Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Now, this is a "newsman!"


Used to be that newsrooms at large American newspapers were smoke-filled, noisy caverns that had all the ambiance of a toxic waste dump.

Newspapers employed chain-smoking men - called "newsmen" - who drank liquor by the gallon - usually from a bottle kept in the bottom drawer of their desks - and who cursed and ate red meat. And they could fight, too.

And then something happened.

Newspapers started taking themselves a little too seriously.

Newrooms were renovated and took on the look of insurance offices with sound-muffling carpeting and walled cubicles..

Papers started hiring "journalists" with college degrees who ate sushi for lunch instead of steak. And most of them looked like they couldn't fight their way out of paper bag.

Gone was the two-fisted newsman who could fight and f*ck as well as he could cover a story.

Well, not all of them are gone.

Today, outside the federal courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale where disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein pleaded guilty to five felonies, we got a glimpse of a newsman who still knows how to take care of himself. (Video here.)

Broward-Palm Beach New Times reporter Bob Norman was there and describes the scene:
Outside the courthouse Kim Rothstein addressed the media. "Today is the saddest day of my life," she began.

Then she said that her life had been devastated after marrying the "sweetest man" and that she has been "isolated and wrongfully maligned." She repeatedly declared that she had nothing to do with her husband's crimes and complained of the "public slurs and accusations" against her. We have video of her appearance on the way.

After her talk, [bodyguard Joe] Alu escorted her to a nearby white Cadillac Escalade SUV. As they approached the vehicle, WSFL/Sun-Sentinel reporter Jack Hambrick dashed over to get a question in with Kim, nearly outrunning the wires connected to his cameraman, who stumbled on the way. As Hambrick approached Kim, Alu blocked him physically and pushed him away.

Newsman Jack Hambrick, (l.) and bodyguard Joe Alu

The altercation escalated, and Hambrick drove Alu, a muscular and tattooed man who goes by the nickname "Meaty," backward and then down onto his back in some bushes. They wrestled in the bushes for a time before Hambrick was pulled off of Alu. "He's a cop, he's a fucking cop!" yelled Alu's son, Dominic, referring to Alu's service with Plantation Police Department. At one point Dominic and the cameraman nearly got into it themselves.
It should also be noted that CBS4 reporter Jim DeFede was in classic old-fashioned newsman mode when he asked two of the best questions of the day outside the courthouse. As Kim Rothstein was wrapping up her remarks, Defede asked her, "When did Scott tell you he was a crook?" and "The money he stole; did you have fun with it?" (Listen to Jim at the beginning of the video at the top of this post.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Herald's Glenn Garvin gets into a pissing match with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann

Miami Herald TV critic and Cranky-Old-Man-In-Residence, Glenn Garvin, got some well-deserved national recognition last night on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown."

Olbermann blasted Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly for promoting himself last Friday night while many other news outlets aired the Haiti telethon. During the program, O'Reilly bragged about the fact that the Herald's Glenn Garvin praised Fox's Haiti coverage. Olbermann characterized Garvin (at 2:10 in the video below) as the "TV critic the most in Fox's pocket," and as being the "farthest down the "lunatic fringe rabbit hole."

Olbermann also couldn't have been too happy about this little nugget where Garvin says that MSNBC's coverage of last week's Massachusetts senatorial election showed "every conceivable expression of venom against [Scott] Brown and anybody who voted him."

But one of Garvin's readers sets him straight in the comments section: "[Y]ou fault Olbermann and Maddow for expressing opinions and call their views as "venom", yet you refer Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as "rooting for Brown". How is it different?"

Let's be clear; Olbermann is MSNBC's version of Glenn Beck. But I watch Olbermann religiously for the same reason people show up at NASCAR races. One of these nights Olbermann's head is going to explode and I don't want to miss it!

And that may come any day now.

Garvin ratcheted up the rhetoric today with this blog post in which he calls his readers "misanthropes and misfits." Nice!

