Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Random Pixels' newest fan!

In my post yesterday on Miami-Dade's "slaughter farms," I quoted parts of a 27 year-old Miami Herald story on the subject by former Herald reporter Jeffrey Weiss.

Today, Weiss - who now works for the Dallas Morning News and freelances for PoliticsDaily.com - dropped me a note telling me that he stumbled across my post while doing a Google search.

Weiss told me that "That pig story was one of my favorite ever‏..." and added some background:
Long ago and far away. I will *never* forget the smell. The photog needed to get up close for a while to get her shots. Me, not so much on the staying close.

When the inspector invited us out for that visit, he told the photog and me to go buy firefighter-style rubber boots. We would not, he said, want to be tromping around an illegal hog farm in anything less. Too right!

I've wondered, given the buildup in Miami-Dade population since then, whether there were still space for those operations to exist. Hard to believe that so little has changed. OTOH, my 'rents still live in SFla and I get back there pretty regularly. So I guess it is *not* so hard to believe...1:-{)>

Thank you for bringing back a memory.

Jeffrey Weiss

The Dallas Morning News
In a follow-up email, Weiss tells me how he found my post and fills in some of the gaps since he left the Herald years ago:
I was googling to see if some stuff I'd done had been picked up on blogs and saw the link. Was astonished when I realized what it was about.

Sure. Feel free to repost. FYI: While I was born in SFla (Jackson, which is as local as it gets) and worked for the MHerald for about 8 years, I've been at the Dallas Morning News for 21 years. And these days, I also contribute freelance to PoliticsDaily.com (which was what I was trolling for pickup about).

As I recall from back then, even areas that were zoned for ag needed special zoning for hogs because the smell was so awful. And that was when a pigfarm was run properly. The day I was at *that* location, there was a stack -- a small pyramid -- of dead, rotting hogs with a stench that you cannot imagine. Not to mention the flies. That someone would buy something there to *eat* was just beyond thinking...
Proof that nothing has changed much since Weiss made that visit 27 years ago.

Which is just one more reason why the county should shut these places down!

Dept. of Homeland Security pays a visit to blogger!

Now this is a little scary.

Travel blogger Christopher Elliott answered a knock on the door the other day and was surprised to find, standing on his porch, a special agent from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

The agent was there to serve Elliott with a subpoena.

The TSA is demanding the identity of the person who gave Elliott a copy of of a recent TSA security directive on physical searches and pat-downs which Elliott published on his blog.

Despite the nature of the visit, Elliot reports that his cats took an immediate liking to the special agent and that his kids now refer to him as “our friend from the TSA."

Now, that's scary!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And you're shocked because.....


Many in South Florida's business and legal community expressed shock and amazement when Ft Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme was exposed last November.

But there were clues early on.

After all, is there any good reason why anyone needs 120 watches worth more than $2 million?
From a Sept. 2007 Miami Herald story:
CEO of the law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, Rothstein's personal collection of more than 120 timepieces is worth more than $2 million. If it was simply about telling time, he might very well sport a $50 Timex. But Rothstein does not care so much about telling time as he does about owning the absolute best and most uniquely engineered pieces around.

"I've been collecting watches for 15 years this year," says Rothstein, as he watch-shopped at Levinson Jewelers in Plantation, on a recent Tuesday afternoon. "And I could just check my cellphone for the time, if that's all I wanted. But when you're into hoarding things, there's nothing more beautiful to have than a watch. If made right it's the perfect combination of science and art. Really, they're beautiful."
[...]
Rothstein explains, "It's business as well as personal. These things . . . won't lose value. But back to the personal, if they are creative in design and well made, picking out a different watch to wear each day can be as fun as picking out a different set of clothing."

Miami-Dade's "secret" shame





CNN aired a powerful report yesterday by bureau chief John Zarrella on animal slaughter farms in Miami-Dade county. It's a report that should outrage and sicken every South Florida resident.

Except that many of those residents help keep these places in business by patronizing them and buying their nochebuena lechons.

Even though most of these places are illegal and unlicensed, they operate openly with little fear of being shut down by police.

Last March, Miami New Times' Gus Garcia-Roberts also exposed these places in a cover story entitled "Pork Pirates."
To be fair, Northwest Dade is outlaw territory, where illegal slaughter certainly isn't the only criminal activity practiced with impunity. The farmland is marred by rampant illegal dumping: Old tires, gutted boats, ancient Jet Skis, and other discarded items lie in Calcutta-esque mounds on roadsides. At the intersection of NW 186th Street and 137th Avenue, the torched remains of vehicles are regularly found — presumably the work of thieves, drug dealers, and insurance swindlers.

