Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chicago divorce attorney sues Playboy

Former Miami Herald reporter Sara Olkon - who's now with the Chicago Tribune - has written a great story today about Chicago divorce attorney and former Playboy advice columnist Corri Fetman who's suing the magazine claiming "that an executive of the publishing empire sexually harassed her."

Fetman, as the story points out, once posed nude for the magazine.

Hmmmmm, let's check the Random Pixels B.S. detector on this one. Yup, just as I thought!

Make sure you read the story comments.

A taste of things to come?

Monday was the "first day of [Detroit] newspapers’ new strategy for surviving the economic crisis by ending home delivery on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays," reports Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times.
Instead, on those days, [the papers] are directing readers to their Web sites and offering a truncated print version at stores, newsstands and street boxes.

“This morning, I felt like something was missing,” said Nancy Nester, 51, a program coordinator at a traumatic brain injury center who is from West Bloomfield and has subscribed to both papers for four years. “There was this feeling of emptiness.”


Howard Waxer, 60, dropped his longtime Free Press subscription in anticipation of losing seven-day delivery and said he would not read online. He leafed through The Free Press while eating a club sandwich at Country Oven Family Dining restaurant in Berkley and said this would be his approach from now on — pick up a copy and read it over lunch.

“There’s always going to be this,” he said, holding up the paper. “I can’t picture this city without a paper coming out.”

Today's Fidel Castro Fun Fact

Fidel Castro has outlasted 10 American presidents.

And now you can add the Sun-Sentinel Havana bureau to the list of other things that the Cuban dictator has outlived.

Ray Sanchez of the Sun-Sentinel, "the only U.S. [newspaper] reporter based in Havana," is leaving and the bureau is being closed.

The closing of the bureau may only be symbolic.

The Associated Press, which provides news to just about every American newspaper, still has a bureau in Havana.

And many large newspapers including the Miami Herald and New York Times still send reporters to Cuba periodically.

But frankly, there's really just one story left to report from Havana.

And after that we can bring all the reporters home.

Until then we can only wonder whether or not Miami will still have a newspaper when it comes time to report Castro's death.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The "Raven" can't stop running

Anyone who knows the Raven, South Beach's unceasing long-distance runner, knew ahead of time there was never a question of whether or not he would complete his 100,000th mile yesterday.

The real question was: would he show up the day after?

Indeed, the sub-head on yesterday's Herald story was "At 100,000 miles is it time to call it quits?"

A few weeks ago as March 29th neared, I asked the Raven if he planned to keep running.

"No one knows," he said with a sly smile.

A small knot of people gathered around the 5th Street lifeguard station this afternoon.

By 5 o'clock, there were about a dozen of his faithful, talking quietly in groups of two or three. No one seemed to know if the Raven would show.

At 5:07, with an ESPN camera crew in tow, the Raven made his way across the beach to the lifeguard stand.

And as a formation of 15 brown pelicans flew overhead the Raven spoke, "Well, I guess you all wanna know."

"Yeah," the faithful answered.

"I'm gonna run," said the Raven.


"But," he added, "if i don't feel good one day, I might just do six miles instead of 8."

The Raven, it seems, can't stop running.

Miami Herald's new guest columnist: Fidel Castro

As if the Herald didn't have enough problems, they've now been caught red-handed by right-wing, Herald-hating blogger Henry Gomez; publishing commentary "written" by Fidel Castro.

Articles from the government-run Cuban News Agency, also inexplicably appeared on the Herald's website.

The articles and columns have now been deleted.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Herald doesn't bother to cover its own funeral

"The Miami Herald is not going anywhere." -Miami Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal testily uttered that line yesterday at a panel discussion with the foreboding title, "Miami: A No-Newspaper Town?," held just a few blocks from One Herald Plaza.

The same Anders Gyllenhaal, by the way, who told Broward New Times blogger Bob Norman last October when asked about further job cuts at the Herald, "I just don't see that happening."

Of course, two weeks ago, we learned that Gyllenhaal's hunch was a little off the mark, as the Herald instituted a third round of staff cuts in less than a year.

At yesterday's discussion Gyllenhaal seemed to blame others for the current state of affairs at the Herald:
"Constant worry about the Herald's longevity isn't helping, he said, citing online speculation that his newspaper is destined for failure.

" 'It hurt us, it hurt our advertising,' Gyllenhaal said. Advertisers are thinking, 'Maybe I shouldn't be advertising with them because they're not going to be around,' he said."
Sounds like Gyllenhaal is blaming Random Pixels and other bloggers for the Herald's current predicament.

We just want to help. Really!

Gyllenhaal's appearance on the panel comes just days after Herald publisher David Landsberg took part in a little damage control of his own.

(Today the publisher of the Charlotte Observer - also a McClatchy paper - posted a letter similar in tone to Landsberg's letter on the Observer's website.)

Meanwhile Miami Monthly publisher Elena Carpenter brought up a point that I've been hammering at for some time. According to the AP story, she "chastised Gyllenhaal for giving away stories, photos and extras such as video for free online. People need to be reminded that good reporting costs money and retains its value among blogs that don't adhere to traditional journalism standards, she said."

Carpenter is right. I strongly believe that when all is said and done and they write the obits for printed newspapers; somewhere in the first few grafs will be the a line about the fact that newspapers hastened their own demise by giving away content for free one day and then trying to charge for it the next.

But former Miami New Times reporter Rebecca Wakefield summed the Herald's problems in one sentence: The Herald's challenge, she said, is surviving "as a general interest publication in a community with no general interest."

