Friday, December 31, 2010

Miami media hits and misses

For my last post of the year I thought I'd share a few things that caught my eye in local media coverage of stories in South Florida this past year.


A Miami Herald staffer, who's also a regular reader of this blog, has mentioned to me more than once that I spend too much time writing negatively about the paper.

With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to end the year on a positive note. Here's a roster of Herald writers whose work makes me sit up a take notice. The list is by no means complete.

Mathew Haggman and Martha Brannigan

Whether they're writing about desk drawers full of cash at Miami-Dade's Transit agency, Miami-Dade's mayor and commissioners sticking it to the taxpayers, or county hall's most ethically challenged commissioner, the reporting by Herald writers Martha Brannigan and Matthew Haggman is, month in and month out, Pulitzer worthy. It's just that good.

Carol Rosenberg

Rosenberg is the Miami Herald's Guantanamo reporter. The Columbia Journalism Review recently called her "The Record Keeper."
[“Rosenberg’s] daily accounts are what you need to read to understand Guantánamo 101,” says Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security and the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days. “She’s still the only person who can contextualize what’s going on. Carol has been the consistent presence.”
Ellie Brecher

If you get word that Ellie is researching a story on you, be afraid, be very afraid - and then make an appointment to see a doctor right away.

But many of Ellie's subjects don't get that chance, because by the time she sits down to hammer out their story, they've left this world.

Ellie is the Herald's obituary and feature writer.

She's also one of the paper's most gifted and versatile writers.

Explaining the late radio icon Neil Rogers to her readers she wrote: "He sprinkled his stream-of-consciousness patter with Yiddish phrases, introducing that language to thousands of listeners who wouldn't know gefilte fish from garbanzo beans."

And last November, Ellie - who also happens to be an animal lover - wrote of a diving competition for dogs at the Homestead Miami Speedway.
While top NASCAR drivers zoomed around the track at Homestead Miami Speedway on Friday, enthusiastic wet dogs went the distance in a 25,000-gallon portable pool just outside the stands.

Except for Jake, a 6-year-old rat terrier who didn't quite get the concept of dock jumping...
Patricia Mazzei, Scott Hiaasen, Jay Weaver and David Ovalle

Mazzei, Hiaasen, Weaver and Ovalle capped off the year with a great story in this morning's paper on the mounting tension between Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Police Chief Miguel Exposito. Fascinating stuff that proved not all year-end stories have to be boring.

That takes care of the Herald.

Now let's take a look at South Florida TV news.

Nor much to be proud of here.

With a few exceptions, most of South Florida's TV news operations seem to be in a constant competition to see which one of them can churn out the most cliché-ridden, overblown and unintentionally hilarious presentation of South Florida news.

Cats stuck in trees, puppies trapped in drains, missing kids, perp walks galore, blood and gore and whatever ideas they can steal from the's just a click away at 5, 6, 10 and 11pm.

One exception is Channel 10's senior political reporter Michael Putney.

Putney - who just celebrated his 70th birthday - has spent almost half of those years in South Florida, working first at the Miami Herald and then WTVJ before landing at Channel 10. The Herald once said of Putney: “[He] brings to his stories what no reporter can buy, manufacture or learn in school: experience. He knows this town.” 'Nuff said.

And now for the low lights.

There were really too many to list here.

But, if you caught any of the coverage of the recent cold snap on the local stations, then you know where this is going.

Back in early December, as we braced for unseasonably cold temps, every station - without exception - went into panic mode.

Listening to the coverage, you might have been led to believe that if you survived the first night of cold weather you'd still have to deal with mammoth glaciers blocking all of our major roadways and streets littered with frozen corpses of those who were too dumb to heed the warnings to "dress in layers."

But for sheer entertainment, it was hard to beat WSVN reporter Vanessa Medina's live shot on December 6th.

Standing on East Las Olas Blvd. wearing a knit cap and bulky scarf, she gripped the mike and stared solemnly into the camera and warned viewers to brace for the worst. The words were barely out of her mouth when an elderly couple wandered into camera range behind her wearing short-sleeved shirts.

But it gets worse. After her taped report aired, Medina appeared on camera again with a final. somber warning, "And parents, if you have young children going to school in the morning, make sure they're wearing a jacket before they leave the house."

Kind of makes one wonder if the folks at Channel 7 really think their audience is that stupid. Wait! I think I know the answer!

Congratulations Vanessa! You're the recipient of this year's "Nanook of the North Award."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miami's "Snake Man" is 100 years old today

From the Miami News, Aug. 23, 1964

Ten years ago, Miami herpetologist Joe Wasilewski was working with a documentary film crew on a piece about 90 year-old Bill Haast, the legendary former owner of Miami Serpentarium.
Wasilewski recalls that a member of the crew asked Haast - who has been bitten by poisonous snakes at least 173 times - if he thought that snake venom prolonged life. "Ask me when I'm 100," Haast replied dryly.

Ten years later Bill Haast is alive and well and living in Punta Gorda, FL where he runs Miami Serpentarium Laboratories.

Today is his 100th birthday.

In Aug. 2006, when Haast was 95, Miami Herald reporter Luisa Yanez wrote that the "Miami Snakeman" was still injecting himself with snake venom. Yanez quoted Haast as saying: ''I could become a poster boy for the benefits of venom. If I live to be 100 I'll really make the point.''

Over the years, Miami newspapers have chronicled Haast's frequent brushes with death.

In Feb. 1949, the Miami Daily News reported that Haast, then 38, had been bitten by a Mexican water moccasin.

In Feb. 1961, after Haast was bitten for the 67th time, he told the Miami News: "Let's hope it was the last."

It wasn't.

In Sept. 1970, Haast was bitten - number 112 - by a Malayan pit viper.

