Yesterday, as I browsed stories on several local news sites, this jumped out at me: "MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - About 100 people were arrested Wednesday in 'Operation Smoking Gun III,' one of the largest efforts to fight drug and weapons trafficking, and money laundering in South Florida."
Intrigued, I headed on over to the Miami Herald's website to learn more. No such luck. At 8pm, hours after the arrests and a press conference, the Herald had nothing.
Well, I told myself, let's not be too hasty. Someone is probably writing a story right now that will make tomorrow's front page.
Surely, I reasoned, a story of almost 100 drug-related arrests, the seizure of 248 firearms, and various amounts of crack cocaine, heroin, Oxycodone pills, and marijuana in Miami-Dade County's third largest city is a big enough story to jar someone awake in the perpetually lethargic Herald newsroom.
I was partly correct.
The Herald did have a story in this morning's paper; but not on 1A or even 1B.
Despite a headline that called the federal operation a "Major gun [and] drug round-up," there wasn't anything "major" about story's placement in the paper.
Written by an inexperienced intern, the piece was relegated to a back page of the local section.
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Now, I was really intrigued.
In a town of 108,000 that logged 25 murders last year, what story could possibly be more important than the arrests of almost 100 bad guys and the removal of 248 guns from the city's streets.
I looked up the Herald's front page.
What's more important? A Dan Le Batard column - GO HEAT! - a drone attack in Pakistan, and a huge feature story about an 80 year-old blind Korean war vet who made "his first underwater visit to the statue of Christ that he ... brought to the Keys a half-century ago."
I was curious...what did the folks in charge at Miami Gardens City Hall think of the Herald's placement of the story? A story that was essentially a bit of good news for a change in a city that many see as one with a huge crime problem.
I picked up the phone and called Miami Gardens city manager Dr. Danny O. Crew.
He answered the phone on the second ring. "I'm just happy they put it in the paper at all," he told me.
Over the next few minutes, Crew told me a bit about Miami Gardens:
-Miami Gardens is the largest predominately African-American city in Florida.
-It's the site of the annual "Jazz in the Gardens" music festival held every March. "We had our festival the same time they had the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, only no one was arrested at our event," Crew said. (60,000 pus attended this year's festival.)
-Miami Gardens is building the world's largest LEED Platinum certified city hall.
Crew concedes that his city has a crime problem, but adds, "We're certainly not the city we were ten years ago."
I ended our call by asking Crew, "Given the placement of this morning's story, is there anything you want the Herald's editors to know?"
Here's what he emailed me a short time later:
To the Herald: Miami Gardens is a wonderful city of over 100,000, mostly homeowners, who are tired of the Herald’s ‘crime only’ coverage of the city. Our violent crime rate is lower than Miami, Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and St. Petersburg but you wouldn’t know it from the Herald. I understand that you must report crime, but where was the Herald when one of our 10 year-old residents finished 2nd in the Super State Chess Championship? Where was the Herald this past December when the City sponsored a science fair for its 21 elementary schools with over 600 participants? Where was the Herald when the City was named one of 10 Crown Communities in the United States by American City and County Magazine for its innovative management?
If you want more readership, you need to change your one-dimensional coverage and make your product more relevant to this community.