Garvin - forgetting that he works for a failing newspaper - takes a cheap shot at Olbermann's employer, NBC - which can buy and sell the Herald out of its petty cash account: "I'm amazed that NBC, having just paid all that money to Conan O'Brien and his staff, still has money to commission polls on which TV critic is is furthest down the lunatic fringe rabbit hole."

Garvin is apparently delighted that a national figure like Olbermann would even give him the time of day - let alone read his blog. "Hey, are we gonna be friends on Facebook, too?" Garvin asks Olbermann.

My advice to Garvin? Drop it pal; you're out of your league!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When the story becomes personal

Miami Herald staff writer Andres Viglucci

Much of the Miami Herald's staff is focused on coverage the Haiti earthquake; a story that's dominated the paper's front page since last Wednesday.

But today, the paper relinquished part of the front page to staff writer Andres Viglucci who's covering another story that's creating almost as much buzz locally as the quake: the story of the horrific hit-and-run death Sunday of a bicyclist on Bear Cut bridge on Key Biscayne.

TV stations are also breaking news on the story while local blogs tap into the rage surrounding the story.

Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times - tipped off by New Times readers - today documented the awful driving record of Carlos Bertonatti, the man accused of plowing into the bicyclist.

But there's probably no journalist in South Florida more qualified than Viglucci to cover this story.

For him, the story couldn't be more personal.

On Sept. 8, 1988, Viglucci, while riding a brand-new bicycle, was struck by a car at the top of the bay bridge that connects Miami to Key Biscayne.

The accident almost killed him.

In 1992, almost four years after the accident, Viglucci wrote about the moments after he was hit:
I opened my eyes where I lay, curled on my flank on the roadside, as if waking in bed from a good, sound sleep. Bits of gravel dug into my cheek.

Lifting my head, I gazed up past my prone feet into a bright cloud-specked sky. My body felt small and awful. I was queasy and confused, as though someone had punched me in the stomach and knocked me over the head.

Torpidly, my dulled brain struggled to decipher my surroundings. Everything around me seemed to lie a great distance away.

Hazily I recognized the place. I was supine on the Rickenbacker Causeway, near the crest of the tall bay bridge that connects Miami to Virginia Key. My feet were pointed uphill, my head downhill. Before me was a concrete retaining wall, and, at my back, the sound of morning traffic rushing by on the way to the bridge's summit.

I felt a stab of fear in my chest, and a jumble of thoughts raced across my mind. The road underneath me was a familiar one. It was the route I took several times a week when I rode my bicycle to Key Biscayne from Coconut Grove. But I didn't know how I'd come to be lying on the pavement. Until that moment only dimly aware of my numbed body, I now realized I was clad in cycling shorts, gloves and helmet. Yet I had no memory of rising from bed, dressing, climbing in the saddle or pedaling. Still, I knew, I must have. My mind veered illogically: Wasn't I now asleep in bed? How did I get from there to here?
Viglucci spent three months in the hospital recovering. It was a year before he could return to work full-time. And another two years before before he could summon the courage to again mount a bicycle.
With trepidation, I mounted a new custom bike, built partly with components salvaged from the old one, and took it for an easy spin on a quiet neighborhood street. At first and during subsequent rides I was wracked by nerves, my heart jumping at the sound of car horns, but I was determined to get back in shape. It took almost as long to build back my courage as it took to build back my legs, but eventually I overcame my nerves sufficiently to return to my old route.
This past Sunday, Viglucci was riding his bike on Key Biscayne when he happened upon scene on Bear Cut bridge about an hour after the incident.

Today, Viglucci told me by phone that police had re-routed traffic to the east side of the bridge. As he passed he could see blood on the retaining wall and sensed immediately that a bicyclist had been hit.