Happy birthday Mr. Haast!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A tale of two tragedies

Sometimes, the search for a major news story in the pages of the Miami Herald can be just as futile as George W. Bush's hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But I was certain that the story of the tragic deaths Monday of 5 Little Haiti teens in a Hialeah motel would be different. Surely, I thought, this was a story that would dominate much of the Herald's front page yesterday.

I was wrong.

Herald editors buried six paragraphs of an excellent story on the tragedy by staff writers Laura Isensee, Diana Moskovitz and Nadege Charles in the bottom right-hand corner of Tuesday's paper. The rest of the story was moved inside, presumably to protect younger or easily-offended readers.

Editors at the paper apparently thought a weather story and a story on the state's dying dog racing industry were more important and compelling.

In addition to the three Herald writers who worked on the story, staff photographer Carlos Guerrero also provided top-notch still and video coverage. For some unknown reason, not one of Guerrero's gripping photos made the pages of the paper.

One wonders if the story might have been played more prominently had the 5 young men lived in Pinecrest or if they had attended school at Gulliver Prep.

The story also offers news watchers an inside glimpse into the decision making processes at not just our local paper, but also the national media.

A search of Google New reveals a little over 800 links to stories on the Hialeah deaths. A 65-word AP dispatch was posted on the New York Times website.

By comparison, a ski lift accident that injured 8 people yesterday at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine has over 2,000 links on Google News.

And cable news channels, which barely mentioned the Hialeah story, have been running hourly stories on the ski lift accident. Fortunately for CNN, one of their employees just happened to be at Sugarloaf and witnessed the incident. Use your imagination to figure out how overblown their coverage has been.

And unlike Miami Herald editors, Maine newspaper editors know how to play an important story.

Coverage of the "Sugarloaf Tregedy" dominated the front pages of Maine's 5 major dailies today!

Click image to enlarge

-front page images via

Friday, December 24, 2010

"It's just a radio show!"

Anyone who ever listened to long-time South Florida radio talk-meister Neil Rogers recognizes that line.

That's how Neil often described his show if anyone was clueless enough to ask him to explain it.

Either you got it or you didn't.

And if you didn't, he didn't much care. "That's what the off switch is for," he would say.

Tens of thousands of "Neilies" no doubt recalled that line as they heard the news of Neil's death today.

If you're a "Neilie" you also don't need any explanation for phrases such as Phish Food, Publix bag boys, douchebag, Howard from Boca, Boca Burgers, Boca Brian, Guitar man, the "I'm dyin' over here" guy, Happy Purim, the "Thanks for calling lady," harness racing or the legendary Bridge Tender.

I listened to Neil for over 25 years.

And as a photojournalist, I was assigned twice to photograph him at the WIOD studios.

The first time was for a Canadian wire service story on Neil. They were profiling Neil because of his relentless attacks on French Canadian visitors to South Florida.

I called his producer and he said to drop by the studio. I walked in during a commercial break and Neil looked at me and asked "what is this for?" I told him that Canadian Press was doing a story on him because of his jokes about French Canadians. Without missing a beat he responded, "Those aren't jokes."

The second time was in 1990 when I was assigned to shoot him for a St. Petersburg Times story.

I arrived at the studio - and much to Neil's chagrin - began setting up lights because I was shooting very slow transparency film. I could tell that Neil was bothered by all the equipment but he never said a word.

At one point during a commercial break, I said to Neil - referring to the callers - "It's not a very good show today, is it?" He didn't respond.

I stayed until almost the end of the show and then packed up my gear and went downstairs, loaded my car and drove away. I switched on the radio to see if he would say anything about me.

I didn't have to wait long. As he was signing off, he said something like, "And if the photographer is listening, I hope tomorrow's show is better."

While Neil's show defied description, Times staff writer Rick Bragg probably came pretty close when he wrote, "his top-rated call-in show has been a sort of mirror for Miami and South Florida, a reflection of its mind-set."

Over the years, I listened to Neil religiously. My job as a news photographer required me to be on the road all the time.

On more than one occasion I can remember pulling into a 7-11 to grab and snack and passing by a delivery truck in the parking lot with the driver relaxing inside and listening to Neil. That was Neil's audience; regular working men and women.

I learned the news of Neil's death today when Miami Herald obituary writer Ellie Brecher called to tell me. We didn't talk long because she had to get back to writing Neil's obit.

But Ellie took the the time to call me because she knows that I'm a "Neilie."

Here's a little secret: Ellie's a "Neilie" too.

(Keep that in mind as you read her story later today.)

As I decided to write this post, I called her back and asked her why she liked Neil so much. "He was funny! And incredibly intelligent," she said. She continued, "and he didn't have any patience for pompous or self-important people."

Later, by email, Ellie told me, "He called me 'the psychotic bitch from the Herald,' and a 'yenta,' but he liked me."

And we liked you too, Neil.

RIP Neil...and thanks for laughs!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who wants to be Miami's next police chief?

Miami mayor Tomas Regalado stands behind his man, Chief Miguel Exposito.

Miguel Exposito is learning the hard way that the job of being Miami's top cop is not for anyone who cherishes job security or a stress-free work environment.

In the the year he's been on the job he's also undoubtedly learned that the constant scrutiny and second guessing from the politicians at city hall can be just as oppressive as a Miami summer.

The Miami Herald's Chuck Rabin reported Sunday that Exposito "is the subject of growing speculation about his job security, after a first year that included four fatal shootings by officers, a videotape of police punching a man several times while he's pinned down, a botched attempt to control an unruly crowd and some anti-corruption investigations that fizzled."

Exposito runs a department with a checkered past.

In the fifties Miami cops were accused of being soft on gambling and bookmakers.

In Dec. 1967, Chief Walter Headley, frustrated by a week of violence, gained national attention by threatening to send his cops into high crime areas with police dogs and shotguns.

In the eighties it was hard to tell the drug dealers from the Miami cops.

In the nineties there was more corruption and the high-profile case of cops shooting unarmed suspects and then planting guns and orchestrating cover-ups.