(One puzzling side note to yesterday's panel discussion. Despite the fact that it was held in close proximity to the Herald's headquarters; the paper apparently didn't bother to cover it, relying instead on the AP.)

UPDATE: One panel attendee sent this email to Random Pixels:
"funny they had a Herald reporter there, but i have yet to see a story.

"my take is that the reason Anders asked to be on the panel (after he found out the name of it "Miami: A No Newspaper Town?") was to quash the whole notion.

"These guys are running scared bigtime.

"Nothing he said indicated that they have a workable plan to save what's left of the paper...just rearranging the deck chairs so to speak."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Would you like fries with that?

Who thinks up this stuff anyway?

A ball park in Michigan - where else? - has added this 4,800 calorie monster to its menu.

It contains nearly 300 grams of fat, 744 milligrams of cholesterol and more than 10,000 milligrams of sodium. That's more than 4 times the recommended daily allowance of sodium.

Start with an 8-inch sesame seed bun that requires 1 pound of dough and is made specially for the Whitecaps by Nantucket Baking Co. of Grand Rapids.

Spoon on nearly a cup of chili and place five one-third pound hamburger patties on top of that. (Get it, 5/3 pounds of beef for the Fifth Third Burger?)

Add five slices of American cheese and liberal doses of salsa, nacho cheese and Fritos. Top it off with lettuce, tomato and sour cream, and you have a burger that can be sliced with a pizza cutter and feed four people for $20. Jalapenos are optional.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Miami Herald publisher: "Don't worry, be happy!"

David Landsberg via turkeldoodles.com

In a "Message to Miami Herald Readers and Advertisers" posted over the weekend on the Herald's website, publisher David Landsberg goes the extra mile to assure us that despite three rounds of job cuts in less than a year, everything is just fine at One Herald Plaza!

Landsberg says that he wants to assure readers "that our company remains a strong, stable and vital organization. We are proud of the fact that we have the largest news staff by far in South Florida."

What Landsberg neglects to mention is that staff reductions have taken such a toll that many times reporters in the field working on breaking news have a hard time reaching someone in the newsroom.

And when they do get a living and breathing person, they're sometimes transferred to non-working numbers.

Landsberg continues: "The Miami Herald Media Company also continues to offer the broadest reach for advertisers. The combined net reach of our products in our core market is over 1.4 million adults,* an audience no other local media can claim."

Landsberg conveniently forgets to mention that the Herald's average daily circulation is at its lowest point in modern history.

A year ago it stood at 240,000.

Today it's about 190,000. A loss of 50,000 in a year.

Landsberg ends with these words, "The Miami Herald’s commitment to you will not change. You can count on it."


South Beach chatter

  • A source tells Random Pixels that U.S. attorney general Eric Holder was spotted going into the Apple store on crowded Lincoln Road yesterday. AG was accompanied by a phalanx of security people that arrived in two or three black Chevy Suburban SUV's.

  • A police source tells Random Pixels that the newly renovated South Pointe Park looks like it might become "28 City." A 28 is police radio code for vandalism.

    Random Pixels agrees.

    Unless the city has a plan in place to police the park at night, the gleaming $22.4 million park is likely to become a haven for homeless and gang members just like the old park was.
  • Friday, March 20, 2009


    image via imaginelifestyles.com

    Reopening of South Pointe Park on Miami Beach is this Sunday! 3 p.m. to sunset.

    From the Herald: "After a renovation that lasted 20 months and cost $22.4 million, South Pointe Park will reopen to the public Sunday -- with free events including yoga classes, kite flying and history lessons about the storied South of Fifth neighborhood."

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Herald circulation dips below 200,000

    Some 11 months ago, I posted an item on this blog about the Herald's declining circulation.

    At the time I wrote, "The inescapable truth is that if the Herald continues to lose 10% of its circulation every six months then how long will it be before their circ dips below 200,000?"

    (In 1963 Dade County had a population of about 1,050,000. The Herald's daily circulation was about 330,000.

    (In 1999 the New York Times reported "The Herald's daily circulation peaked at 442,560 copies in 1985. Last year, [1998] The Herald's circulation was 341,212, and El Neuvo's circulation was 79,738. Since about half of El Nuevo's copies are delivered in tandem with The Herald, the Miami Herald Publishing Company's two newspapers had a combined daily circulation of about 381,000 last year."

    ("While circulation nationwide slid about 10.5 percent between 1985 and 1998, the Herald newspapers' circulation fell by about 13.8 percent.")

    In this morning's story on the shake-up at el Nuevo Herald, writer Andres Viglucci drops this bombshell:

    "Its [el Nuevo Herald] circulation has been holding relatively steady as The Miami Herald's -- now at around 190,000 daily and 275,000 Sunday -- has plunged."
    The official Audit Bureau of Circulations report will be released sometime next month.

    But for the Herald, the writing is already on the wall.

    UPDATE: Bob Norman of Broward New Times has more here on today's shake-up at el Nuevo along with an interesting memo from Anders Gyllenhaal.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Men behaving badly

    Click image to enlarge.
    Spend any amount of time working as a photojournalist in a big city and sooner rather than later you'll be assigned to shoot a "perp walk."

    I've shot a few over the years.

    Going through my files recently I came across these "perps" from back in the day.

    Miami, September, 1985--Motorists on I-95 were being targeted by some bad boys from the hood. Seems a few of them would climb the embankments and throw nails or broken glass on the roadway. When unfortunate drivers hit some of the debris flattening their tires, the punks would spring into action.

