Saturday, September 14, 2013

Is incompetent 'leadership' killing what's left of the Miami Herald? [UPDATED x1]

Peter principle: (noun) The theory that employees within an organization 
will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted 
to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.


UPDATED x1 below

For a newspaper, there's no more important job than covering vital issues and stories that affect readers' lives.

In a 1986 letter nominating Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan for a Pulitzer Prize, an editor wrote, "Edna Buchanan does not write about cops. She writes about people. To the Miami Herald, she is a natural resource and treasure."

On Thursday afternoon, Miami-Dade homicide detectives arrested 17-year-old Jamal Royal Jackson and charged him with murdering 71-year-old Miguel Pilotos last month at an Opa-Locka supermarket.

But yesterday, someone at the Miami Herald decided that Jackson's arrest - one of the day's top stories - wasn't important enough and didn't warrant coverage. This despite the fact that it was the lead story on every newscast in town and was featured all day on the homepage of the Herald's sister publication, el Nuevo Herald.

Apparently, Herald editors have grown weary of assigning reporters to cover crime. The paper hasn't had a full-time cops and crime reporter since it reassigned David Ovalle to the courthouse beat several years ago.

As I wrote last March, but it bears repeating, "To fill that gap, the Herald now copies and pastes crime stories from TV station websites...or, on some days, it just ignores crime stories altogether."

So, what's more important to Herald editors than alerting readers to crime trends that might be occurring in their neighborhoods?

At the Herald it's 1) Cuba, 2) Haiti, 3) George Zimmerman, 4) The World of Dance, and 5) More Cuba. 

To the Herald's leadership, those are important subjects.

Teenage thugs running around your neighborhood shooting people in the face over a cell phone or some jewelry, or shooting someone simply because they "didn't look scared enough...." that's not so important.

But not everyone working at the Herald's new building in Doral thought the story of Jamal Jackson's arrest was one that belonged on page 5B.

Here's how el Nuevo Herald editors played the story on the paper's local front.

And the Herald? The paper buried - on page 5B - an early version of the story copied from CBS4. A version, by the way, that doesn't even mention Jackson's name.

The newspaper that won two Pulitzer Prizes for its
coverage of crime, now cuts and pastes crime stories
from TV station websites. 

It's not the first time that el Nuevo Herald editors have given an important crime story the space it deserves, while their colleagues on the English-language side of the newsroom stick their heads in the sand.

So, one has to assume that Herald editors live in some sort of parallel where crime is almost non-existent, or at the very least, something unpleasant that one does not talk about in polite company.

Will the mind-set of Herald editors ever change when it comes to crime coverage?


When? The first time someone gets shot in the face by some punk, teenage thug over a Rolex or a smartphone in front of their half-million dollar condo on Belle Isle in Miami Beach...the very next day is when you'll see crime get the coverage it deserves in the Herald. That's when the candy-ass Herald editors will begin to take crime seriously. But until that happens, violent crime is someone else's problem.

But there's another reason the Herald shouldn't shy away from this kind of story. The Drudge Report thought it important enough to link to. Any webmaster will tell you that a link from Drudge is worth 50,000 clicks....minimum. The story Drudge chose to link to was CBS4's story....which as of this writing has over 1600 comments.

One doesn't need a PhD in criminal justice to know that there's a small army of teen thugs roaming Miami-Dade County willing to kill for a cell phone or a couple of dollars. But it's something you won't read about in the pages of the Herald. 

At what point in his young life does a 14 or 15-year-old kid decide it's okay to shoot someone in the face for the fun of it? What kind of homes do these kids come from? Is anyone helping them before they get to this point?

Anyone at the Herald want to tackle those very important questions; instead of writing yet another story on soccer in Haiti?

And here's a direct question for Rick Hirsch and Mindy Marqués: Since the Herald's dance critic has her own page on the website, and there's an entire page devoted to George Zimmerman, why not put up a page on your website that contains information that's actually useful to your readership ?

Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times and New Orleans Times Picayune all have pages on their websites devoted to tracking crime in those cities.

Why can't the Herald have the same?

One more question, Rick and Mindy: Can you think of anything more important than giving your readers information that will help keep them safe? Or a cops reporter who also "writes about people."


UPDATED at 11 am, Sunday: Herald finally gets a story of Jackson's arrest in the Sunday paper...a full 48 hours after the story broke and 24 hours after el Nuevo Herald's story yesterday.


  1. Your coverage of the Herald keeps getting better and better! Keep up the fantastic work.

  2. Curious, how hard is it for a newspaper to call a contact in the police department and request a weekly crime summary and report ten of most interesting crimes of the week? Did last weeks rape in Miami Beach take a few days to make the paper? What's with these delays of several days to weeks in reporting things?

  3. Bravo!
    Thank you for saying what so many staffers want to say but don't, or can't.

  4. Note the discrepancy in the alleged protagonist's name: Royal Jamal vs Jamal Royal.

  5. I knew Rick Hirsch when he was he attended UF and he never impressed me as being very bright. Way to ruin a once great newspaper dude!

    1. The paper is already on the way down and out. Just look at what they call world news each day.


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