Last August, following four fatal shootings by Miami police over a six-week period, the Herald reported that some wondered "if police under new Chief Miguel Exposito have become overly aggressive."

Miami mayor Tomas Regalado appeared to back Exposito.

"Regalado," the Herald reported, "began showing up at crime scenes with promises to ''take back the streets,'' by flooding those neighborhoods with cops. At one point, he raised eyebrows by challenging the well-armed gangs he believes responsible for several incidents, saying: ''We are going to respond to violence with violence.''

But that was then and this is now. Three months later, Regalado appears to be backing off in his support of the chief.

``It's all on Exposito,'' Mayor Tomás Regalado said, referring to police chief Miguel Exposito and the problems on his watch," the Herald reported Sunday.

If Exposito gets to keep hs job he'll almost certainly be in for more turbulence.

And if he goes, he'll just be the latest in a long line of Miami police chiefs to get swept up in Miami city politics.

In 1988 the Miami Herald compiled a list of 12 police chiefs that had served Miami since 1928. The Herald wrote that "politics played some part in the resignations or firing of eight of them."

CLARENCE DICKSON [first black police chief,] 1985-88. Resigned, saying he was "frustrated with the antics of the City Commission." ["I just didn't want to work for the City Commission anymore," said Dickson. "They didn't like me and I wasn't crazy about them."]

HERBERT BRESLOW, 1984-85. Resigned amid rumors he would be fired. Closely identified with former City Manager Howard Gary, Breslow's main foe was ex-Commissioner Joe Carollo, who didn't like Gary. [According to the Herald: "Breslow was chief less than a year, the shortest tenure ever in that post. He became chief at 2:47 a.m. Jan. 27, 1984, when former City Manager Howard Gary fired Harms. Breslow resigned Jan. 2, 1985, amid rumors he was headed for a similar fate." ]

KENNETH T. HARMS, 1978-84. Fired in a 2:47 a.m. phone call by City Manager Gary, the climax of a long feud between the two. Harms believed Gary was interfering in his department; Gary said the chief didn't follow orders. Gary was fired by commissioners nine months later.

GARLAND P. WATKINS, 1975-78. Unexpectedly resigned to move to Tennessee. He would not elaborate on his reasons for leaving and denied reports of a rift with City Manager Joseph Grassie. Watkins had been unhappy about forced layoffs and budget cuts.

BERNARD L. GARMIRE, 1969-74. Resigned under pressure after a series of City Commission inquiries and a Dade grand jury report criticized morale in the police department. Garmire's resignation followed a year of confrontation with Mayor Maurice Ferre.

WALTER E. HEADLEY, 1948-68. Died in office. He had a running battle with Mayors Abe Abronovitz and Robert King High, but the Florida Supreme Court, in a lawsuit involving Headley, ruled he could not be fired unless specific charges were brought up.

FRANK MITCHELL, 1946-48. Resigned after City Manager R.G. Danner was ousted by the City Commission. "I refuse to stay and see it torn down," he said of his department.

CHARLES O. NELSON, 1944-46. Forced to resign by City Manager Danner, who was not pleased with gambling in the city. Danner wanted the police department to eliminate all gambling.

HOWARD LESLIE QUIGG, 1921-28 and 1937-44. Twice fired; in 1928 after a grand jury indictment in a police shooting and in 1944 after he refused to follow City Manager A.B. Curry's order to quell a strike by Miami Transit bus drivers.

JOHN B. ROWLAND, 1936-37. Forced out of office by city administrators who wanted to replace Rowland with Quigg . Rowland was named a deputy sheriff.

GUY C. REEVE, 1928-33 and S.D. McCREARY, 1933-36,, also were police chiefs. Existing records do not show why they left.
In the 22 years since that list was compiled by the Herald, eight more have headed the Miami police department.

PERRY ANDERSON Jr., 1988-1991.

CALVIN ROSS, 1991-1994.

DONALD WARSHAW, 1994 -1998. Resigned to become Miami city manager.

WILLIAM O'BRIEN, 1998 - 2000. Resigned April 28, 2000 in the wake of the political fallout over the seizure of Elian Gonzalez. ``I refuse to be chief of police when someone as divisive and destructive as Joe Carollo is mayor,'' O'Brien said.

RAUL MARTINEZ, 2000 - 2003. Martinez, the Herald reported at the time, "was one of several targets in a failed 1980s federal corruption probe of Miami Police that included allegations he helped destroy evidence against drug smugglers, shared bribes, and skimmed cash and drugs from seizures, according to FBI documents."

"Several Miami Police Department veterans and federal law enforcement agents expressed surprise at Martinez 's appointment last week, noting that it was well known Martinez had invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before a federal grand jury. in 1984," reported the Herald.

Two and a half years later, Martinez resigned as chief. From the Herald: "His resignation came just two days after a Herald series that documented dozens of questionable shootings involving Miami police officers over the last decade."

Martinez was replaced by outsider John Timoney, who had gained a reputation as a tough cop on the mean streets of Philadelphia and New York. Timoney took over reins of the department in Jan. 2003.

In interviews with the Herald Timoney "referred to himself repeatedly as an expert on the police use of 'deadly physical force.'"

"He said some Miami officers have been involved in 'too many' deadly police shootings during the past decade, adding that officers constantly involved in shootings should be reassigned 'for their own good, and for the good of the public.' "

But despite the fact that the department under Timoney went almost two years without an officer firing a gun, his tenure was not without controversy.

In 2007 he came under fire after it was learned that he had been given free use of a Lexus.

But that paled in comparison to charges that his department had trampled the rights of demonstrators during the FTAA demonstrations in 2003.

Timoney lasted almost 6 years.

In Nov. 2009, "Timoney announced his resignation just as [newly elected mayor Tomas] Regalado stood among hundreds of supporters on the dais at City Hall for his swearing-in," wrote Rabin.

