Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Herald's Burger King files

UPDATED at 12:50pm I sent Herald business editor Lisa Gibbs an e-mail asking why they hadn't covered this story and why they were using wire service copy.

Her response:

Bill, thanks for this email.

It's a compliment (I think) that you look to us as the authoritative source on local companies.

We generally do like to use our own reporters when it comes to local companies. But there are times when we choose to use wire services. For example, when staff reporters are on vacation or out sick, using a decent wire story is better than asking a different staff person who doesn't have knowledge of the company to try to get up to speed.

Or, sometimes the beat reporter is on another project or out of the office, and we make the decision that using wire is simply a better use of resources. This is an equation we're having to consider more and more as our own newsroom resources shrink, an unfortunate byproduct of the economic forces shaping our industry.
With more people reading news online -- and for free -- most newsrooms have fewer reporters than they did five years ago, or even two years ago.

We've made the right decision to then take those smaller resources and focus them on local news, and you're right to ask the question of why we would use a wire on a big local company.

Generally, we don't like to do that, but sometimes because of staffing issues it just works out that way. I do hope you've seen our other good coverage on the farmworkers issue, and if not, I could certainly send.

MY COMMENT: Ummmm...OK. They can't find anyone to cover the Burger King story but they can find a reporter to cover "office spouses." (see above)
Many times when I'm reading a newspaper story I'm intrigued not only by what's in the story but what's left out. Same for the newspaper itself.

In the case of the Herald I've been mystified in the past week by the paper's silence on a major story about Miami-based Burger King.

Especially given the fact that the much smaller Naples Daily News has covered the story in detail. And a week ago The New York Times carried an op ed piece on the subject.

The story in a nutshell: Burger King allegedly hired a private investigator "to spy on the Student/Farmworker Alliance, a group of idealistic college students trying to improve the lives of migrants in Florida," according to the op-ed piece.

Florida farmworkers want Burger King to subsidize a pay raise for their tomato pickers by paying more per pound for tomatoes.

Intrigued by the op-ed piece and its allegations I did a Google search using the name of private investigator to see if the Herald had run any stories on this subject. All I could find were stories on the Naples Daily News website.

The Herald has covered the farmworkers demands of Burger King regarding higher prices for tomatoes but has been strangely silent on the fascinating story of the intrique bubbling beneath the surface.

I was a little puzzled why the Herald wasn't covering this story especially since it concerned a major corporation based right here in Miami.

But other things beckoned and I moved on.

That was until this morning when I followed a link posted on Rick's South Florida Daily Blog which ultimately led to a story on the Herald's website concerning the firing of two Burger King employees "following the disclosure that a top official secretly posted blogs slamming a farmworker advocacy group." However the story isn't a Herald story and wasn't written a by anyone at the Herald. Rather it's an Associated Press story.

And as far as I can tell this is the first mention on the Herald's website of the intrigue surrounding Burger King's hiring of the private investigator to spy on the farmworkers.

The News Press was all over the story back on May 6, even naming the Burger King VP accused of making the posts.

But the question remains: Why is the Herald using wire service copy for this this story when they should have their own people covering a story of this magnitude concerning a major local company? There once was a time when the Herald would do somersaults to avoid using AP copy on local stories. How times have changed!

Stay tuned.

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