Monday, December 02, 2013

Three veteran journalists prepare to say goodbye to Miami Herald

Three veteran Miami Herald journalists with a combined 120+ years of experience are preparing to bid the paper farewell.

Copy editor Sam Jacobs, and photojournalists Marice Cohn Band and Joe Rimkus Jr. decided to accept a recent buyout offer and will say goodbye to colleagues this Friday.


Sam Jacobs. 
Copy editor Sam Jacobs joined the Herald in 1967 and is the paper's longest serving newsroom staffer.

Last Friday, I asked Sam to tell me a little about his almost half-century at the Herald.

He was kind enough to send this email:
I probably am the most senior newsroom employee, unless you count people like Ed Pope, Jay Clarke and Bill Van Smith who still write sometimes.

After coming here in 1967 just after graduate school, I worked on the copy desk for a few months until a reporting vacancy opened up, then worked in Broward for about a year and a half, mainly covering government. Then I had a fellowship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from the Inter American Press Association for almost a year.

After that, I was a reporter on the city desk in Miami for about 10 years at various times covering poor people and poverty programs (before that subject got out of style), local government and politics and the Latin community. Halfway through that period I had another fellowship in Washington in a program run by the American Political Science Association for journalists, political scientists and government employees in which you work for a member of the House and a member of the Senate for about four months each -- anyone you want to work for as long as they will have you. I had two really great assignments -- with Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona in the House and Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana in the Senate. This was right during Watergate, so it was particularly fascinating to be in Washington then.

In the early 1980s, I was the Neighbors editor in Hialeah for about three years. That was when I first met Al Diaz. Since then, I've mainly been doing editing of one sort or another, although I have written stories from time to time. For quite a few years, I was involved with the International Edition (known at the Herald as the Clipper) which went to parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. As I mentioned to you on the phone, I also spent a couple of years on what was first called the Jewish Herald and later the Jewish Star-Times (don't ask where that name came from; it didn't make any sense). Since then, I've been on the copy desk.

I only had a very small part in covering the Eastern crash. The main reason I was asked to write about it last spring was because I'm probably the last person left who was at the Herald then. Probably the most memorable story was the trial in the mid 70s of three county commissioners who were charged with taking zoning payoffs. They were found guilty, but the convictions were thrown out on appeal. They never went to jail, but at least they never held public office again. A couple of years later, I was the principal reporter on a four- or five-day series we did on ethnic relations in South Florida, a project that had been my idea.

I'm not sure I had any mentors, but I did get to work with the two best reporters I've ever met -- Gene Miller and Edna Buchanan. I also had some excellent editors in my first few years as a reporter, Ben Burns and Steve Rogers in Broward and Rich Archbold and George Kennedy in Miami. (George later went on to a long career as a journalism professor at the University of Missouri.)
Recently retired Herald staff writer John Dorschner describes Sam this way:
Sam Jacobs is a super-efficient, super-quiet copy editor for the past several decades -- one of those guys who does a great job and keeps quiet about it. He was the guy who fixed copy problems without making a fuss.

In his earlier years, he was a government reporter at The Herald.

He's a baseball fan, and given to baseball trivia. He also has a dry sense of humor -- so dry that I can't think of a single one of his jokes at the moment.

He's the longest serving staffer left -- he started before me (I was 1970) ... and served as the institutional memory, as the Peter B. Sinclair story shows. 

Retired Herald photographer Tim Chapman told me, "Sam is a journalists' editor. He made you look good by catching your mistakes before they were printed. He checked facts and would call you at home to do that. His knowledge of South Florida is unmatched in local journalism."


Joe Rimkus Jr.
(Click to enlarge.)
Joe Rimkus, Jr. began his career in photojournalism by tagging along to football games with his father, long-time Miami News photographer Joe Rimkus Sr.

"I learned everything from him," Joe told the Sun-Sentinel in 1995.

Joe - an FIU graduate - began his career at the Herald 40 years ago, getting his foot in the door by starting out as a photo lab tech.

One of his early assignments was to photograph a group of composing room employees for a Herald in-house publication.

Joe lined them all up and shot photographs and was gone in a few minutes. But, a few days later, he was back in the composing room for a re-shoot.

And this time, unlike the first, he remembered to put film in his camera.

Joe says that for years after that incident, whenever he ran into a composing room employee in the building, he was invariably asked, "Hey, got film in your camera?"

A few days ago, Joe told his Facebook friends of his decision to leave the paper:
[Last] Sunday was my last game at Joe Robbie Stadium! How fitting I covered the game with Charles Trainor Jr. Our fathers covered the Miami Dolphins together also. Time for me to join the other unemployed newspaper photographers. Taking a buyout out so I only have one more Dolphins game and 7 more days of work. Time to buy my own cameras and reinvent myself.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross congratulates guard
Richie Incognito following the Falcons / Dolphins game, Sept. 22, 2013.
(Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald)

Last Friday, I chatted with Joe for a bit and I asked him what his favorite assignment was.

Without missing a beat he replied, "The 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy."

Joe told me that, as a sports photographer, he enjoyed covering events like skiing and snowboarding - sports that aren't all that common in South Florida.

Former Herald colleague Tim Chapman started at the paper in 1972, a year before Joe. I asked him what Joe's legacy at the paper would be:
I would say that Joe covered the Dolphins better then anyone I ever met. The [readers] will miss his consistent brilliance from every game he ever covered. I hated football after the 1973 season, but Joe remained a constant force in photographing football.


Marice Cohn Band.
(Click to enlarge.)
Tim Chapman calls photojournalist Marice Cohn Band, "the best feature photographer to ever walk in and out of the Herald.

Says Chapman:
[Marice] could take a feature assignment that would make me vomit as a hard core newsman, and catch a moment that nobody else could. Those features made up the majority of Herald assignments, especially in the last 10 years, so the loss of Mo as I call her, is huge. More then being a great photographer, Mo is a true friend, the kind of friend I could tell anything and would forgive my weaknesses. My wife called Marice my "work wife."

Born and raised in Miami, Marice began her career at the Herald in 1979 after an internship at the old Miami News and a stint as a photographer at the Miami Beach Sun-Reporter.

In her almost 35 years at the paper, she's covered every kind of assignment. But she's perhaps best known for her tender feature images of children.

In addition, she's traveled to Cuba on countless occasions.

"Green car, Havana."
(Marice Cohn Band / Miami Herald )

Marice lives in Miami Beach with her husband Michael, a long-time Miami attorney.

Away from the Herald, she finds plenty to keep her busy. In addition to raising three daughters, she's been a Girl Scout leader for 23 years.

I also chatted with Marice last Friday and asked her what her most memorable assignment was.

She told me she considers the photographs she shot for a 2005 Miami Herald series on land mines in Latin America as some of her most important work. That assignment took her to Colombia, Nicaragua, Chile and Ecuador.

In 2006, she won the Inter American Press Association's photography award for her work on the land mine story.


How will the loss of these experienced veterans affect the Herald?

Tim Chapman has an opinion: "These three true journalists are not what is wrong with the Herald today. Even if the Herald tried to replace them, which they will not, they could not."

1 comment:

  1. Sad. They should hire Peter, from Condo Vultures and the chief auctioneer from Sotheby's. They could write about art and condos everyday. If you cannot sell your art or condo you could always contact the paper to help you out. Perfect win for everybody.


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