So, will Exposito stay or go?

Exposito, who is 56, has been with the department for 36 years. At some point he may just decide that he's had enough - and like Clarence Dickson in 1988 or Bill O'Brien in 2000 - tell the suits at city hall to "take this job and shove it."

If that happens, the city will start a search for his successor.

But before anyone decides they'd like to be the next Miami police chief, they'd do well to read up on some history.

Monday, December 13, 2010

And the winner is....

.... Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who lost the November election to unindicted criminal Rick Scott.

But this morning on MSNBC's "Morning Rundown" she was a winner! Sink was picked as 2010's Worst Candidiate.

How did she manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Co-host Savannah Guthrie explains: "[Sink] was not able to beat a guy who settled with the Justice Dept. for $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare."

Sink, it should be noted, had some stiff competition for the award.

She edged out fellow Floridian Charlie Crist and Alaska senatorial candidate and nut-job Joe Miller who became the odds-on favorite for the award after his private securty guards had a journalist arrested at a campaign event.

Sink's moment of glory starts at 2:40 in the video below.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Miami Beach blogger Matt Drudge sued

Miami Beach's most famous and reclusive blogger is being sued.

Matt Drudge, publisher of the ultra-conservative blog Drudge Report, has been sued for copyright infringement according to the Las Vegas Sun:
Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC on Wednesday filed its second copyright infringement lawsuit over Denver Post material, this time suing a big target: Drudge Report operator Matt Drudge.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for Nevada, charges a Nov. 18 Denver Post "illustration" called "Transportation Security Administration agents perform enhanced pat-downs" was posted without authorization the same day on the Drudge Report website as well as the site.
According to the Sun, Righthaven is seeking "damages of $150,000 as well as forfeiture to Righthaven of the and website domain names."

Specifically Drudge is being sued for his use of a Denver Post photograph of a TSA agent patting down a passenger at Denver International Airport.

The Sun story doesn't specify which Post photograph Drudge posted on his blog but my guess is that it's the first photo in this Denver Post slide show.

I'm not a lawyer, so I'm mystified as to why Righthaven would go after Drudge. Photographs from the Denver Post slide show are all over the Internet.

Drudge, who shuns publicity to the point of obsession, has lived on Miami Beach for a number of years. (Random Pixels once spotted him in a Miami Beach Publix buying kitty litter.)

He owns a home on the Venetian Causeway.

Public records show he bought the home in Oct. 2003 for $1.4 million. In 2009 the home had an assesssed value of $817,828 and this year that dropped to $739,281.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Is the Miami Herald broken beyond repair?

"It is a newspaper's duty to print the news and raise hell." -Wilbur F. Storey, newspaper editor in 1861

The cheering had barely subsided, but within hours following Lebron James's decision last July to play for the Miami Heat, the Miami Herald was already speculating on where King James would live.

And less than two weeks later, the Herald - in a page one story - was printing more speculation on the house-hunting James and teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The story was chock full of shaky theory and rumor and alarmingly short on solid facts.

This morning the Herald reported that James has found a home.

But, by now it's old news. Says so right in the Herald's story: "The sale closed on Nov. 12, county records show. The transaction was first reported by real estate broker Alex Shay on Nov. 19 on his Miami Real Estate Blog."

Lately, the Herald has been late on a lot stories it should have reported first.

On Nov. 23, the Herald finally got around to doing a story on a hookworm infestation on Miami Beach; more than a month after it was reported in other Miami media.

Last Nov. 17, as a suspected thief led Miami police on a nationally televised, 30 minute, two county, high-speed chase the Herald was posting stories on the Breaking News section of its website about People Magazine's sexiest man alive.

Also in the Herald this morning...more proof of lethargy and a lack of enterprise and fresh ideas at the paper.

On page 1B is a story about the Overtown Farmer's Market. The Herald's Karina Chavarria starts off her piece with a scene right out of Norman Rockwell painting:
"Vivian Dunn stands proudly behind three large serving tables filled with steaming collard greens, fresh sweet potato pies and trays of baked ziti.

As patrons approach, she points out a signature dish.

``This right here is Mulligan soup,'' she said, scooping up a heaping plate of the mixed vegetables and chicken stew. ``I put everything in it that's good for you."
The market, on the corner of Northwest Second Avenue and Tenth Street, is the only local-producer-exclusive farmers market in Miami, which also helps people on food assistance get fresh and healthy foods through subsidized purchases.
Roots in the City, founded by author and academic Dr. Marvin Dunn in 1994, is a nonprofit, community-based organization focused on creating jobs and beautifying Miami's inner city.
Nice story I suppose. But the problem is the Herald ran essentially the same story just year ago!

On Oct. 21, 2009, the Herald's James Burnett wrote about the Overtown Market in a story that ran on page one.
On Saturday morning, a farmers market came to Overtown.

Children played and chased one another, careful to avoid the rows and rows of leafy veggies nearby.
The garden, at the intersection of Northwest Third Avenue and 10th Street, takes up an entire city block, with dozens of rows of collard greens, lettuce, pumpkin, tomato, papaya, orange and banana trees, and decorative flowers such as violets.
Marvin Dunn, a local historian and former Florida International University professor, launched the project in August after two years of planning, with hopes of putting vacant land to good use by creating jobs and a self-sustaining business.
Getting a story first and getting it right has always been job one for any newspaper. Coming up with fresh ideas for stories is also requisite. Apparently those in charge at the Herald have forgotten this.

One can only hope they find their way again.

Before it's too late.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Own a piece of movie history for $9 million

Miami New Times is reporting that the building on Ocean Drive where one of the most bloody scenes in movie history was shot is up for sale.
728 Ocean Drive in South Beach was once a location seedy enough that Colombian gangsters dismembering a dude with a chainsaw didn't seem like much of a stretch. Today, the building that hosted one of Scarface's most notorious scenes is on the market. Asking price: $8.95 million.
Selling points of the property according to Realtor Pablo Alfaro: "Rare oceanfront property located on one of the most famous pedestrian streets in the world."