    The story made national news, giving Miami another black eye.

    When the FHP arrested a couple of robbers in the act it was big news.

    I hustled on down to their headquarters, which at the time was located at Flagler St. and 26th Ave. The cops invited me in to document the moment for history.

    From the Herald story:

    Miami Herald, The (FL) - Friday, September 6, 1985
    Author: SANDY OPPENHEIM Herald Staff Writer

    An apparent good Samaritan had more in mind than helping a disabled motorist Thursday evening when he leaned into a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba and helped himself to the driver's purse, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman said.

    Trooper Domingo J. Torres, a member of the joint highway robbery task force who witnessed the robbery, pursued the 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and its three occupants, said Lt. Noel Roy.

    Torres stopped the car shortly after 5 p.m. at Northwest 74th Street and Second Avenue and arrested driver Keith Odell Cliett, 19, of 19544 NW 32nd Ct., and a passenger, Samuel Sinquefield , 18, of Miami. The arrests bring the number of task force arrests to 12 since the beginning of August.

    The purse snatcher bailed out and fled on foot, Roy said. "We believe we know who the subject is," he said.

    Cliett and Sinquefield , both former probationers with past convictions, now face an additional 15 charges between them, including burglary of a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, carrying a concealed firearm, carrying a firearm without a license and theft.

    Torres recovered the purse belonging to Nieves L. Pello, 39, of Miami. He also recovered, from the back seat under two towels, a loaded .38-caliber Colt revolver.

    "This technically can't be classified as a highway robbery," Roy said, since it happened on Northwest Sixth Avenue, immediately adjacent to the interstate. "But these people are being forced back into city streets because of increased patrol on interstate and are committing more crimes there."

    Miami, April, 1990--Former race boat driver Benjamin Barry Kramer arrives for sentencing at federal court in downtown Miami and shows his displeasure at being photographed.

    From the Miami Herald story:


    Miami Herald, The (FL)-April 14, 1990
    Author: MIKE McQUEEN Herald Staff Writer

    Former champion race boat driver Benjamin Barry Kramer was sentenced to 10 years and five months in federal prison for a spectacular but unsuccessful helicopter escape from Metropolitan Correctional Center a year ago.

    Kramer, 34, quietly stroked his goatee and declined an offer to speak on his own behalf during proceedings before U.S. District Judge James Kehoe.

    The sentence was the maximum penalty Kramer could have received. He pleaded guilty last November to conspiring to escape, attempted escape and bringing a helicopter into the South Dade prison. "We urge the court to send a message to this defendant, and to this community, that these types of things will not be permitted," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Bondi.

    Catherine Bonner, Kramer's attorney, told the judge it's pointless to give Kramer a harsh sentence -- he's already been sentenced to a life term for an unrelated conviction.

    "Mr. Kramer has been through this criminal justice system for several years -- and he still has several more years in front of him," Bonner said.

    After the speeches from the lawyers, Kehoe also ordered that Kramer pay a $100,000 fine. Friday's sentence was just one more for Kramer:

    * He was sentenced in 1986 to life in prison in Illinois on a drug-smuggling conviction.

    * Last December, U.S. District Judge Sidney Aronovitz sentenced him to five years for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

    * On March 28, Kramer was convicted in federal court in Fort Lauderdale of masterminding a worldwide marijuana smuggling and money laundering network. The conviction on 30 counts came after a three-month trial.

    He has not yet been sentenced. Kramer lived high and mighty.

    His drug organization owned a fleet of boats, a corporate jet, condos and a $20 million poker club in California, according to testimony at his Fort Lauderdale racketeering trial.

    He conducted business in South Florida, Los Angeles, London and Liechtenstein.

    Kramer's attempt to escape from MCC last April 17 was high drama.

    The pilot gently positioned the Bell 47-D copter over the exercise yard at the prison. Kramer dashed across the yard and leaped aboard.

    As he did, his foot hit a control pedal, throwing the copter into a spin and into the fence.

    Kramer, the boat racer, tried to take the controls from Charles Stevens, the pilot, and take off anyway.

    The aircraft flipped over.

    Kramer suffered a broken leg, and in the courtroom Friday he carried a crutch.
    Kramer is still in prison serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

    Miami, Feb. 24, 1992--David L. Paul , former CenTrust Bank chairman, leaves federal court in Miami after surrendering on contempt of court charges.

    From the Herald story:

    David L. Paul , the former CenTrust Bank chairman, reported for jail Monday rather than turn over potentially damaging documents to a federal grand jury investigating him.

    Though incarceration was a humbling setback for Paul , he and his attorneys contend that Monday's actions could set the stage for a greater legal victory.

    By refusing to cooperate with the grand jury, Paul may now take his case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. If he prevails there, he may be released from prison and, more significantly, be allowed to keep the potentially damaging documents from prosecutors.

    "I think David feels so strongly that his constitutional rights have been violated that he is willing to pay this price to appeal to the 11th Circuit," said Aubrey Harwell, Paul 's attorney on criminal matters.

    Paul , who did not have to report until 4 p.m., showed up at the U.S. marshal's office in downtown Miami at 10:30 a.m. with his son.

    He was photographed, fingerprinted and assigned to a holding cell.

    A bus with barred windows took him and other inmates to Metropolitan Correctional Center in South Dade on Monday evening. Going to jail on civil contempt cases, though relatively rare, isn't unheard of.
    Paul's case wound through the courts and he ended up going to prison. In April 2004 the Herald's Joan Fleischmen wrote about his release after serving almost 10 years:
    Former CenTrust chief David L. Paul is out of prison. The one-time multimillionaire power broker is living at Spectrum, a Miami halfway house, and working as a clerk at a graphics and design firm.