On a recent weekend, all-day revelers filled the neglected area. Club ranches — sprawling cowboy bars — blasted bachata music, served beer, and roasted meat. On a dusty inlet that one resident calls "cockfight alley," men toted roosters to and from rings in specially designed narrow cases emblazoned with slogans such as "Gallo Fuerte," brazenly defying animal-cruelty laws.

Unlicensed butchery is but the most prominent tentacle of the criminal activity that has seized Northwest Dade, says Carlos, a burly Cuban-American who has spent most of his 47 years in the area. He insists on anonymity as he describes a sort of local meat mafia awash with drug cash. "The people are scared to talk because of threats," he says. "Here they'll shoot at you if they think you ratted on them. It's like a Third-World county we're in right now."
CNN's Zarrella interviewed activist Richard "Kudo" Couto who thinks there may be more than 100 illegal, unsanitary and unregulated slaughterhouses in the area.

Zarrella, in trying to get answers as to why these place are allowed to exist, ran into some classic Miami-Dade bureaucratic buck-passing.
CNN contacted Miami-Dade Animal Services Department, an agency that had a representative at that meeting. Spokesperson Xiomara Mordcovich said the agency does not deal with issues involving farm animals and directed us to the Miami-Dade Police Department.

The Police Department declined an interview. "We are not actively investigating any incidents involving illegal slaughterhouses," the department said in an e-mail. Then it referred us back to Animal Services and also to the code compliance department.

Charles Danger, director of the Miami-Dade Building and Neighborhood Compliance Department, admits that it was because of Couto's persistence that it is now putting together a multi-agency task force he called "Operation Miss Piggy and Mr. Ed."

According to Danger, part of the reason nothing has been done to clean up this area is because of fear for the safety of inspectors.

"Every time we go in there, we have to go in there with the police -- and even the police don't want to go in there," says Danger.

Danger says the Miami-Dade Police Department is now on the new task force, which also includes agencies such as the state health department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "It comes from a lot of years of illegal operation. We have to do it together because it's not going to be easy," says Danger.
And as far as I can tell, the Herald hasn't done a story on these places in years.

Using the search term "illegal farms" I dipped into the Herald archives.

A Herald story in Jan. 1992, by Chuck Strouse - now the editor of Miami New Times - makes mention of a "[proposed] farm [that] will provide meat for buyers who now sometimes purchase from illegal farms in West Dade. Metro zoning inspectors say illegal pig farms that spread waste into groundwater are a big problem in the area."

But one has to go back to 1983 to find any mention in the Herald of action being taken against illegal farms:
SQUATTERS GONE BUT PIGS REMAIN AS OFFICIALS INSPECT IN NW DADE
Tuesday, January 18, 1983
by JEFFREY WEISS Herald Staff Writer

In the ruins of a Northwest Dade pig farm, the smell of burning wood competed unsuccessfully Monday with the pungent, cloying odor of too many hogs.

In December, the last time Dade County inspectors visited the area, 107th Avenue north of 138th Street was a thriving shantytown of almost 100 Cuban refugees and a dozen pig farms.

None of it--neither the pigs nor the people nor their buildings--was legal.

Monday, when inspectors returned to gather evidence for future court cases, most of the people were gone. Many of the hogs were not.

The owners of the dozens of remaining illegal farms and buildings cited Monday will probably appear in court within two months, and the offending structures should be gone in four months, county zoning officials said.
[...]
As recently as last month, hundreds of people crowded the area to purchase the porcine makings of a traditional Cuban holiday meal.

"After seeing that mess out there, I'll never eat another pork chop as long as I live," Robert Martin, chief enforcement officer for Dade's Building and Zoning Department, said Monday.
[...]
None of the 107th Avenue farms have permits, said MacCallum.
So here's a question for Charles Danger - or maybe the always spineless and non-committal Carlos Alvarez would like to answer - when are you going to get around to doing something about these places? After all, they've been operating openly - and illegally - for at least a quarter-century.



How to sell newspapers


Or maybe not!

However, astute NY Post readers will no doubt notice that this is the first time that Tiger Woods has not appeared on the front page of the paper since some time in early July.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Miami Herald's sports Web site named one of the best

The Associated Press Sports Editors has picked the Herald's sports Website as one of the ten best in the country in the division of over 1 million unique visitors during a month.

Not bad considering that that USA Today, New York Times and Washington Post sites were among those named.

Congrats!

Getting out alive


Somewhere in the world, at the very moment you are reading this, someone is writing a book that will detail all the reasons why newspapers perished.

The resulting book will probably contain 350 pages or more.

But the reasons newspapers are dying aren't all that complicated and it's a story that can be told in just a few paragraphs.

Writer Ken Auletta, in his book about Internet giant Google - a company that some say is helping to kill newspapers - thinks that newspapers hastened their own demise.