Random Pixels would love to add 728 Ocean to our real estate portfolio but the price is a little out of our range. As New Times points out, "Like most real estate asking prices, this one seems a bit optimistic. The county recently appraised it as being worth $3.7 million."

So we'll just have to be content with merely witnessing a bit of movie history rather than owning it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Neil Rogers - UPDATE

Neil Rogers - photographed at WIOD, Sept., 1990

A photograph I shot of Neil Rogers in Sept. 1990 at WIOD.

Tom Jicha of the Sun-Sentinel reports that surgery which had been scheduled today for retired talk show host Neil Rogers has been cancelled.
Neil Rogers will not have open heart surgery after all, according to a close friend.

Doctors decided to cancel Rogers’ surgery, scheduled for Friday then moved to Tuesday. He has been transferred to hospice care, said former radio colleague Craig Worthing, who has been visiting Rogers at Westside Regional Hospital.

Rogers’ attorney and friend, Norm Kent, confirmed that the surgery was canceled because Rogers is too weak for a favorable prognosis. A meeting was scheduled for later Tuesday, he said, in which how and where Rogers will receive hospice care will be discussed.

Rogers has suffered a stroke and a heart attack, possibly two, since last summer. He returned to Broward, where he has maintained a home, from Toronto, where he had been living, on Nov. 7 for treatment and to be closer to friends. Rogers, 68, has no surviving immediate family.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Art Basel is's safe to leave the house!

You don't have to look far to find pretension in South Florida. It's a part of life here, 24/7/365.

You'd think with such an abundance of naturally-grown pretension, we wouldn't have to import any. But, we do every December. It's called Art Basel.

If you're a person who avoids rampant douchebaggery and pretentious people at all costs, this was probably a bad week for you.

For starters, the Miami Herald printed an Art Basel story on its front page for 8 straight days. From Dec. 1 through Dec. 6, Art Basel was the the subject of - or at least mentioned in - 56 Herald stories.

The paper's website even had a video of a graffiti artist in Wynwood who claimed to be offering "hope" to people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti by spray-painting walls in Miami! I'm not sure how that works.

Yesterday, the Herald's Lydia Martin capped off a week of puff pieces with a piece entitled "Nudity, celebs, chickens -- Art Basel has everything." Lydia managed to snag this quote from Miami sculptor Robert Chambers: "There's so much art. It's everywhere you look." Quick, someone call the Pulitzer board!

TV stations aired Art Basel stories, too, easing up just a bit last Thursday when the Miami Heat traveled to Cleveland.

For the better part of two weeks it was non-stop Art Basel.

I covered Art Basel in 2005. I still find it hard to forget the scene in one room where people crowded around a picture of the late Mao Zedong that hung over a sink full of fortune cookies.

But, what was really lacking in all of this year's media coverage was just one voice of reason. One person with the courage to shout, "cut the crap already!"

Well, there was one.

Gus Garcia-Roberts of Miami New-Times says that last week, "While I was wandering around the Convention Center [I found myself] getting annoyed."

So he grabbed a cocktail napkin and started taking notes. Today he put together a list of 25 reasons why he's glad Art Basel is gone. It's very funny and very close to the truth - which is why you'll never see anything like it in the Herald.

Some of my favorites:

#24: Dressing like you're schizophrenic does not make you appear more interesting. Just insufferable.

#18: You see how we're all forming this human snake to the bar? It's not some strange ritual. It's called a line. Social norms require that you stand at the back of it, not just walk up to the front and order a drink.

#7: One day, Wynwood is the most happening place in the world and everybody is dropping bills at the Sanrio pop-up shop, eating street food and drinking cappucino. The next day, the moving trucks are here. The day after that, it's a ghetto again and it takes cops thirty minutes to respond to a call there.

I asked Gus if he liked anything about Art Basel. He admitted he liked the free porridge and espresso at Jennifer Rubell's food installation.

Read Gus's entire list here.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Random Pixels cold weather survival guide

It's winter in South Florida.

So, you know what that means. Local TV anchors will start using terms like "Arctic blast" and "frigid temps" anytime the mercury dips below 70 degrees.

And when it reaches 65, we'll see our neighbors wearing scarves and mittens. We never do anything in moderation here in So Fla.

However, the National Weather Service has announced that a wind chill alert is in effect from late Monday night through Tuesday morning. Temperatures could dip to the mid-40's! OMG!!!!

The only thing I fear more than the cold weather is the ridiculous "the sky-is-falling" coverage that we'll surely get from our local TV stations on Tuesday morning.

Starting with the late Monday night newscasts, weathermen will offer tips like "bring all your plants and animals inside." But is that really enough to survive the season's first cold snap? Of course not!

Let's check with a real expert for tips on how to get through Tuesday morning's "icy Arctic blast" without getting frostbite.

Julia O'Malley of the Anchorage Daily News has compiled a list of the "100 Ways to Have the Best Winter Ever!"

Number 3: Make friends with someone who owns a hot tub.

Number 5: Shovel someone else's driveway.

Number 12: Snowball fight!

O'Malley also reminds her readers that daylight in Alaska only lasts 6 hours.

With that in mind, number 48 on the list is "notice the moon." With 18 hours of winter darkness in Alaska, I'm guessing they notice the moon a lot!

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel warmer already!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The way we were...Chicago Bears vs Miami Dolphins, Dec. 2, 1985

Twenty five years ago....Dec. 2, 1985

The 12-0 Chicago Bears take on the 8-4 Miami Dolphins in a nationally televised Monday night match-up at the Orange Bowl.

Tens of thousands of words were written and spoken about the game. And that was before either team set foot the field.

There was plenty of trash talk from both sides.