    Paul , 64, walked out of Miami's Federal Correctional Institution's prison camp on April 2. He did nine years and three months of an 11-year sentence - bank and securities fraud - for spending $3.1 million from CenTrust 's coffers on a lavish lifestyle at his LaGorce Island compound.

    During his first few days on the outside, Paul worked for attorney Guy Bailey Jr. - as a real estate consultant. But the Bureau of Prisons nixed that job, he says. Another work proposal: lecture college students on business ethics. The BOP shot that down, too, says Paul 's lawyer, Benson Weintraub.

    ``I've served my time,'' says Paul . ``To tell me that I can't use my education or my life experience in order to garner a living is crazy. I have no intention of spending my life flipping hamburgers. It isn't going to happen. It's wrong.''

    His new job is at International Design & Display Group Inc. in Miami Lakes. The firm is owned by Ian Quinton and wife Debra. She was Paul 's personal assistant at CenTrust .

    Miami looks different than when he entered prison on Jan. 2, 1995. Most noticeable: the building boom, the proliferation of cellphones, the widespread use of the Internet, even the colors. ``Everything in prison is either a drab beige or a drab green. There are no reds or blues or oranges.''

    He says the toughest part was his separation from his children - David (``D.J.''), 36, a film producer in L.A.; Michael, 34, a real estate developer who shuttles between Miami and Boone, N.C., and Deanna, 17, who lives here. Soon, she'll be off to college - University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater, he says. Ex-wife Sandra, 54, divorced him in 1996. She is married to hotelier Stephen Muss, 75. Says Paul : ``Haven't seen her yet, but I will. I talk to her.''

    The halfway house beats prison. ``The food is good, the rooms are clean.'' He expects to move into a family-owned condo in Bal Harbour by summer, and has three more years of supervised release. He owes more than $50 million in fines and restitution. He won't talk about his assets.

    ``People tell me I've changed,'' Paul says. ``I'm probably a little more tolerant - and a little more humble.''
    The 48-story former Centrust Tower in downtown Miami, a monument to Paul's greed, is now the called Bank of America building.

    A.I.G. chief redefines "chutzpah"

    The New York Times just posted this story: "Edward M. Liddy, the embattled chief of American International Group, is expected to ask employees who received lucrative bonuses to give half the money back."

    What a mensch!

    Another 'Miami Herald going out of business' story

    Kyle Munzenrieder over at Riptide 2.0, the daily blog run by the award winning Miami New Times, links to a story in USA Today that says Miami is on a short list of cities in danger of losing its last daily newspaper.

    The really depressing part of the USA Today story are the number of readers who comment and say they don't get their news from newspapers, "Who buys newspapers anymore? I can read any paper from anywhere in the world online..." This genius ignores the fact that he's still getting his news from a newspaper!

    (One has to wonder how all of this talk is affecting morale at the Herald.)

    However, not everyone is talking gloom and doom.

    Alan Mutter, who runs a blog called Newsosaur, discounts some of the doomsday talk.

    That should cheer up the folks at the Herald. For a few weeks at least.

    Sometime next month, the circulation reports for U.S. newspapers will be released and barring a divine miracle, the Herald will probably show another circulation decline.

    And today the Herald's Leonard Pitts responded to a survey that found that quite a few Americans say they wouldn't miss their daily paper if it folded.

    And so it goes.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Sounds like a good reason not to shop at Whole Foods!

    Actually, this would be reason #2. Guy gets fired for taking a tuna sandwich that was being thrown out. And the blogs are all over it!

    Reason #1 not to shop at Whole Foods are the prices!

    Don't shop at Whole Foods in Miami Beach at 1020 Alton Road!

    Coming to Riptide 2.0...Chuck Strouse demonstrates how to shoot milk from your nose!

    Hey Chuck, check out these knockers!

    I used to love Miami New Times.

    When I lived in Coconut Grove I knew where the paper was delivered on Wednesday and usually snagged a copy by early afternoon.

    Since editor Jim Mullin's departure a few years ago, the paper has taken a turn for the worse.

    Just about all of the good writers have left and the paper itself is an anemic, slimmed-down version of what it was years ago.

    But there is the website. On good days you can find interesting things not found elsewhere in the Miami media jungle.

    And then there are days like today that make you wonder why anyone even bothers to show up for work.

    But first let's take a look at current New Times editor Chuck Strouse.

    For many years Chuck was with the Herald where he covered crime, politics and county government.

    Back then he was known as "Charles Strouse."

    In Dec. 1994, Charles helped write one of the evergreens of the daily newspaper world: How to find a babysitter on New Year's Eve.

    In short, Chuck has done it all. He's forgotten more about journalism than I'll ever know.

    Which makes this morning's post by Chuck on Riptide all the more puzzling.

    Is there anyone over the age of 12 who thinks there's anything amusing or interesting about a topless store mannequin. Apparently Chuck does.

    Hey Chuck, here a newsflash for you. If you walk about 1,000 feet east from Lincoln Road, you'll find lots of living and breathing topless women! Take all the pictures you want and post 'em on Riptide!

    Chuck also thinks that graffiti is cool.

    One writer commented recently on a local blog that he wasn't worried about the Herald's troubles. He wrote he was sure that New Times would step in to fill the void.

