Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bad decisions at the Herald

When the end finally comes for newspapers - and it's not a question of if, but when - there will be plenty of blame to go around.

Sure, people stopped reading the physical paper in favor of getting news online. And there's no question Craigslist siphoned away paying advertisers.

But a lot of the blame will have to be shared by the people who run the papers and make the decisions. Daily decisions regarding what stories to cover and how to play them.

Anyone who's read the Herald for a long time has no doubt noticed a steady decline in the quality of the paper, and more recently evidence is surfacing that points to some really bad editorial decision-making.

This morning I asked a Herald staffer why this is. Here's the reply: "You have to realize that the people who are running the Herald now are the same people who were always picked last in high school. They're a bunch of wimps."

Consider the story that occupied a good part of page 1B of Friday's paper.

If you were looking for news on the front of the local section here's what the Herald gave you:
Ballet mistress Luana Hidalgo scouted a crowd of eager first-graders.

''I need strong boys!'' she said, and picked a few before turning her search to the girls.

''This little ballerina over here,'' she said.

Then it was time for a lesson in lifting, courtesy of Arts Ballet Goes to School, a 10-year-old program that brings the dance form to kids in Miami-Dade, Broward and beyond. ''Everybody is going to grab a girl,'' Hidalgo told an audience of about 60 new ballet enthusiasts in the cafetorium at Greynolds Park Elementary in North Miami Beach.
The story occupied a good third of the local front and another one third of page 2B.

Here are a few choice quotes from the story:
  • ''I carried Elizabeth,'' said Christopher Perez, 6. ``It was good.''

  • 'Maybe the boys, one day when they have a girlfriend who says, `Can you take me to see the ballet,' he's not going to say no,'' she said.

  • 'And once they do that, you talk to them about ballet in the future and they go, `OK, it's something we don't have to be afraid of,' '' she said.
  • Here's a question for the Herald's Metro editor Jay Ducassi and the rest of the decision makers at the paper: "Have you lost your minds?"

    I'm all for teaching young kids an appreciation of the arts. But is this something that needs to be explored in the news section of the paper? Especially when that section has shrunk to 8 pages. Wasn't this story better suited for Tropical Life or Neighbors?

    Is this the same paper that once employed reporters like Edna Buchanan, Gene Miller and Don Bohning?

    But I wanted to be sure that Jay Ducassi wasn't suffering a temporary lapse and that the placement of yesterday's story wasn't some journalistic brain-fart. So today I checked the front of local section.

    Sure enough, another misplaced story that should have run in Neighbors:

    The teens giggled at their reflections in the mirror.

    Neon yellow, blue and orange bell-bottoms were accessorized with a fluffy feather boa. Metallic tights paired with studded heels.

    ''They might not want to be seen in the streets like this,'' said Ariel Eber, ``but it works for the show.''
    The Herald also has other problems they need to address. Like who's the person who decides that it's OK to run two month-old stories?

    Memo to Herald editors: Want to know why your readers are leaving? This is why!

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