition: FINAL
    Section: LOCAL
    Page: 2B

    Three men whose bodies were found floating in the Miami River died from drowning, but they may have been the victims of a cocaine rip-off, robbed by a gang of men masquerading as police, Metro-Dade detectives said Tuesday.

    "We don't know exactly what caused them to drown, whether they fell into the water or they were pushed in or purposely jumped in," said Homicide Detective Alex Alvarez.

    The three were identified as Pedro Martinez, 40, of 6800 SW 14th St.; Adolfo Lopez-Yanes, 37, of 5271 NW Second Ter.; and Juan A. Garcia, address unknown.

    Garcia owned a restaurant, Lopez was a self-employed painter and Martinez was a handyman who did ceiling work, police said.

    They were dressed in sports clothes when their bodies were fished out of the water Monday afternoon by employees of a salvage firm. Each of the victims had between $800 and $1,000 in large bills in their pockets, and still wore jewelry. Garcia and Martinez also carried pistols in their waistbands, police said. Only Garcia had an arrest record, but the charges were misdemeanors, police said.

    Police said Garcia and Lopez did not know how to swim.

    Alvarez, a member of a special squad that specializes in
    drug-related killings, said investigators are trying to verify a tip that the three were involved in a $9 million cocaine deal and were ambushed by seven to 12 men, some in blue uniforms, who posed as police.

    The victims allegedly met at Jones Boat Yard, 3399 NW South River Dr., at 2 a.m. Sunday to unload 300 kilograms of cocaine that was arriving by boat, the tipster told police.

    "We received information that there were two other persons who survived," Alvarez said. "We have an idea who they are. We're trying to look for the survivors and attempt to get a firsthand account of what happened."

    Cleve Jones, owner of the boat yard, said his security guard told him a group of men identifying themselves as police came to his business early Sunday morning.

    "He let them in," Jones said. "The only reason he opened the door is because they hammered on it so hard, he was afraid they were going to break it. They told him it was a drug bust. They just pushed their way in and said, 'We're on a raid.' "

    The guard told Jones that two of the men were wearing uniforms and caps; the rest -- at least three others -- were in street clothes.

    "This was nothing unusual because we have in the past had police and plainclothesmen come here looking for boats going up and down the river that might be suspected of hauling drugs," Jones said.

    The guard said the group asked for directions to a 40-foot boat docked at the yard since Saturday. The owner of the boat was there working with some other men, the guard said.

    "They were supposedly unloading some tools from the boat into a van they had in the yard," Jones said.

    The guard said the men he believed were police officers spent 15 minutes in the boat yard before ordering him to open the gate and roaring off in a brown van.

    A few minutes later, two men, soaking wet, approached the guard. They asked him to open the gate so they could drive a car into the yard and finish unloading tools. The guard obliged, and the men left.

    Jones said the guard did not suspect anything was wrong. People often work on their boats at odd hours, and as long as they are sober, quiet and law abiding, no one interferes, he said.

    "Nobody knew anything was amiss until they found the bodies," said Jones' wife, Caroline. "The river is a strange place. It's full of lots of strange animals."
    In 1992 Joan started writing "Talk of Our Town," a frothy mélange of gossip and other juicy items about the rich and powerful and just plain folks in Miami. The stories that Joan dug up didn't quite fit in any other part of the paper, but in Joan's "Talk of Our Town" they found a home.

    The Herald's always had a column similar to "Talk of Our Town."

    Other Herald writers who've penned a Talk-of-Our-Town-like column include Michael Putney, Jane Wooldridge and Fred Tasker. All of them put their own unique imprint on the column.

    Putney, who's now with Channel 10, wrote the column in the early 80's before bolting for TV news.

    He told me a few months ago: "Yes, I wrote for that space back in the Cenozoic era (or was it Paleozoic?) although I'd say it was quite different. My model was the legendary Herb Caen of the SF Chronicle, who was breezy but reportorial. Kind of what I do now, eh?"

    And when Joan took over in 1992 she brought her own style to the column, which included meticulously verifying everything she wrote about.

    I was once a big fan of her column. To this day I still consider it must reading.

    But over the past few years I noticed a decline in the quality of items she printed and those complaints were noted here at Random Pixels. (Do we really need to document every lawsuit filed by every millionaire in Miami-Dade County?)

    But you have to admire a woman who, in her last column, reveals her own age!

    That was undoubtedly a zinger aimed at at those who have ended friendships with Joan because of her penchant for printing the ages of people she writes about. One of those she offended was a legendary former Herald reporter in this classic item from 2002:
    The Miami Herald - August 7, 2002
    Copyright © 2002 The Miami Herald
    Edition: Final
    Section: Local
    Page: 1B

    Miami Beach handyman Luciano Carlos Luzi claims someone threatened to kill him - in a cat spat. He filed an assault report. The suspect? Novelist Edna Buchanan , a Pulitzer Prize-winning former police reporter for The Herald. She says Luzi is dangerous, stalking her and sending people's pets to their death.