    Let hope not. Chuck's star appears to be fading faster than the Herald's.

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    If the news is getting you down....

    ...this site may be just the ticket!

    Open letter to Miami Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal

    Miami Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal

    Good afternoon Anders:

    I hope that things are slowly returning to normal at One Herald Plaza.

    I - along with many South Floridians - was shocked at the news Wednesday of the latest "expense reductions" instituted by MHMC.

    It didn't escape my attention that this is the third time in less than a year that you've resorted to these measures.

    Einstein once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

    If the cuts didn't fix things the first two times, I'm not sure a third round is going to change anything.

    Perhaps it's time to start doing some things a little differently.

    Here are a few suggestions from someone who's been reading the Herald for the past 50 years.

  • Try to win back lost readers. Fewer people and fewer pages means you have to start being very selective in what you print. This kind of stuff simply isn't the best use of resources OR talent.

    Every story you print from this day forward must reach out and grab the reader and get them excited and involved.

    Edna Buchanan once said her best day "is the one where I can write a lead that will cause a reader at his breakfast table to spit up his coffee, clutch at his heart, and shout, `My God, Martha, did you read this?' " Does that describe anything in today's paper?

  • Start, once again, to look critically at every powerful person in Miami. Stop printing stories like this. The March 1 story on developer Jorge Pérez read like it was written by his publicist. It offered no new information and violated one of the most fundamental rules of journalism: "Present both sides of a story."

    If your mission is to "comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable," the Pérez story failed miserably.

  • Realize that the Miami Herald is not a monolith. The Herald can no longer afford the luxury of looking upon itself as the only game in town. South Floridians now get their news from a myriad of sources.

    Many of your readers write blogs and get their news from blogs. When is the Herald going to recognize this fact? We're are not your competitors; we're in this together.

    Want proof that people are reading blogs? Below is a screen shot of the visitor activity on my blog from just one location; The Herald. It shows 72 entries in just 24 hours. I must be doing something right.

  • And finally; now might be the time to look at a complete redesign of the Herald.

    The current design is stodgy and outdated.

    If you were trying to attract younger readers, which one of these do you think would get the job done?

    Those are just a few of my ideas. My list is by no means complete.

    If you have any you'd like to add; I'm all ears.

    You know where to reach me!
  • Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Sun-Sentinel picks Random Pixels

    Hi Bill.

    We love your blog and have named it blog of the day. Go to the homepage of the sunsentinel.com and see our mention of your blog.

    If you know of any others you think we should be looking at, please direct them to fill out this form here.

    Please let us know if you post something on your blog mentioning this.


    Seth Liss
    Deputy Online Editor
    South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    Thanks Seth! I'm honored that you would pick Random Pixels so soon after launching your new feature.

    A few more thoughts about the Herald

    A few friends at the Herald sent emails this morning in response to this post.

  • from David: "Thanks for the kind words Bill. I hope we can pull through OK, and at least manage to perform this noble profession even if in spurts. -D"

  • from Ellie: "Yup-- that shoulda been the headline. Very sweet, heartfelt posting. Thanks for giving a sh*t."

    Last night while trying to make sense of the day's happenings I kept thinking of this line from the classic newspaper movie, "All the President's Men."

    Ben Bradlee played by Jason Robards tells Woodward and Bernstein:
    "You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up... 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I'm going to get mad. Goodnight."
    None of this probably matters to those journalists who lost their jobs yesterday.

    But to borrow a phrase from Ellie: some of us do give a sh*t and can't bear the thought of losing the Herald. FWIW.

    UPDATE: Broward New Times writer Bob Norman's blog post on the Herald cuts has elicited almost 100 comments so far.

    Notable are the comments by Dave Barry and other Herald staffers - some named and some anonymous.

    Legendary retired Herald reporter Arnold Markowitz also weighs in:
    Arnold Markowitz says:
    Does the "Anonymous" so bitterly criticizing Bob Norman for publishing the victim list really work at the MH? In the news department? What is that one's job?

    Info for comparative newcomers: What you're complaining about today isn't new at all, although it probably hurts more now. During my time at the MH (1967-2001)the newsroom was almost always top-heavy. Usually someone was working one management step above his or her capacity-- sometimes two or even three steps. Very few of those(I was one)understood that and went back to what they did well.
    We almost always had at least one determined jive turkey in a position to inflict wounds on the paper and/or the news staff.

    Do Rick Hirsch and others deserve the beating they're taking here? I hope not, but I could run out of breath naming past managers who did fit those pejorative descriptions.

    Somehow we survived them and even thrived for a very long time while the Herald was owned by people who wanted it to succeed as a news medium. It was a newspaper then. We could and did think of it as ours. Now it's hard to think of it as anything more than a stock exchange listing.


    Posted On: Wednesday, Mar. 11 2009 @ 11:40PM
  • Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Thinking about the Herald

    "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" -Mark Twain
    I'm sure even at this late hour there are probably a few people in Miami who haven't heard of the latest round of job cuts at the Miami Herald.

    For some, there just isn't the emotional attachment to print newspapers that many of us old timers feel.

    The Herald has been part of my life since my family first moved to Miami in the latter part of 1958.

    I've been reading the Herald longer than just about all of the current Herald employees have been working there.

    As a young boy, I sold the Sunday Herald at several busy South Florida Shopping centers.

    When the Herald moved into its new building at One Herald Plaza in March of 1963 it marked the occasion with a special four-section edition.

    The Herald was proud of its new plant and hired uniformed hostesses to conduct daily tours. At the time the facility was considered to be state of the art in the newspaper industry.