Indeed, the people who run newspapers are the same people who are killing them.

A New York Times story today on the move by media outlets to finally start charging for online content contains a quote by former newspaper executive Alan D. Mutter on another mistake that newspapers made:
“One of the problems is newspapers fired so many journalists and turned them loose to start so many blogs,” Mr. Mutter said. “They should have executed them. They wouldn’t have had competition. But they foolishly let them out alive.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Looking at pictures

Paris Hilton poses at a photocall on the Carlton Hotel pier during the 58th Cannes Film Festival May 13, 2005. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

Here are some great images from various newspaper Websites to enjoy this holiday weekend.

What all of the pictures have in common is that they're big in size...the way I believe pictures on the Web should be.
...

  • The Boston Globe's Big Picture offers up the Decade in News Photographs

  • The New York Times Lens blog showcases 282 family photos sent in by its readers

  • The Big Picture posts some exceptional photojournalism from the war in Afghanistan

  • St. Petersburg Times photographers share their favorite images from 2009

  • The Wall Street Journal photo blog posts the Pictures of the Week, Dec. 20-24
  • Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Late night jazz...Wednesday edition

    Summertime, by Sidney Bechet

    Now this is cool!

    Most viral videos making the rounds are the Internet are interesting and clever enough...for about a day until the next one comes along.

    Not so with this video.

    Produced by a video club at Shorewood High School in Washington state, the video was made in response to a challenge from another high school video club.

    It starts off normally enough.

    But that's where the similarity between this video and other viral videos end.

    The entire thing was shot backwards!

    The credits at the end of the video say the director and editor is Javier Caceres. Remember that name. I have a feeling we'll be hearing more from Javier in the near future.

    Stunning work guys!



    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Merry Christmas y'all!

    One of Florida's great storytellers


    Jeff Klinkenberg, right, and Miami Herald photographer Tim Chapman.

    Who hasn't read a book by Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck and thought to themselves: "Wouldn't it be great to travel back in time and meet a great storyteller?"

    I know I have.

    Jeff Klinkenberg is a great storyteller. He's worked at the St. Petersburg Times since 1977.

    Jeff would be the first to tell you that he's not in a class with Steinbeck or Hemingway.

    But I'm here to dispute that.

    And besides; Jeff's still alive!

    One academic type has called Jeff, "Florida's poet laureate."

    In his 32 years at the Times Jeff has met and written about some of Florida's most colorful and interesting places and the characters that inhabit them.

    Back in August, Jeff reintroduced his readers to a Florida treasure, photographer Clyde Butcher.
    As much as I love Clyde Butcher's Everglades photographs, I think I love watching him take a photograph even more. Peering through his camera, he is laid back and intense, funny and crabby, almost at once.

    "Nobody move,'' he says. "Movement is my enemy.''
    Jeff also turns out essays that reflect his love of Florida.

    And many of them run in the paper on weekends. Which is good because his stories are best when read and savored over that second cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.

    In this November 2008 story, Jeff took his readers on a lazy kayak trip along Florida's Spruce Creek.
    The ailing stock market. Another presidential smear campaign aimed at convincing the ignorant and frightened to vote for the right guy. Give me a hammock where I might hear an owl. Let me paddle among ancient reptiles and look for balance.
    And in a world where I-Pods, computers, Blackberries and cell phones proliferate, Jeff often writes nostalgically of a tranquil, less complicated time in Florida that's almost gone forever:
    As a boy in Miami, we lived in a house without air-conditioning. Through open windows we could hear Charlie and Patricia, the young married couple next door, arguing like George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In the evening, when sounds carried, Mrs. Posner began pounding her piano and singing opera in the house next door to Pat and Charlie.

    On Saturday mornings, Mrs. Crespo's washing machine, sloshing and burping only 30 feet from my bedroom, roused me from dreams of Davy Crockett and his worn but reliable musket, Old Betsy. I think of those sounds differently than the sounds of today. In my mind they represent innocence.
    [...]
    In the woods, I hear the cry of a red-tailed hawk as it carries a shrieking squirrel to its hungry chicks waiting in the nest.

    Every time I hear a rattlesnake rattle I get goose bumps. A great blue heron, disturbed by my canoe, flaps away from the mangroves squawking like a rusty gate, sounding both put out and disgusted with the human race in general, me in particular.
    One of the reasons Jeff is able to write so beautifully is that he works for a newspaper that gives him the time he needs to do his subjects justice.

    One of my favorite series of Jeff's stories is this package he did on the Tamiami Trail.

    Told in five parts, it traces US 41 from Tampa to Miami, ending on Calle Ocho.
    Time to slow down! Stop and look. Stop and climb out of the car. But not for long.