"We're going to kick their butts," said Dolphins receiver Mark Duper.

Dolphins coach Don Shula was a little more circumspect saying simply, "It can't get more important than this."

On game day, the front page of the Miami News featured a superbly drawn cartoon - by the legendary Don Wright - of Bears defensive lineman William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

Inisde the paper, the editorial page carried another of Wright's cartoons, making it crystal clear which team Wright was picking to win the game.

Click image to enlarge.

Wright told me by phone today that he doesn't remember the cartoons he drew that week but does remember being among the 75,000 plus fans at the Orange Bowl that night who saw the 'Fins beat the Bears, 38-24.

(Also on hand for the game that night: 137 uniformed cops and a 45-member medical team.)

As Wright left the OB that night, he was no doubt already starting to think of the cartoon he would draw for the Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1985 issue of the paper.

Click image to enlarge.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Here's why you should always read more than one newspaper!

From page one of this morning's Miami Herald:
The first day of Art Basel Miami Beach was marked by sizable crowds of enthusiastic collectors - and strong sales.

In a scene more fit for Black Friday than for the most prestigious of U.S. art fairs, a crush of well-heeled collectors pushed their way through purse inspection points and lines, spilling into the Miami Beach Convention Center on Wednesday morning.

More than 40,000 people are expected to attend the ninth edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, which opens to the public Thursday and runs until Sunday.

In the first 90 minutes after the 11 a.m. opening, the rush proved profitable: Dealers at the contemporary art fair reported sales far stronger than last year's, and several patrons noted that they'd tried to put works on reserve -- only to find out they were already sold. Many gallerists said works were selling for at or near asking prices.

Sounds great ....until you compare it with what the New York Times reported today:
MIAMI BEACH – The crowds that used to form more than an hour before the opening of the “First Choice” portion of Art Basel Miami Beach—the four-hour window between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when only elite collectors can enter and browse the fair—are gone. Gone too are the speculators who before the financial crisis used to race down the aisles as soon as the doors opened in order to snag a work that they thought they could flip at a profit a few months later. Indeed, on Wednesday during “First Choice” things seemed sedate compared to the years before 2008. Some described the giant convention hall as “empty.”

Hmmmm, the Herald reports "sizable crowds" and the Times says the place was "half-empty." Who to believe?

More reading: Wall Street Journal-"[D]espite the speed of Wednesday's sales, the pace pales in comparison to the boom years, many dealers said."

Miami Today-"Fewer jet in privately, but tour operators bank on Art Basel."

-thanks to Alfred Spellman for a great tip!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The way we were

In Miami, Florida, after President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy address the 2506 Cuban Invasion Brigade at the Orange Bowl Stadium, Mrs. Kennedy informally speaks with some of the members on December 29th, 1962. (Cecil Stoughton, White House / John F. Kennedy Library

The Boston Globe's Big Picture blog has posted some great pictures from JKK's presidency 50 years ago.....including the one above from President Kennedy's visit to the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29, 1962.

Here's the front page of the Miami News from the following day featuring a similar photograph.

Neil Rogers having serious health problems

Very troubling news for anyone who ever listened to and enjoyed WQAM talk show host Neil Rogers.

The Sun-Sentinel's Tom Jicha reports:
Local broadcasting legend Neil Rogers is having serious health issues and will undergo open heart surgery on Friday at Westside Regional Hospital.

Rogers, 68, has been living in Toronto in recent years but has maintained a home in Plantation Acres. Rogers suffered a stroke and heart attack in October but seemed to be recovering.. “His condition has worsened since Thanksgiving,” Norman Kent, his friend and attorney, said.
The past few days, Rogers has lapsed in and out of consciousness, according to Kent. When he has been awake, Kent said, there are periods when he is the old sharp-minded Neil, complaining about every little issue. As recently as Sunday, Rogers called Kent at home late at night and asked him to come and get him because he was checking himself out of the hospital, said Kent, who talked Rogers out of it.

A look back at some great Neil Rogers moments:

from 1987-Hollywood city commissioner tries to get WINZ's license revoked because of Neil's "comments about sex."

from 1987-Neil apologizes to Rick Shaw for calling him a "Nazi."

from 1981-WNWS is robbed while Neil is on the air.

from 1980-Neil pisses off Miami Catholic Archdioese.

Hanukkah...still bigger than Kwanzaa

Happy Hanukkah from Random Pixels!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Miami media hits and misses

Here are a few things that caught my eye as I perused coverage of some recent stories in South Florida.

HIT- Miami Herald reporters Matthew Haggman and Martha Brannigan.

Haggman and Brannigan continue shining a bright light on all the creepy, slimy creatures that slither out from under the rocks at County Hall.

Sunday, Haggman and Brannigan revealed that a construction company that pays Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose ``Pepe'' Diaz "a six-figure income," has seen its business mushroom at Miami International Airport in the last three years.
U.S. Construction has pulled nearly three dozen permits at the airport to build new cafes, bars and stores, including the sprawling La Carreta restaurant, Duty Free stores and Books & Books. Thus far, in the massive new North Terminal, U.S. Construction is responsible for building more than one-third of the restaurants and shops, according to Miami-Dade Aviation Department records.

That's more than three times as many jobs as any other contractor doing similar work in the 1.4-mile terminal.

The firm's presence at MIA has spread ``like wildfire,'' said Miguel Southwell, the airport's deputy director who oversees concessions.
In the past, Haggman has reported on Miami-Dade commissioners using police officers assigned to county hall as their personal chauffers.

A year ago Haggman reported that Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez turned a blind eye while his Chief of staff Denis Morales moonlighted in Panama while on paid leave from his six-figure job.

And in August 2009, it was Haggman who revealed that Alvarez handed out double-digit pay raises to top staffers while the county was in the midst of a budget crisis.

HIT- Miami Herald reporters Laura Isensee and Toluse Olorunnipa.