It was only after Viglucci made it into Key Biscayne that he was he able to connect the pieces of what he had seen.
Hours after the 8 a.m. incident, the crumpled remains of the blue Cannondale bike lay on the grass in front of the village Winn-Dixie, surrounded by yellow crime-scene tape and guarded by an officer. A few blocks away, the badly damaged, Wolfsburg-edition Jetta still sat on Grapetree, also guarded by a patrol car.
Viglucci told me he's working on another story on the hit-and-run for Wednesday's paper.

Before we hung up, I asked him if there are any lingering physical effects of his brush with death over 20 years ago. He told me that he has a diminished lung capacity and the corneas of his eyes are scarred.

He didn't mention nightmares.

I didn't think I had to ask.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hell on Earth

Images from

Images from the Boston Globe's Big Picture.

Look at the pictures then click here to donate.

Memo to Domino's president: I want my money back!

In Domino's new ad campaign, the company's president, Patrick Doyle, admits that their pizza sucks big time.

Or at least the old pizza did!

But they've got it right now and they want you to try the "new pizza!" Because, as the ad says - they're now using "real cheese."

OK, so what in the hell were they using before?

But just give us another chance the ad says and "if you don't like our 'new pizza,' we'll give you your money back. All of it."

Tell you what Patrick...I'll go ahead and take your word that the new stuff is is lip-smackin' good. But since you're admitting that the pizza you used to sell was crap...can I get my money back for all those inferior pies I bought over the last five years?

However the "new" pizza has won over at least one customer.

Stephen Colbert said after taking just one bite of the new Domino's: "Is that pizza or did an angel just give birth in my mouth?"

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti, how to help

-Jorge Cruz / AP

Here's a list of charities and agencies that are planning to help the Haitian people.

All of the agencies on the list are well-known and do good work: Save the Children, CARE, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and UNICEF, but it goes without saying that whatever organization you choose, the money will be well-spent.

Click here for the latest updates from the New York Times.

Images here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Conan O'Brien: A class act!

Never really watched Conan O'Brien on a regular basis.

But when I did I found that many of his bits were funny in a rather bizarre way.

But after reading the statement he released today, the phrase that comes to mind is: "Class Act."
People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.


Can't wait to see how NBC gets out of this one!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Who's in charge at the Herald?

Does anyone at the Miami Herald even give a sh*t any longer?

Apparently not.

Within a minute of visiting the paper's Web site this afternoon, I found glaring examples of a lack of oversight and a paucity of imagination at the Herald. And that was in just one story.

In the story - headlined "Record cold sweeps South Florida" - the writer is credited as "Robert Samuels, Associated Press." The problem is that Samuels works for the Herald. It's a small mistake, but how are readers supposed to trust anything in the paper when a simple thing like a byline is screwed up?

The second lapse is a little more serious.

I've lived in South Florida for many years and have experienced cold weather more than once.

The cold weather we've experienced in the past few days was and is a major story.

But as we all know, every time the mercury dips below 65, every TV station in town leads their newscasts with stories with titles like "Arctic Blast" or "Polar Plunge."

Those stories are more often than not accompanied by video shot as commuters get off the trains at the Government Center Metro Rail station. Why? Because it's easy and requires no thought or imagination. The videographer stands in one spot and hits the record button and in a few minutes he's got all the pictures he needs. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. It's something I expect from Miami TV station news.

In Miami, when it comes to TV news, if your expectations are set low, you're almost never disappointed.

But it's not something I want to see or expect from the Miami Herald.

The Herald's executive editor, Anders Gyllenhaal, reminds readers on a regular basis that the Herald is loaded with talented people.

So, that made it all the more disappointing to see the slide show that went with the cold weather story, loaded with ho-hum pictures of commuters arriving at the downtown Metro Rail station.

Perhaps there was a lack of communication between the assignment desk and Herald staff photographer Carlos Guerrero. Or perhaps Carlos just wasn't feeling inspired this morning.