    "Hey, mister! Sir! Sir! Sir! Yes, you!"

    It's a Hispanic man, polite but disturbed.

    "Don't you know you can't park here?" he asks.

    You have left your vehicle on the property of the Northern Trust Bank.

    "Please, sir. Move your vehicle now."

    You explain your mission.

    "Okay. You can park here but just for a minute."

    He watches as you walk through a canyon of skyscraping banks over to the sign on Brickell Avenue.

    "End," the sign says, "East. 41."
    If you didn't know much about Jeff except for the fact that he's telling stories for over 32 years - more if you count his time at the Miami News and his college newspaper - you might come to the conclusion that at 6o years old he's burned out.

    Jaded. Cynical.

    And that nothing much impresses him any more.

    But you'd be wrong.

    Jeff recently wrote this on his Facebook page: "Here's my story about perhaps the most amazing person I've ever met. Lillian Stello, in her 70s now, was a world famous burlesque dancer who called herself "Chesty Morgan.'' A tragic, tragic life. But talk about perseverance."

    Yes; after 32 years, Jeff is still amazed from time to time.
    Let's say you are shopping at a Publix. You are in the cake mix aisle near the flour and the baking powder. You are joined in the aisle by an older woman. She is tiny, probably a few inches short of 5 feet, but under a red windbreaker her sweatshirt is strained to the bursting point.

    She makes small talk about baking.

    "I make lemon cake for all my friends,'' she says in a lilting Polish accent.

    Her Florida driver's license identifies her as Lillian Stello and says she is 72 years old. She seems younger. Maybe it's her lively blues eyes. Perhaps it's because she wears her hair in a blond mullet.

    Even some longtime friends don't know Lillian's story. Sometimes it is easier to tell the whole, amazing story to a stranger.
    If any of this has whetted your appetite for more of Jeff's work, you might want to check out his latest collection of stories: Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators.

    And once you've finished reading it, you can put it on your bookshelf.

    Right next to Mark Twain, Hemingway and Steinbeck.





    Monday, December 21, 2009

    First day of winter

    as captured by Miami Herald photographer Chuck Fadely

    White Christmas

    In the news business, the days leading up to Christmas can be deadly boring.

    Most of the big shots have taken the week off. And those left to do the grunt work, aren't eager to turn over any rocks that might contain a story that could have them working until midnight on Christmas eve.

    Twenty one years ago tomorrow, I was dispatched by the AP to a rundown warehouse in Miami's fashion district to photograph a major DEA drug seizure.

    The seizure - as far as I can tell - didn't even rate a mention in the Herald.

    But as you can see, it does occasionally snow in Miami.

    Merry Christmas from Random Pixels.


    Note to police officers everywhere!




    Photo by Matthew Bradley via Flickr
    Here's some friendly holiday advice to cops everywhere: In case you haven't noticed, there are more cameras being carried by more people than ever before in history.
    So if you're planning on packing heat at the next neighborhood snowball fight; you might want to rethink. Your random act of stupidity might end up being flashed around the world for all the world to see.

    Also a word to police department spokespeople and supervisors...same advice: Don't automatically stick up for your people who are accused of wrongdoing until you have all the facts. Especially when there are hundreds of witnesses and the aforementioned cameras. You could also end up looking foolish in front of the entire nation. From the Washington Post:
    People squealed as they hurled balls of snow across the largely deserted road. Then, a snowball or two slammed into a Hummer. The driver, a plainclothes detective whom D.C. police refused to identify, got out, drew his gun and exchanged angry words with revelers, according to video footage and witnesses.

    Police said initially that the detective had not flashed his weapon. On Sunday, the officer was placed on desk duty after Twitter, blogs and YouTube appeared to show otherwise.
    From the AP:
    Washington's police chief criticized a veteran detective Monday for pulling a gun during a mass snowball fight. Authorities said the officer is on desk duty while the case is under investigation.

    Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she had watched video clips from the weekend confrontation and has no doubt that the off-duty officer pulled his gun after snowballs hit his personal vehicle during Saturday's record snowfall.

    "Let me be very clear in stating that I believe the actions of the officer were totally inappropriate!" Lanier said in a statement. "In no way should he have handled the situation in this manner."
    The story has prompted a firestorm snowstorm of over 700 reader comments on the Washington Post's Web site.

    Saturday, December 19, 2009

    2009's Worst South Florida Politician


    click image to enlarge

    It's official!

    This year is not yet over, but Random Pixels has chosen Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez as 2009's Worst South Florida Politician.

    And quite possibly, the worst ever.

    With press clipping like these, how could we even begin to consider anyone else for this prestigious honor?

    Congratulations Mayor!