Isensee and Olorunnipa reported on the shooting of two criminals who forced their way into a South Dade condo on Thanksgiving eve - a story which has been ignored by the rest of South Florida's media outlets.

HIT- The Miami Herald's Fred Grimm.

In his Sunday column, Grimm took critical look at the mass hysteria that surrounded last year's arrest of South Dade teen Tyler Weinman on charges of killing cats.
No one has yet calculated how much public money was wasted pursuing Tyler Weinman, but last year The Miami Herald's David Ovalle reported that the first 10 days of this extraordinary investigation cost Miami-Dade police $73,693.57 in overtime. That was back in July 2009, for an investigation destined to drag on for another 16 months.

By now, Macey figures, Miami-Dade has spent more than a million bucks -- for a crime that never occurred. The non-crime of the century.
Last week, prosecutors and police announced that charges against Weinman would be dropped.

HIT- WSVN 7 Sky Force videographer Ralph Rayburn.

Rayburn did a top notch job shooting live, white-knuckle-edge-of-your-seat video during the Nov. 17 police chase through parts of Miami Dade and Broward Counties....all while providing an accurate running commentary of the action. Rayburn is a rarity in Miami TV news; he can actually string sentences together without the use of a Teleprompter.

HIT- WPLG's Michael Putney.

Putney offered an important sidebar to the chase coverage. He was the only Miami newsman to question why more than 20 Miami Police units were needed to chase the suspect .
Dozens of officers converged on the scene of the crash with guns drawn, ordering the driver to give up. The driver, a man, climbed out through a window and collapsed on the pavement, his face bloodied and his leg injured in the collision.

The Miami Police Department was the first agency involved in Wednesday's chase and, although other agencies joined in to help, had the most officers following the SUV.

Two marked Miami police cruisers and one unmarked unit were in hot pursuit of the SUV when other departments joined in.

"Obviously, the question of how many police cars is going to be on the minds of most people looking on, but what you have to understand is that there's strength in numbers," said Cmdr. Delrish Moss, of the Miami Police Department.

"I don't have an exact count on how many total officers were involved, but it was basically, as you saw, basically citywide, and also we reached out to other jurisdictions to include the county and (the Florida Highway Patrol,)" Moreno said.

HIT- Miami Herald reporter Cammy Clark and photographer Tim Chapman.

Clark and Chapman did a nice job on the story of Key West lesbian-exclusive resort, Pearl's Rainbow, that now welcomes male guests. Clark's piece proved once again why she's one of the Herald's major assets. She reports on an area - the Florida Keys - that's largely underserved by the rest of South Florida's media outlets. Chapman, a tough-as-nails news photographer, who, for years has covered breaking news at the Herald, turned in a set of pictures that revealed his sentive side and that nicely complemented Clark's story.

FAIL- Miami Herald 's metro desk.

Two weeks after 20 year-old Michael Beatty was gunned down in broad daylight near NW 15 Avenue & 59th Street in Liberty City, the Herald has yet to print one word on the crime.

Beatty's murder was caught on video from several angles. The video shows a man chasing Beatty with a weapon that resembles a Mac-10. Apparently the editors at the Herald consider a cold-blooded daylight murder in Liberty City just another day in the 'hood not worthy of reporting. Even though the story was reported on the website of a British newspaper.

Gunman chases Michael Beatty

FAIL- The Miami Herald.

More than a month after a hookworm infestation on Miami Beach was reported by several media outlets, the Herald finally got around to doing a story. Hey! What's the rush?

FAIL- South Florida Sun-Sentinel business editor Cyndi Metzger.

Metzger is a prime example why newspapers are failing. Last week I emailed her an idea for a story about a successful Miami business. Metzger responded: "We’ll keep it in mind. Our focus is largely on Broward and Palm Beach counties, though." While her paper is called the SOUTH FLORIDA Sun-Sentinel, Metzger evidently believes that Miami-Dade is not a part of South Florida. Brilliant!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A life of crime comes to an end

UPDATED x1 below

Derrick Leonard Fussell / 1982 - 2010

Derrick Leonard Fussell's criminal career came to a crashing end Thanksgiving eve.

From the Miami Herald:
Miami-Dade police on Friday identified two armed intruders who were killed during a home invasion on Thanksgiving Eve.

Dead in the robbery attempt: Derrick Fussell, 28, and Gustavo Perez, 23.

Police say the two men burst into the apartment at 17255 SW 95th Ave. at about 10:20 p.m. on Wednesday. The homeowner, Antonio Luis Delpino, 27, fired at the men.

Perez was felled by the gunfire. Fussell jumped from the third-floor apartment in an attempt to escape, and died from his injuries at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Clearly, Fussell and his partner in crime, Perez, picked the wrong apartment to rob.

What's not so clear is why Fussell or Perez were on the street in the first place. Both have extensive have criminal histories.

The Herald story doesn't answer that question or offer any information other than what's contained in the Miami Dade Police press release.

So I did a little digging.

Perez, 23, has been arrested for home invasion and attempted murder but apparently never did any jail time. The Clerk of the Court website shows that Perez was convicted and given two years probation as a "youthful offender" on the home invasion and attempted murder charges in 2008.

Fussell's most recent arrest was back in September when he was busted for "Driving While License Suspended/Habitual" which is a felony.

A check of criminal court records shows that Fussell has arrests dating back to 2002.
Click image to enlarge

In July 2003, Fussell was arrested for home invasion robbery, aggravated battery, armed robbery and false imprisonment. The Clerk of the Court website says the cases were closed two months later in August with "no action taken."

In addition to the Driving while license suspended charges and the July 2003 slew of charges, Fussell also has been arrested for various drug possession charges, battery, disorderly conduct and armed robbery. In 2002 he was popped for "improper exhibition of a firearm." The disposition of the firearm case is listed as "nolle pros" which means the State attorney declined to prosecute the case.