    In the 60's and 70's and well into the 80's the Herald was a newspaper that was respected, admired, feared or despised, depending on who you talked to.

    Its reach was all-encompassing.

    It had dozens of bureaus all over the state. Miami Herald news racks dotted sidewalks from Key West to Florida's panhandle.

    In the mid-70's I worked in the advertising composing department. Back then there were so many housing ads that the Sunday real estate section was comprised of four sections to accommodate them all.

    In the early 80's, as a freelance photojournalist, I worked alongside many of the Herald's photographers and still call several of them friends.

    I've always had a love-hate relationship with the paper and its approach to coverage of some stories. But I continued to read the print edition daily.

    So, I'd like to say I'm optimistic about the future of the paper.

    I'd like to say the Herald will survive this latest hit.

    But I'd be lying.

    Even some long-time Herald staffers who, up until a few months ago told me they wanted to end their careers at the Herald, are telling me now, "it's over."

    I tell friends in half-jest that newspapers started going downhill when they did away with Linotype machines and the old noisy AP teletype machines.

    But what happened today at One Herald Plaza might well be the "last hurrah."

    More cuts at the Herald; 19% of workforce to lose jobs

    UPDATED @ 2:45pm Some of those cut today include Herald director of photography Luis Rios and business editor Lisa Gibbs. Crime reporter Jose Pagliery has been let go but has been told he can freelance. Marsha Halper a 25 year veteran Broward photographer goes from full-time to part-time. John Van Beekum, a 20 year Herald veteran photographer has been cut. Photo editor Suzy Mast, who ironically, escaped with her job at the last minute during the last round of cuts, has also been laid off.

    "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it." -- An American major after the destruction of the Vietnamese Village Ben Tre, Feb. 1968

    Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg sent out a much-anticipated memo this morning outlining yet another round of job cuts and other "expense reductions" at the beleaguered paper.

    ("Herald executive editor, Anders Gyllenhaal, says in a separate e-mail that the layoffs include 33 full-time and eight part-time newsroom positions. He says some remaining staff will see their hours cut.")

    This is the third such announcement in less than a year.

    Last June the Herald announced a reduction of 17% of the workforce.

    Exactly three months later in September managing editor Anders Gyllenhaal announced another round of staff reductions.

    By October of 2008 publisher Landsberg was telling some staffers that further cuts might not be necessary.

    Some of the cost saving measures ordered by Landsberg are:

  • 19% of workforce cut.

  • 175 employees will lose jobs.

  • 30 vacant positions eliminated.

  • Pay cuts for all full-time employees making more than $25,000 a year.

  • Full-timers will lose an additional one week of pay through unpaid furloughs.

  • Herald presses will be converted to a 44-inch web format in an effort save $2 million annually in newsprint costs.

    Here's the full text of Landsberg's memo:
    To: All Employees

    From: David Landsberg, Publisher

    Subject: Workforce and Wage Reductions

    Date: March 11, 2009

    Following Monday’s McClatchy Company cost savings announcement, I want to share with you the details for the Miami Herald Media Company. We are announcing plans to reduce our workforce by approximately 19%. About 175 employees will lose their jobs as a result, and we will eliminate another 30 vacant positions, for a total reduction of 205. Reductions will occur in all areas of our operation and at every level in the organization.

    Although many of the job eliminations will occur through involuntary layoffs, there also will be opportunities for employees to voluntarily elect a severance package where reductions are occurring in work groups of two or more employees. If enough employees do not take the voluntary option, then the work groups will be reduced either by function or according to least tenure, depending on the workgroup.

    Employees affected by this reduction are being notified and provided with information about a transition package. If a voluntary option is being offered to your work group, you will receive written notification with additional information today.

    The decisions about where to reduce jobs have been extremely difficult. Please know that we have done everything possible to minimize the impact of layoffs by identifying alternative means of saving expenses, several of which are detailed below.

    We will implement pay reductions for all full-time employees making more than $25,000 per year in base salary. For those who earn between $25,000 and $50,000 per year in base pay, the reduction will be 5%. For employees who make more than $50,000 per year in base pay, the reduction will be 10%.

    Every employee will receive a letter detailing the impact of the pay reduction in the next few days. These reductions will take effect for the pay period beginning March 23, 2009.

    We will also implement a one-week unpaid furlough program. Details on that program, which will begin in April, will be made available in the next two weeks.

    Additionally, we are eliminating all 2009 bonuses (MBOs) for everyone in management.

    We also are reducing operational expenses in all areas. Among those reductions:

    We will convert our presses to a 44-inch web format, which will conserve more than $2 million in newsprint on an annualized basis.

    We have leased the sixth floor of One Herald Plaza, and we will consolidate our Dadeland news and advertising operations into other Herald facilities and seek a tenant to lease that office space.

    We will cease publication of our International Edition, reducing costs that are now outpacing revenues for that product.

    While there will be tightening of news pages on various days, we have worked hard to maintain our newspapers at the quality level our readers have come to expect.

    All of these are difficult decisions, especially when it means saying goodbye to so many of our friends and colleagues. But we must make these additional cuts to ensure the viability of our newspapers and to adjust to new competitive and economic realities.

    Each of the actions we’re announcing today has been shaped by our commitment to continue to serve readers, advertisers and our community through the vital public service we have provided for more than 100 years. We must keep that mission – and the long view – in our sights. Every day, I hear from readers about the value of the work we do. While forced to make difficult changes, we will not lose focus on continuing to be South Florida’s most trusted source of information.

