Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Memo to Miami Herald executive editor Mindy Marqués Gonzalez
I wanted to take this opportunity to offer belated congratulations on your appointment as the Miami Herald's new executive editor.
Your story is truly inspiring. Twenty five short years after starting at the bottom of the ladder at a Northwest Neighbors office, you now run the entire show. Is this a great country, or what?
But I'd be lying if I said better things are ahead. Your challenges are immense.
The Herald is going through the most difficult period in its 100 year plus history.
You're now tasked with putting out a newspaper with a greatly reduced staff and diminished resources. Also in the mix is a shrinking and alienated subscriber base.
Thirty six years ago, The Miami Herald made TIME magazine's list of The Ten Best American Daily Newspapers.
Last year it made another TIME magazine list: The Ten Most Endangered Newspapers in America.
We all know newspapers are in trouble. And we've heard all the reasons why: the Internet, the economy and on and on.
And those of us who keep track of such things know the Herald has been especially hard hit.
In 1976, when it was named to TIME's top ten list, the Herald's daily circulation was almost 405,000 and over half a million on Sunday. There were very few counties in the state where the Herald wasn't available. By 1981, as South Florida was in the midst of a difficult period, the Herald was fat and sassy with a circulation that had jumped to 421,000.
But, in figures released this month, the Herald's daily circulation has fallen to 151,612 daily. And I'm told, it's impossible to find a copy of the Herald north of the Broward county line. The Herald's Sunday circulation now ranks fifth behind other newspapers in a state it once dominated.
But despite that, your predecessor Anders Gyllenhaal, wrote in his in his farewell column Sunday that "the Herald is now emerging from the downturn with strategies that will keep us serving you for many decades to come." He also pointed to the fact that "more than 25 Herald reporters, photographers and videographers traveled [to Haiti]" following January's earthquake.
All that's very nice I suppose and I'm sure the Herald will be a contender for Pulitzer Prize next year.
But what's the point of spending precious resources on a story in a country more than 700 miles from Miami when your paper finds it all but impossible to cover a story that's just across the MacArthur Causeway?
This morning, on the Herald's website, I found the first mention of a hookworm infestation on Miami Beach that was first reported by a TV station on Oct. 21. It wasn't that many years ago that local TV stations got story ideas from the Herald and not the other way around.
It's not the first time the Herald has been late or been lazy in covering a recent story.
I'm sure that you've already had discussions with your top editors on how to improve the paper.
I also realize that you're somewhat limited in what you can do because of budget considerations. But one of the first things you might want to look at is why your paper still has a dance critic on staff when it can't find the resources to cover a neighborhood health issue or flooding problem.
After you've taken care of all that, then perhaps you'll address another problem: the fact - as one long-time staffer puts it - that the Herald "appeals to an audience we don't have anymore. We're not in sync with the community. We cover serious stories in a boring way. We don't cover stories with attitude."
Well, there you have it Mindy. To borrow a phrase from a certain politician: "Let's get to work!" And here, at Random Pixels, we're only too happy to help!
Posted by Bill at Tuesday, November 02, 2010