But South Florida residents can sleep a little easier tonight.

Wednesday night, Antonio Luis Delpino accomplished in a few seconds what the county criminal justice system hadn't been able to do in 8 years. He took Derrick Fussell off the streets for good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Channel 7, eat your heart out!

Watch as two Chicago anchors have a meltdown as a planned live shot of a bridge explosion is missed by seconds. This station makes our beloved Channel 7 News look like the PBS Newshour.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Random Pixels Quote of the Day

 "Nothing in the Constitution permits power-happy or just downright creepy people from abusing their uniforms and the real need for security."  -New York Times editorial, Nov 20, 2010

image via the Denver Post

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't touch my junk!

That's the rallying cry at airports across the country. It's this year's version of "don't tase me bro."

You can't tune into a cable news channel without seeing a story on the "new enhanced pat downs."

If you're tired of the story, better not go anywhere near a TV set during Thanksgiving week.

The TSA justifies the new security measures because the "underwear bomber" was able to get a bomb on board a plane by hiding it in his skivvies last Christmas.

Let's hope that a terrorist doesn't figure out a way to stick a bomb up his butt or we're all in trouble.

Lewis Black offered some thoughts on airport security this week on The Daily Show.

"Wait a second. I get to go from New York to San Diego in 5 hours and someone touches my balls? That's a great deal!"

Funny stuff! Watch the video. But after you're done, check this out and suddenly it's not so funny.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Nanny State
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Pictures at an exhibition

Bruce Weber
I stopped in last night at the opening reception for fashion photographer Bruce Weber's Haiti / Little Haiti photographs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami.

I left with photographs of some interesting people.

Miami New Times has put together a slide show of my photos.

Weber's photographs will be on display at MOCA from now through February 13, 2011. It's worth your time to see these images.

Haitian folk singer Manno Charlemagne and Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stuff we like

New Chevy ad with lyrics by Hank Williams and assorted unnamed dogs.

Who's in charge at the Herald?

The people who work in the fifth floor newsroom at the Miami Herald can see the Venetian Causeway by looking out a window.

Is it asking too much that they also know how to spell "Venetian?"

After all, they work for a newspaper.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great Miami Car Chase of 2010: grading the coverage

Image by Jason Weitzman - WPLG - Click on all images to enlarge.

A routine police pursuit in Miami this morning quickly evolved into a nationally televised car chase.

(See WPLG's raw video of the chase and aftermath by clicking here. - NOTE: there is no audio on the tape.)

The event produced some dramatic pictures and also highlighted some glaring differences in the way breaking news is now covered in Miami in 2010.

As news stories go, this one will be a distant memory two weeks from now.

But for 45 minutes this morning, a riveting police chase shoved aside silly game shows on South Florida TV screens.

As a result, a few in Miami's media community performed professionally. And a afew others stumbled.

The story began at about 11am this morning when several Miami police officers started chasing a robbery suspect in a blue Ford Expedition.

TV news choppers were soon broadcasting live pictures that eventually made their way to Fox News and MSNBC.

WSVN's Ralph Rayburn and his chopper pilot followed the car as it sped up Biscayne Blvd and 81st Street where the suspect turned left and headed west towards I-95.

Miami police close in on robbery suspect early in chase - Image by Ralph Rayburn - WSVN

By the time the suspect jumped on I-95, CBS4 and WPLG - who share a chopper - had also broken into programming with the dramatic chase pictures.

NBC6 continued with its insipid 11am morning show. They got rid of their chopper a few years ago.

WSVN's Rayburn cooly delivered a top-notch description of the action, all while keeping his camera trained on the chase. (Click here to see Rayburn's video.)

Same for WPLG anchor Kristi Krueger. She anchored the station's coverage from the studio with a deliberate and restrained delivery that showed her knowledge of Miami.

Things were a little different over at CBS4. Thirty-year veteran newsman Eliott Rodriguez, who in the past few years has somehow managed to morph into Miami's very own Ron Burgundy, delivered his description of the action in a style that can best be described as excited and disjointed. At times Rodriguez sounded like he was hyperventilating.

At about 11:30am, the chase ended when the car smashed into the rear of a silver tanker truck at the off ramp of I-95 and Hallandale Beach Blvd.

Robbery suspect crashes - Image by Robin Russell - WPLG

It was at this point that Rodriguez breathlessly informed viewers that the car had smashed into a "gasoline tanker." Rodriguez kept repeating this mis-information several times until someone off-camera loudly informed him that it was an orange juice tanker. WSVN's Rayburn had broadcast this information minutes before.

And how did the Miami Herald report this? Well, they might have reported it immediately had they known about it.

While pictures of the chase were being broadcast live on national cable news channels, the Herald newsroom was blissfully ignorant of the drama being played out on streets just a few miles from its downtown headquarters.

A caller to the newsroom was told that they hadn't heard anything about the chase.

Within minutes of the crash, many TV stations swarmed the scene with photographers and reporters.

Channel 10 photojournalist Jason Weitzman was a standout. Arriving on the scene within minutes of the crash, he captured the morning's most dramatic ground level video of the smoking wreckage and the suspect sticking his arms out of the driver's window as cops aimed their weapons.

Image by Jason Weitzman - WPLG

The Herald finally put up a story...reported by news partner CBS4.

Meanwhile the breaking news section of the paper's website contained links to stories about People Magazine's sexiest man alive and Eva Longoria's possible divorce.

NBCMiami put up a story that misidentified Hallandale Beach Blvd. as Hallandale Beach Road and that early on was illustrated with a stock shot of a police car.

So how are we grading this morning's coverage?

Ralph Rayburn, WSVN - A plus
Kristi Krueger, WPLG - A plus
Jason Weitzman, WPLG - A plus
Eliott Rodriguez, CBS4 - D minus
NBC Miami - F
Miami Herald - unable to grade, did not complete this morning's assignment