    Again, I want to apologize for the disruption that you have experienced over the last several weeks. We can only respectfully ask, as we have in the past, that you keep your focus and continue to work hard to help our company succeed.

    Please contact human resources if you have any questions about the severance program or wage reductions.
    Thanks, David.
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Herald publisher to staff; the firing squad is not quite ready


    UPDATED @ 7:00pm A Herald staffer emails Random Pixels to say that Landsberg's memo on staff cuts "could be tomorrow [Wednesday]...so I hear."

    So there you are yesterday, sitting at your desk at One Herald Plaza, sipping a cup of coffee.

    You come in early at 7am because you like the solitude. It gives you time to check your email and read the paper without distractions.

    You look up from your computer for a second or two to marvel at the splendor of a new day that's punctuated by the first rays of an early morning sun. The empty fifth floor newsroom is awash in chiaroscuro tones.

    Suddenly you're jolted back to reality by a beep that alerts you to an incoming email.

    Is this the one that you and your colleagues have been waiting for? The one that will tell you whether or not you'll have a job next week.

    You've put things on hold because of the uncertainty; vacation plans, your daughter's wedding, repairs to the house.

    While rumors swirled and news of staff reductions and pay cuts at other McClatchy papers crossed the wires; you and the other staffers heard nothing but silence from publisher David Landsberg.

    Herald publisher David Landsberg

    But here it is, an email from Landsberg.

    Is it time to start packing the past 30 years into cardboard file boxes? Or have you escaped once again?
    From: Landsberg, David - Miami
    Sent: Mon 3/9/2009 8:25 AM
    To: .MIA All Herald Users
    Subject: McClatchy Announcement
    To: All Employees
    From: David Landsberg, Publisher
    Subject: Expense Reductions
    Date: March 9, 2009

    On Feb. 5, McClatchy announced plans to further reduce operating expenses as a result of the ongoing and unprecedented economic pressures and revenue declines. Today, McClatchy released additional information about these expense reductions. The press release is available on McClatchy's corporate website.

    Here at the Miami Herald Media Company, we have already shared the news about advertising losses that are greater than any of us have ever seen in our history. As the economy continues to decline, so have our revenues.

    We know you are anxiously awaiting the details of our expense reduction plans to offset these losses, but the plans aren't quite final. We assure you we are working as quickly as possible to finish this work. We understand how unsettling the last several weeks have been and how announcements by other McClatchy papers increase concerns about the future.

    We apologize for the delay but want to make sure we carefully review every option before making final decisions. We anticipate communicating these decisions to you by the end of the week.

    Our future success is dependent on the hard work you do every day. We know these repeated announcements and ongoing restructuring are disruptive, but we respectfully ask for your continued focus, even in these difficult circumstances.

    Please contact your department manager or human resources if you have any

    Thanks, David.
    That's what Herald staffers saw yesterday as they checked their email.

    A cynical memo that offered no news, except to say "just wait until Friday!"

    And a memo that was peppered with corporate double-speak.

    Landsberg can't even bring himself to use the words "job cuts." He calls them "expense reductions."

    But he saves the best for last: "Our future success is dependent on the hard work you do every day."

    After his next email, which will probably be sent out this Friday, there will be about 50 less people to do that hard work.

    That's what I'm hearing. Fifty cuts in a newsroom that's already down to about 240 according to my sources.

    No one knows what's going to happen Friday.

    But one thing is certain.

    David Landsberg will still have a job at the end of the day Friday.

    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Will the Herald fold this year?

    Back in January I wrote a post on the Herald's future that expanded upon this story on 24/7 Wall Street that predicted the Herald might not survive 2009 in its current form.

    Today 24/7 Wall Street updates that prediction.
    "The Miami Herald, which has a daily circulation of about 220,000. It is owned by McClatchy, a publicly traded company which could be the next chain to go into Chapter 11. The Herald has been on the market since December, and but no serious bidders have emerged. Newspaper advertising has been especially hard hit in Florida because of the tremendous loss in real estate advertising. The online version of the paper is already well-read in the Miami area and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Herald has strong competition north of it in Fort Lauderdale. There is a very small chance it could merge with the Sun-Sentinel, but it is more likely that the Herald will go online-only with two editions, one for English-speaking readers and one for Spanish."
    Those scenarios, that might have been unthinkable two or three years ago, aren't so far-fetched in light of news today from Herald parent company McClatchy.

    McClatchy's flagship paper, The Sacramento Bee, announced today "it is eliminating 128 jobs today, or 11 percent of its workforce, and will impose pay cuts on remaining workers."

    Similar cuts are expected at the Herald, the announcement coming perhaps as early as this week.

    Broward New Times blogger Bob Norman reports his sources say "they expect a 20 percent reduction of [the 240 strong] staff in the newsroom, which translates to about 50 lost jobs. Furloughs and pay cuts are expected for survivors."

    The Herald now is a shadow of what was once a strong, thriving, dominant source of information in South Florida.

    It's hard to imagine what the paper will become after taking this latest hit.

    One Herald staffer called me Saturday night after hearing of the Sun-Sentinel cuts last week.

    "Our business is finished," the staffer said with a heavy sigh of resignation. "It's over; this is a bloodbath."

    Sunday, March 08, 2009

    Seen on Lincoln Road today

    The economy might be in the tank and unemployment skyrocketing but that doesn't keep the fashionistas among us from looking their best.

    I made a few shots after spotting "Willie" the Yorkshire Terrier today on Lincoln Road.

