Friday, December 31, 2010

Miami media hits and misses

For my last post of the year I thought I'd share a few things that caught my eye in local media coverage of stories in South Florida this past year.


A Miami Herald staffer, who's also a regular reader of this blog, has mentioned to me more than once that I spend too much time writing negatively about the paper.

With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to end the year on a positive note. Here's a roster of Herald writers whose work makes me sit up a take notice. The list is by no means complete.

Mathew Haggman and Martha Brannigan

Whether they're writing about desk drawers full of cash at Miami-Dade's Transit agency, Miami-Dade's mayor and commissioners sticking it to the taxpayers, or county hall's most ethically challenged commissioner, the reporting by Herald writers Martha Brannigan and Matthew Haggman is, month in and month out, Pulitzer worthy. It's just that good.

Carol Rosenberg

Rosenberg is the Miami Herald's Guantanamo reporter. The Columbia Journalism Review recently called her "The Record Keeper."
[“Rosenberg’s] daily accounts are what you need to read to understand Guantánamo 101,” says Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security and the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days. “She’s still the only person who can contextualize what’s going on. Carol has been the consistent presence.”
Ellie Brecher

If you get word that Ellie is researching a story on you, be afraid, be very afraid - and then make an appointment to see a doctor right away.

But many of Ellie's subjects don't get that chance, because by the time she sits down to hammer out their story, they've left this world.

Ellie is the Herald's obituary and feature writer.

She's also one of the paper's most gifted and versatile writers.

Explaining the late radio icon Neil Rogers to her readers she wrote: "He sprinkled his stream-of-consciousness patter with Yiddish phrases, introducing that language to thousands of listeners who wouldn't know gefilte fish from garbanzo beans."

And last November, Ellie - who also happens to be an animal lover - wrote of a diving competition for dogs at the Homestead Miami Speedway.
While top NASCAR drivers zoomed around the track at Homestead Miami Speedway on Friday, enthusiastic wet dogs went the distance in a 25,000-gallon portable pool just outside the stands.

Except for Jake, a 6-year-old rat terrier who didn't quite get the concept of dock jumping...
Patricia Mazzei, Scott Hiaasen, Jay Weaver and David Ovalle

Mazzei, Hiaasen, Weaver and Ovalle capped off the year with a great story in this morning's paper on the mounting tension between Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Police Chief Miguel Exposito. Fascinating stuff that proved not all year-end stories have to be boring.

That takes care of the Herald.

Now let's take a look at South Florida TV news.

Nor much to be proud of here.

With a few exceptions, most of South Florida's TV news operations seem to be in a constant competition to see which one of them can churn out the most cliché-ridden, overblown and unintentionally hilarious presentation of South Florida news.

Cats stuck in trees, puppies trapped in drains, missing kids, perp walks galore, blood and gore and whatever ideas they can steal from the's just a click away at 5, 6, 10 and 11pm.

One exception is Channel 10's senior political reporter Michael Putney.

Putney - who just celebrated his 70th birthday - has spent almost half of those years in South Florida, working first at the Miami Herald and then WTVJ before landing at Channel 10. The Herald once said of Putney: “[He] brings to his stories what no reporter can buy, manufacture or learn in school: experience. He knows this town.” 'Nuff said.

And now for the low lights.

There were really too many to list here.

But, if you caught any of the coverage of the recent cold snap on the local stations, then you know where this is going.

Back in early December, as we braced for unseasonably cold temps, every station - without exception - went into panic mode.

Listening to the coverage, you might have been led to believe that if you survived the first night of cold weather you'd still have to deal with mammoth glaciers blocking all of our major roadways and streets littered with frozen corpses of those who were too dumb to heed the warnings to "dress in layers."

But for sheer entertainment, it was hard to beat WSVN reporter Vanessa Medina's live shot on December 6th.

Standing on East Las Olas Blvd. wearing a knit cap and bulky scarf, she gripped the mike and stared solemnly into the camera and warned viewers to brace for the worst. The words were barely out of her mouth when an elderly couple wandered into camera range behind her wearing short-sleeved shirts.

But it gets worse. After her taped report aired, Medina appeared on camera again with a final. somber warning, "And parents, if you have young children going to school in the morning, make sure they're wearing a jacket before they leave the house."

Kind of makes one wonder if the folks at Channel 7 really think their audience is that stupid. Wait! I think I know the answer!

Congratulations Vanessa! You're the recipient of this year's "Nanook of the North Award."

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