    The feline feud erupted on San Marino Island, where Luzi was fixing up a home. Luzi, 51, says he got ringworm from strays on the property. He says Animal Services told him to trap them, so he caught three and took them to the county-run facility. Turns out one - an untagged orange house cat named Oscar that got loose - belonged to San Marino resident Paula Munck. When Munck, 52, went to claim Oscar, she learned he'd been destroyed.

    That, cops say, is what triggered the dispute. Luzi told police Buchanan "drove up to him, lowered the window and proceeded to verbally threaten him by saying, 'Next time you catch another cat, I'll shoot you dead,' followed by a hand gesture resembling a gun."

    Buchanan, 64, swears she never threatened Luzi. "I know better."

    She says Luzi knew the cats were not strays. "All of the neighbors told him these were family pets, to leave them alone. He stole a neighbor's cat. He stole it and had it killed. That's a crime - in anybody's book."

    Officers Thamyris Cardelle, 43, and Christi Tanner, 36, described Buchanan as "hostile" and "winey" [sic]. Buchanan says the cops were out of control, retaliating for a previous run-in, questioning residents about her whereabouts and threatening her with arrest and jail.

    "I had become America's Most Wanted," she says. "If they pursued Andrew Cunanan with this kind of zeal, Gianni Versace would be alive."

    Buchanan , owner of four cats, two dogs and a rabbit, says it's a "pet-friendly neighborhood" where volunteers pay to spay, neuter, vaccinate and feed its "cat colony." Fellow islanders are furious with Luzi, she adds. Leonard Wolfson, 54, wrote Mayor David Dermer, 39, asking for protection from Luzi's "twisted form of terrorism." Dr. David Thornburgh, 74, asks Dermer to intervene in the "crisis."

    Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca says Luzi was "within his right to have the cats removed" because they had no ID. De Lucca, 41, who says he's a cat lover, insists MBPD is "sensitive to animals" but was caught in the crossfire. "We can't win."
    Joan dropped a little tidbit in this morning's final column when she revealed that she'll continue to contribute items for the Herald's people page. It would be a shame if she disappeared entirely from the Herald's pages.

    One piece of advice Joan: Now that you have more time on your hands, why not start a blog that includes stuff you can't get in the paper? I have no doubt that a blog written by Joan Fleischman would quickly become one of the most popular and widely-read in South Florida. There are no deadlines here on the Internet - except the ones you set for yourself - and I think you'd like the fact that your stuff would be seen by thousands within seconds of writing it, rather than waiting for it to be printed in the paper....which is sooooo yesterday!

    The South Florida blogosphere is a lively and interesting place. We'd love to have you!

    Saturday, October 04, 2008

    Tomorrow's Miami Herald!

    Click here to enlarge.

    Another in the series, If I Was the Editor of the Herald.

    NEWS ITEM: Channel 10's Michael Putney drops out as moderator of South Florida congressional candidate debate after learning that the participants would see the questions beforehand.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    Memo to Sarah Palin

    Dear Gov Palin

    I, like many Americans, was astonished other day, when I read that you couldn’t come up with a straight answer after Katie Couric asked you what newspapers and magazines you read.

    As Margaret Thatcher might say, you went “all wobbly.”

    Most intelligent Americans, when asked a similar question, might respond by naming their hometown newspaper and a national paper like the NY Times, USA Today and perhaps a magazine or two.

    But you tap-danced and obfuscated and sputtered and avoided a very simple question put to you by Couric.

    Later, when you were asked to elaborate on your answer, you responded by complaining about Couric’s “gothcha” tactics and blamed your failure to come up with the name of one newspaper you read on - incredibly - "the media!"

    You call them “gotcha” questions. Some say it’s just the press doing its job.

    You also raised the issue of the media “filtering” your answers, whatever that is.

    If you’ll allow me an observation Governor, from where I sit down here on the edge of the Everglades, your reticence to answer a relatively inane question does not bode well for you should you and Sen. McCain get elected this November.

    You might remember Watergate and two guys named Woodward and Bernstein. Those boys and girls in the Washington press corps are full of “gotcha” questions. And they’ll eat your lunch if you start whining about how "unfair" they are.

    If that upsets you or you think the press is being “unethical” then perhaps you might want to reconsider your candidacy.

    And if you’re intimidated by a silly Katie Couric question, then how does four years of really tough questioning sound?

    But today my astonishment turned to disbelief, when I read that apparently after three days of thinking about it, - and when asked by FOX News - you were finally able to name some newspapers and magazines you read. This is the “big time” Governor. You don’t get “do-overs.”

    Another observation if I may Governor, beating up on the press and blaming them for your gaffes and lack of qualifications might score you points in some circles, but in the final analysis most Americans cherish the idea of a free and unfettered press. It keeps you politicians honest!

    As you probably know, there are some countries on the planet where politicians aren’t hassled by a free press. Cuba and North Korea come to mind. However the United States isn’t one of them and that's just fine by me.

    If that doesn’t suit you, then perhaps you should do yourself and the country a favor and jump on the next plane back to Wasilla.