    As I was working on the image in Photoshop I noticed a brand name on the sunglasses. Apparently fashion conscious canines won't wear just any shades.

    Willie's wearing Doggles.

    Saturday, March 07, 2009

    Classic Groucho Marx appearance on "What's My Line?"

    I was watching an old "What's My Line?" episode from 1959 the other night on cable.

    Groucho Marx made a rare appearance as guest panelist.

    In my humble opinion it's one of the funniest moments from the early history of television.

    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!

    Thursday, March 05, 2009

    Waiting and waiting at the Herald...

    No doubt that many in the Herald newsroom this afternoon are studying this memo written by Fort Worth Star Telegram publisher Gary Wortel. The Star Telegram is a McClatchy newspaper, as is the Herald.

    Herald staffers are waiting for a similar memo from Herald publisher David Landsberg.

    "I've never seen the newsroom this tense or grim," one staffer told me recently.

    Last month Landsberg told staffers that more positions will be eliminated at the paper.

    Today's announcement at the Star Telegram is the first of what are sure to be many such announcements throughout the McClatchy chain.

    The Herald and other McClatchy papers suffered through two rounds of cuts last year.

    When the inevitable cuts come at the Herald, those staffers who are left will almost certainly be taking a pay cut similar to those ordered at the Star Telegram.

    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    Leonard might be on to something

    Leonard Pitts admitted last summer that he doesn't blog.
    "Most blogs strike me as bits of unpolished, undigested thought, something you dash off as opposed to something you really write. It's just not something I really want to do."
    Fair enough.

    And today Leonard shares with us that he doesn't tweet!
    "Now here is Twitter, which encourages you to narrate your life in real time as opposed to, well . . . living it. I'm sorry, but include me out."
    I'm afraid I agree with Leonard on this one.

    But one reader summed it up much better than Leonard in the comments section: "I love Twitter. It keeps the irrelevant, banal people busy so the rest of us can get on with life."


    Eating at McDonald's will make you stupid!

    It was bad enough that Latreasa Goodman called 911 three times after her Ft. Pierce McDonald's ran out of Chicken McNuggets.
    "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one. I called 911 because I couldn't get a refund, and I wanted my McNuggets,"
    But now comes McDonald's to prove that stupidity is not just confined to McDonald's fast-food junkies; apparently it also afflicts the corporate geniuses at Mickey D's:
    "Saying they “never want to disappoint a McNuggets fan,” a corporate McDonald's official has stated a woman who got national attention following three 911 calls made after she said she was refused a refund will, indeed, get a refund."
    That's right, McDonald's validated this idiot's behavior.

    So the next time you call 911 for a real emergency, it may take a while for the cops to arrive.

    They might be down at the local fast food joint trying to sort out this kind of crap.

    Why newspapers are essential

    Last July, the Washington Post published an exhaustive 12 part series detailing the facts surrounding the murder of D.C. intern Chandra Levy and the subsequent investigation.

    At the time, the series drew criticism from some.

    The Post reports today:
    In an interview this week, former D.C. police chief Charles H. Ramsey, who had been in charge of the original Levy investigation, said he was surprised last summer by some of the findings of The Post's series. "There were a couple of things, when I read the series, I said, 'Oh man,' " Ramsey said.

    For example, Ramsey said, he had not known that his two original detectives on the Levy case never interviewed the two women whom Guandique had attacked at knifepoint.
    There are people who say they'd like to see every newspaper in America go out of business. There' a guy right here in Miami who'd like to see the Herald fold tomorrow.

    But those people never explain what they'd like to see take the place of a vigilant newspaper. Just imagine Miami without a newspaper to look over the shoulders of elected officials and others with power such as the police.

    The Herald won't be going out of business next week or next month. But things are looking increasingly grim at One Herald Plaza.

    Locally, some of the canaries in the coal mine have stopped singing. It looks like Miami Beach has lost an independent voice.

    Monday, March 02, 2009

    Change now!

    They posted some pictures over at Babalublog of the big "Change Now!" demonstration across from the Cuba Mission to the United Nations in New York City yesterday.

    It's hard to tell from the pictures but it looks like a crowd of two, maybe three dozen people showed up.

    Despite the small numbers, it appears their voices were heard in Havana. Raul Castro listened and gave the demonstrators what they wanted.


    Today Raul Castro "in a major shake-up the likes of which Cubans have not seen for decades, ...reorganized his Cabinet, replacing long-time aides to his brother Fidel..."

    What does all this mean?

    Even the so-called "experts" don't know.
    Otto Reich, who served as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the George W. Bush administration, said he was withholding judgment.

    "It's a little early to tell what this really means," he said. "Some people are saying the Fidelistas are being replaced by the Raulistas. But the other side is: Are we talking about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?"
    Makes you wonder what changes Raul might have instituted had 50,000 people showed for the demonstration yesterday.

    But, we'll never know.

    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    "Don't iron while the strike is hot!"

    That was the slogan of the Women's Strike for Equality, a nationwide women's liberation demonstration that took place on August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the women's suffrage amendment.

    Timed to coincide with the evening rush hour in New York City; some 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue.

    It would be a few more years before the women who marched that day were taken seriously. This sneering TIME magazine article from the period is ample proof that women still had a way to go.

    I was living in New York City at the time. It was a turbulent period; the Vietnam war was raging and there were almost weekly anti-war demonstrations. It was a great training ground for an aspiring photojournalist.

    I recently came across the negatives I made at the time.

    Where have the years gone?