    In a town with a rich history of incompetent and corrupt politicians; your complete disregard for anything remotely resembling ethical conduct and your lack of a moral compass has put you head and shoulders above any of South Florida's other morally bankrupt and ethically challenged politicians.
    ...

    NEWS ITEM, Dec. 17, 2009:
    Probes launched over outside work by Miami-Dade employees
    BY MATTHEW HAGGMAN AND JACK DOLAN
    mhaggman@MiamiHerald.com

    The Miami-Dade Inspector General has launched an inquiry into private consulting work by county Chief of Staff Denis Morales and several law enforcement officers who moonlighted as police trainers in Panama.
    [...]
    When the [Herald] asked Alvarez about Morales' double-dipping, the mayor initially defended his top aide. ``Nothing you have described for me is unlawful, improper or unethical,'' Alvarez wrote in an email. He added: ``Sharing knowledge with others is something that should be commended and encouraged.''

    A day after the Dec. 8 Herald report, Alvarez said he was ``rather disappointed'' about the fact that Morales used paid leave instead of vacation time on that March trip to Panama. ``I would never have approved it,'' Alvarez said.
    NEWS ITEM: December 9, 2009:
    Miami-Dade mayor halts paid 2nd job for top aide

    BY JACK DOLAN AND MATTHEW HAGGMAN, jdolan@MiamiHerald.com

    Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has ordered his chief of staff to stop moonlighting as a private consultant in Panama, and to use vacation time for a week he spent in the Central American country in March working the second job.

    For the trip, aide Denis Morales took his regular salary from county taxpayers for five days even though he was also being paid by the outside firm. Instead of using vacation time, county officials said, Morales granted himself paid leave.

    ``He is not going to be going to Panama anytime soon,'' Alvarez said on Tuesday afternoon, following a Miami Herald report detailing how the top staffer worked abroad as the county struggled with a historic budget crisis.

    ``Quite frankly I was rather disappointed that he used'' paid leave instead of vacation, Alvarez said in an interview.

    He added: ``I would never have approved it.''
    NEWS ITEM, August 23, 2009:
    THE MAYOR'S BIG-RAISE CLUB
    BY MATTHEW HAGGMAN AND JACK DOLAN mhaggman@MiamiHerald.com

    When Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez delivered his State of the County speech in February, he said the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression required government to "do more with less." Budgets must be trimmed, jobs cut and waste eliminated.

    "Make no mistake, we are in for some tough times," Alvarez warned. "We are all in this together."

    Yet, three-and-a-half weeks after the speech, Alvarez gave an 11 percent pay raise to his chief of staff, Denis Morales .

    The hike increased Morales' salary from $185,484 to $206,783 annually; he also gets $18,720 in cash and executive benefits. The raise was backdated to Sept. 21, 2008, so Morales received the pay increase over the previous five months, too.




    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Friday night Sinatra

    LIFE Magazine 2009 Photos of the Year


    A feast for the eyes!

    Click here.

    Who's in charge at NBCMiami.com?

    Whatever you do, don't confuse the folks at NBCMiami.com with actual "journalists." And certainly don't make the mistake of calling what they produce "journalism."

    Even after SFDB tipped them off about an erroneous headline on a story posted on their site today, they didn't correct it.

    You'd think someone - anyone - at the station would have caught it by now and corrected it.

    Which leads us to believe that once something's posted there, no one actually bothers to read it.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    How does Sarah Palin really feel about John McCain?

    Sarah Palin's book tour has ended so she did what any sensible person would do given the weather in her home state.

    She headed for the beach in Hawaii!

    TMZ reports that Palin is on vacation in Hawaii with her family.

    The paparazzi snapped some photos of her and TMZ blew one of them up and made an interesting discovery!
    Sarah chose to wear a visor from her campaign -- a visor that was emblazoned with the former presidential candidate's name ... that is, until Palin redacted McCain's name with a black marker.
    OUCH!!

    Time to help our friends at the Herald

    Yesterday we learned that the Miami Herald has become perhaps the first newspaper in the country to ask readers for voluntary donations to help subsidize its Web site.

    We all know how the Herald and other newspapers got themselves in this predicament so there's no sense in rehashing it here.

    But we're as community-minded as the next person so we're stepping up and doing our part.

    Random Pixels has installed a tip jar in the right hand column of this blog.

    All you have to do is click on the image and you'll be directed to a page on the Herald's Web site where you can make a donation.

    If the Herald goes away we're left with Channel 7...so that should be enough motivation by itself to donate.

    It's the least we can do.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Tiger's wife still not wearing wedding ring!

    Elin still ringless! / SPLASH NEWS

    Something tells me that this story isn't going away anytime soon.