In any event, it appears that Carlos drove down to the government center, attached a long lens to his camera, stood in one spot for 5 or 10 minutes and shot pictures of bundled-up commuters getting off an escalator; one right after the other.

The resulting pictures showed a complete lack of thought or imagination and certainly didn't show readers anything they haven't seen hundreds of times before.

Had Carlos shot the same pictures for a college photojournalism course, he would have been given a big, fat F.

There are some in the newspaper business who think that pictures are great for plugging holes. If that's the case, then Carlos' pictures succeeded.

But then there are some who think that news pictures - like the words in a story - should inform and enlighten readers.

In that respect, the pictures shot by Carlos Guerrero this morning failed miserably.

So, if no one at the Herald cares any longer; why should the readers?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Damn, it's cold!

Nothing inspires a "fashionista" like a little cold weather.

I was out bright and early this morning trying to document a cold snap - the likes of which we haven't felt here in South Florida for a long, long time.

I spent the morning on Lincoln Road on Miami Beach and watched as sellers set up for the Antique Market.

Despite a temperature at 6:30am that hovered at 32 degrees, I wasn't able to spot any ice floes, and certainly no snow.

Miami New Times has posted more of my pix in an online slide show here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

You're out Denis!

South Florida's worst politician - AKA Mayor Carlos Alvarez - today shipped chief of staff and long-time confidante Denis Morales back to the Miami-Dade police department.

The move bore an eerie resemblance to a classic scene from The Godfather when Michael Corleone demotes his Consigliere, Tom Hagen:
Tom: Maybe I could help.

Michael: You're out Tom.
It took Alvarez a full month to finally take action against Morales, who was caught stealing from the county working a second job while collecting his full county salary.
Denis Morales, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez's chief of staff and longtime confidante, is being moved back to the county police department following Miami Herald revelations that he worked a second job on county time in Panama.
Morales, who made $206,783 as the chief of staff, [which is more than the governor of Florida makes] will take a significant pay cut.

As a police sergeant, Morales' annual pay will be $77,492.
Alvarez's re-assignment of Morales comes just one day after the Herald reported that a referendum to recall the mayor had received the support of some county unions.

But that's probably just a coincidence.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Where's Carlos Alvarez Jr.? UPDATED

It's been over a year since Carlos Alvarez Jr. - the son of Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez - was released from state prison in Oct. 2008 after serving a 13½ year stretch for kidnapping and a series of violent sexual assaults he committed in 1994.

I was going through some of my older posts today and clicked on Alvarez Jr's FDLE link to see if it had been updated.

And I was surprised to see that the state, is indeed, keeping tabs on young Carlito, who's still classified as a "sexual predator."

They've posted a new, updated mug shot. In it, Carlos has lost that prison buzz cut in favor of a more trendy and stylish do.

And Carlos has moved from his former digs near Bird Road and Ludlam.

According to the FDLE he's now living at 914 SW 140th Ave.

A check of an aerial image shows a single family dwelling smack in the middle of a densely-packed neighborhood.

According to the Miami-Dade County property appraiser's Website, young Carlos' new crib is a 1500 sq. ft., 4 bedroom, 2 bath house that was bought in April, 2009 for $220,000.

The owner is listed as a Carlos Alvarez with a different mailing address.

Carlos' home is a short drive - about 2.5 miles - to W.R. Thomas Middle School and an equally short drive - about 3 miles - to the Zora Neale Hurston Elementary School.

But we don't have to worry about Carlito accosting any school kids because at night he's probably living under the bridge on the Julia Tuttle. Right?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Puking in the New Year with the Miami PD

I don't do New Year's eve.

I like to think of it as amateur night.

Besides, my drinking days are a distant memory.

And when I found out that AMC was showing back to back episodes of the Three Stooges, I started looking for something more exciting.

I grabbed my camera and booked a ride-along with the Miami Police Department in Coconut Grove.

Miami New Times has posted a slideshow of the pictures here.

Happy (belated) New Year!