Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Herald doesn't bother to cover its own funeral

"The Miami Herald is not going anywhere." -Miami Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal testily uttered that line yesterday at a panel discussion with the foreboding title, "Miami: A No-Newspaper Town?," held just a few blocks from One Herald Plaza.

The same Anders Gyllenhaal, by the way, who told Broward New Times blogger Bob Norman last October when asked about further job cuts at the Herald, "I just don't see that happening."

Of course, two weeks ago, we learned that Gyllenhaal's hunch was a little off the mark, as the Herald instituted a third round of staff cuts in less than a year.

At yesterday's discussion Gyllenhaal seemed to blame others for the current state of affairs at the Herald:
"Constant worry about the Herald's longevity isn't helping, he said, citing online speculation that his newspaper is destined for failure.

" 'It hurt us, it hurt our advertising,' Gyllenhaal said. Advertisers are thinking, 'Maybe I shouldn't be advertising with them because they're not going to be around,' he said."
Sounds like Gyllenhaal is blaming Random Pixels and other bloggers for the Herald's current predicament.

We just want to help. Really!

Gyllenhaal's appearance on the panel comes just days after Herald publisher David Landsberg took part in a little damage control of his own.

(Today the publisher of the Charlotte Observer - also a McClatchy paper - posted a letter similar in tone to Landsberg's letter on the Observer's website.)

Meanwhile Miami Monthly publisher Elena Carpenter brought up a point that I've been hammering at for some time. According to the AP story, she "chastised Gyllenhaal for giving away stories, photos and extras such as video for free online. People need to be reminded that good reporting costs money and retains its value among blogs that don't adhere to traditional journalism standards, she said."

Carpenter is right. I strongly believe that when all is said and done and they write the obits for printed newspapers; somewhere in the first few grafs will be the a line about the fact that newspapers hastened their own demise by giving away content for free one day and then trying to charge for it the next.

But former Miami New Times reporter Rebecca Wakefield summed the Herald's problems in one sentence: The Herald's challenge, she said, is surviving "as a general interest publication in a community with no general interest."

(One puzzling side note to yesterday's panel discussion. Despite the fact that it was held in close proximity to the Herald's headquarters; the paper apparently didn't bother to cover it, relying instead on the AP.)

UPDATE: One panel attendee sent this email to Random Pixels:
"funny they had a Herald reporter there, but i have yet to see a story.

"my take is that the reason Anders asked to be on the panel (after he found out the name of it "Miami: A No Newspaper Town?") was to quash the whole notion.

"These guys are running scared bigtime.

"Nothing he said indicated that they have a workable plan to save what's left of the paper...just rearranging the deck chairs so to speak."

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