    This is the actual story blurb on radaronline.com today:

    "For the second time in three days, Tiger Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, stepped out without wearing her wedding ring."

    McDonald's goes head to head with Starbucks

    First it was specialty coffees, now Mickey D's "will soon start offering free wireless Internet access at its U.S. restaurants as part of the fast-food chain's transformation from its hamburger roots into a hang-out destination," says the Wall Street Journal.
    McDonald's USA Chief Information Officer David Grooms says the decision is part of an evolution of McDonald's into a "destination," where customers see it as more than a place to get a Big Mac and fries. "We're becoming a destination and free wi-fi just naturally fits," he said. "This is another long-term investment that we see helps McDonald's stay relevant as a brand in the marketplace."

    Miami Herald to readers: "Got any spare change?"


    Miami Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal needs your spare change.

    The Miami Herald quietly rolled out a new feature on its Web site today.

    Miami New Times reports that the Herald "is politely asking for donations for online content."
    "....a new link at the bottom of Herald web stories [is] asking for donations. It takes you to a form stating, "If you value The Miami Herald's local news reporting and investigations, but prefer the convenience of the Internet, please consider a voluntary payment for the web news that matters to you."
    Ironically this story was also reported by NBCMiami.com, which as we all know, would shrivel up and blow away if it wasn't able to steal borrow stories from newspaper websites.

    Random Pixels would like to encourage NBCMiami.com honchos to make the first donation. After all, it's only fitting that they should pony up a huge chunk of change to help out the folks at the Herald, since they do all the reporting that keeps NBCMiami afloat.

    And Random Pixels would also like to donate something just as long as we get to pick the stories we're supporting!

    We'd hate to see our hard-earned money going to support this kind of crap!



    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Who's in charge at Miami's #1 "family newspaper?"




    One of the most hackneyed phrases the Miami Herald uses to describe its print product is "family newspaper."

    As in, "we can't print the politician's tirade because, after all, this is a family newspaper."

    And so on.

    On a Sunday in May of 1989, Polk Lafoon, who was then the Herald's Living Today editor, wrote a hand-wringing column that described how newspaper editors grapple with decision-making when it comes to matters of good taste and what and what not to print in the paper.
    Perhaps we are old-fashioned, but we still regard ourselves as a family newspaper in the traditional sense. We want to give people the information, in words and pictures, that they need to understand the world around them. We don't want to offend them. It's a fine line. We write about subjects that not too many years ago were rarely discussed, and they almost mandate untraditional treatment. That's why these are tough calls to make."
    Perhaps someone at the Herald should have consulted Polk's column from 20 years ago before green lighting the column that the Herald printed yesterday on the "People page."

    The unsigned column, entitled "Adultery 101," outlined five ways to keep from getting caught cheating on one's spouse.

    Apparently an attempt at humor, the column fell flat with a resounding thud.

    But don't take my word for it.

    Less than five hours after reading the column over breakfast at home, Michael Putney, Channel 10's senior political reporter - and a former Herald staffer, scolded the Herald as he wrapped up his Sunday morning show.


    BEFORE WE LEAVE YOU THIS MORNING, A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE.... ABOUT ADULTERY AND THE MIAMI HERALD.

    THEY USUALLY DON'T GO TOGETHER, BUT THIS MORNING THEY DO. ON PAGE 8-A. THIS IS THE HERALD'S DAILY "PEOPLE PAGE"...NORMALLY JUST FUN ITEMS AND HARMLESS CELEBRITY GOSSIP. SO WE'RE NOT MEANT TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.

    BUT THIS MORNING, IT HAS A SERIOUS ERROR OF JUDGMENT BY HERALD EDITORS. THE LEAD STORY IS ABOUT TIGER WOODS AND HIS EXTRA-MARITAL SEXUAL ACTIVITIES.

    THE WRITER---EVIDENTLY SO ASHAMED THAT NO NAME IS GIVEN, ONLY "MIAMI HERALD STAFF REPORT"---WELL, THE REPORT HERE IS ON HOW YOU, TOO, CAN COMMIT ADULTERY AND GET AWAY WITH IT. REALLY, IT'S A HOW-TO CHEAT ON YOUR SPOUSE STORY.

    THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE PRETTY OBVIOUS. BUT WHY IS THE HERALD PUTTING THEM IN PRINT? STUFF LIKE, "GET A BOOTY PHONE" AND "HAVE AN AIR-TIGHT ALIBI."

    I'M NO GOODY TWO-SHOES, BUT THIS IS SMARMY, UNFUNNY AND UNWORTHY OF THE HERALD.

    "TIGER'S CHEATING SKILLS ARE WAY BELOW PAR," SAYS THE HEADLINE. WHOEVER WROTE THAT HEADLINE.... AND THIS PITIFUL STORY.... AND THE EDITORS WHO ALLOWED IT TO BE PRINTED.... NEED TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND TAKE A CLASS IN JOURNALISTIC ETHICS. OR GO TO WORK FOR THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER.

    THAT'S THE PUTNEY PERSPECTIVE FOR THIS WEEK. HOPE YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL SUNDAY.... AND LET'S HOPE THE DOLPHINS WIN IN JACKSONVILLE. REMEMBER, AS ALWAYS: STAY INFORMED, GET INVOLVED.

    I'M MICHAEL PUTNEY.
    The Herald, sadly, continues to lose readers and clout on an hourly basis.

    If anyone at the paper is still scratching their heads and wondering why, they need look no further than page 8A in yesterday's paper.

    And the column also leaves the paper's remaining readers with one question to ponder: "Is anyone still in charge at the Herald?"


    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Inmate No. 61727-054, one year later

    The Herald reports today that "a year after Bernie Madoff was arrested, a Tamarac neighborhood remains millions of dollars poorer and weary from unending efforts to recover some of their losses."

    Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that Bernie is getting used to life at the medium-security prison at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.
    He shares an unlocked cell...with a younger man named Frank. He wears khaki prison garb and has been spotted walking on an outdoor track. He plays bocce, chess and checkers. He scrubs pots and pans in the prison kitchen.
    ...
    The 71-year-old Mr. Madoff also is salvaging something that disappeared in the outside world the moment his fraud was exposed: respect. "To every con artist, he is the godfather, the don," says an inmate interviewed earlier this week.

    Leonard Pitts and Herald editor testify at trial of racist


    Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. and Dave Wilson, the Herald's senior editor for administration, testified today in the Virginia trial of a neo-Nazi leader charged with making online threats.

    The trial, so far, isn't getting much coverage outside of Roanoke where it's being held.

    Pitts told the federal jury today, "I feel like I have been violated." Pitts was describing his reaction after he received an e-mail in 2007 from avowed racist William A. White.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    "The U" premieres in Overtown

    Sports Illustrated cover; June 12, 1995

    Rakontur Films director Billy Corben screened his much-anticipated documentary, "The U," Wednesday night at the historic Lyric Theatre in Overtown.

    Random Pixels was among the the 300 or so invited guests. And of course we showed up with camera in hand to document the fun before the film.

    Miami New Times has posted a slide show of my pictures here.

    New Times writer Frank Alvarado blogs about the evening.

    ProCanes.com reviews the film.

    And Ethan Skolnick of the Sun-Sentinel shares his thoughts on the film here.

    Billy Corben and his talented crew have done a masterful job telling the story of one of the most colorful and interesting chapters in Miami sports history: the story of the bad-ass Miami Hurricanes of the 80' and 90's.

    The film pulls no punches; the good along with the bad is included.

    But die-hard Hurricane fans will love this film.

    And the 'Canes haters - I'm sure there there are many - will no doubt be reminded of the reasons why they hate this team so much.

    The film has no script. Corben lets the players and coaches tell the story in their own words.

    Alvarado recounts one of the funnier moments (there are many) in the film:
    Bennie Blades, one of the dominant voices in the documentary, explains how UM had a deal with Burger King to give away free game tickets with the purchase of a Whopper. But since his family had no money to afford Whoppers, Blades never got any free tickets.
    Note: "The U" - premieres nationally this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 at 9PM on ESPN

    Monday, December 07, 2009

    Good news and bad news at One Herald Plaza

    First the good news: The Herald's parent company, McClatchy, is lifting the wage freeze imposed on the Herald and other McClatchy papers in Sept. 2008.

    The bad news: The Herald is losing Jack Dolan, one of the paper's most dogged investigative reporters, to the L.A. Times.

    Herald metro editor Jay Ducassi tells newsroom staffers in an email that Dolan, (left), was recruited by the Times.

    Dolan, along with Herald staffers Matthew Haggman and Rob Barry, recently won an award for a series on shoddy regulation of the state's mortgage industry.

    Dolan was also one of the Herald reporters who recently exposed the globe-trotting at taxpayer expense by Miami-Dade commissioners.

    Dolan tells friends that the Times made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

    Dolan will be working in the Times Sacramento bureau.

    Advice not taken


    from a column by John Feinstein in The Washington Post:
    In 1997, at the first Masters in which Woods played as a professional -- he won by an astonishing 12 shots -- he and Palmer played a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club. Afterward, the two had lunch in the champions' locker room at the clubhouse. During lunch, Woods explained to Palmer how difficult his life was at that moment.

    "I can't be a normal 21-year-old," he said. "I have to sign autographs all the time, talk to the media after I play, do photo shoots for my sponsors. It just never ends."

    Palmer, as he had done in the past with other players who had made similar complaints (notably, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange), looked Woods in the eye and said: "You're right, Tiger, you aren't a normal 21-year-old. Normal 21-year-olds don't have $50 million in the bank. If you want to be normal, give the money back."

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Random Pixels presents 'Right Wing Psycho Talk'

    Alaska's former Quitter-in-Chief, Sarah Palin, continues to criss-cross the nation selling books and giving interviews to anyone who'll listen.

    She's also raising a little holiday cash by selling photos of herself taken with people who show up at her book signings.



    And today we learn that she'd still rather stir up crap rather than offer up real solutions to the problems that the country faces.

    In a radio interview she said that she said thinks that questions about Barack Obama's citizenship are fair.

    And now comes Arlington, Tennessee mayor Russell Wiseman, who, in a post on his Facebook page, offered his opinion on why Barack Obama chose to give his Afghanistan speech on Tuesday night: Obama wanted to block the Christian message of the "Peanuts Christmas Special."

    Said the mayor:
    "Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose.
    The mayor is also pissed that one of his 1600 Facebook friends forwarded his post to the newspaper.
    "It's ridiculous for someone to send my Facebook post," Wiseman said. "You guys are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill."
    The mayor has learned the hard way - like Tiger Woods - that those seemingly private, random acts of stupidity, don't remain private for very long.


    'Tis the season!

    It's no secret that relations between the pols at County Hall and the big shots at the Miami Herald have been a little rocky lately.

    Back in September, Mayor Carlos Alvarez ranted against the paper for almost an hour.

    And just the other day the county commission spent several hours blasting the Herald for the paper's coverage of the commissioners' lavish foreign junkets.

    But as Rodney King once said, "Can't we all just get along?"

    So in that spirit, Random Pixels takes great pride in presenting this holiday skit starring Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal and Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

    We're quite sure however, that this scenario won't be taking place in real life anytime soon.

    Pity.

    Send your own ElfYourself eCards

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    Signs your husband may be a "cheetah"


    In the wake of the Tiger Woods debacle, The National Enquirer has posted on its Website a list of signs that a husband may be a "cheetah."
  • His car is different. The passenger seat has been moved, the radio is tuned to an unusual station or there are unknown hairs inside.

  • Watch for new cell phone patterns. A cheater turns his phone off when you're together because "she" might call.

  • He sometimes gets middle-of-the-night calls, and may leave the room to have a phone conversation. If you have access to his telephone bill, check it for repeated unknown numbers.
  • We now return you to regularly scheduled programming, already in progess.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Merry Christmas; you're fired!


    The Miami Herald has pink-slipped another 24 full-time employees...just in time for Christmas.

    Broward New Times blogger Bob Norman Lisa Rab reports:
    The Miami Herald is cutting 24 jobs throughout the company and reducing the hours of workers involved in printing and delivering the paper, publisher David Landsberg announced in an email this morning.

    Seven people will lose their jobs in the Herald newsroom: an assigning editor, two copy editors, two designers, a photo editor, and a part-time librarian. El Nuevo Herald will lose one-and-a-half editing positions, according to Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal. The affected employed were notified this morning, Gyllenhaal wrote in a email to the staff.

    For a newsroom of 200 staffers, and a media company with about 900 employees, these cuts are not enormous. But they come after two years of painful job hemorrhaging at the Herald and its competitors, the Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post.

    In 2008, the Herald eliminated more than 370 jobs through layoffs and buyouts. This March, 175 more jobs disappeared, followed by 16 more in August."
    If there's any good news in all of this it's that no reporters or photographers are included in this round of cuts.

    Herald Publisher David Landsberg sees a silver lining. In his memo this morning he wrote, "The move is part of our ongoing effort to ride out this unprecedented period of economic turmoil. While we are seeing some signs of improvement on the horizon, we expect operating conditions to remain challenging through much of 2010."

    One Herald staffer sees things a little more realistically, "It's over; this business is finished."

    An editor whose department is among those affected says that this is the fourth time in the past year and half that she's been in danger of losing her job.

    And another staffer whose job is in jeopardy posted this on her Facebook page:
    "In my department, 2 positions are being eliminated. I have the least tenure, so I'm likely out if no other designers step forward for a voluntary buyout. They have until the 14th to opt for one. My last day of work will likely be Jan. 4. As such, I am officially starting my job search today. Hire me. I'm awesome."
    In other news, the Circle of Barely Trained Monkeys aka the Miami-Dade County Commission, reminded us yesterday why a strong and viable Miami Herald is essential to this community.

    (Over 14,000 U.S. newspaper jobs have disappeared in 2009.)