Sunday, September 19, 2010

Discontent at One Herald Plaza

"There are people walking around the newsroom who look like they're about to throw up." -Miami Herald staffer in an email last Thursday after the paper announced yet another round of staff cuts and furloughs.

A few months ago, I started a little feature on this blog called "Anders Watch."

It was my way of highlighting what I saw as the continued dumbing down by Miami Herald executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal, of Miami's last remaining, reliable information source. There may be others responsible, but Gyllenhaal's in charge.

It now appears that I'm not alone in that opinion.

Broward New Times blogger Bob Norman has posted the contents of an email  that was written and signed by some of the Herald's most respected and gifted staffers.
We're hoping to start a discussion about the quality of our front page, and the newspaper in general, by being blunt: We barely recognize it these days.

Local news does not have to be shallow and cheesy. The readers who still buy our product aren't buying it because they care what [reader] 'Gordon Geck' has to say.

They buy it because they can read about what their city and county governments are doing in thoughtful prose by Matt and Martha, and Chuck; because they want to know something about the lives of their neighbors in obits by Ellie; because they care deeply about their children's schools; because they want David Smiley to tell them about the happenings at Miami Beach City Hall in a lively tone; because they can find out about their relatives' welfare in Haiti from Jacqueline Charles; and because they can't put down those features by Audra and Robert Samuels.
We wish to make clear at the outset that we are not, in any way, attacking our colleagues, whose work and dedication we value. The direction this paper is taking has been dictated at the highest levels. Of course, we respect the authority of management to make vital decisions on the paper's content and direction.

We simply want a place at the table, because we, too, care deeply about The Miami Herald.
Some of the points made by the staffers in their email echo points that I've tried to raise here on my blog.

"Earlier this summer," [says the memo] "we printed several letters from readers who said ... one verbatim ... "enough is enough'' with the front-page obsession over where LeBron James lives, eats, socializes and is seen. We are told such sentiments have become commonplace in the Letters to the Editor basket."

I wrote about Herald's fascination with LeBron back in July.

But much of the staffers' ire is directed at the person at the paper who made the decision last Sunday to
"devote... the week's most desirable newspaper real estate to a series of tweets from our readers about 9/11.

Click here to enlarge.

We know almost nothing about these people. The names could be real, but maybe not. It doesn't really matter in Twitter world. So, in a story that begins on the top of our front page, we have 'geomens' and 'Karl B Gordon Geck' and 'Neko-do' and 'Miami Herald user' and 'Afro-Cheez' offering such trenchant and profound observations as: 'I was sleeping,' and 'In my car...Coming home from the gym,' and 'Standing at my kitchen sink.' "

"Is there any reason why our dwindling pool of readers would care about any of this?
Speaking of dumb front page story placement...I wonder why they didn't mention this?

Just a bit of inside baseball from someone who has friends at the Herald. It's extraordinary that this email was leaked in the first place. While many at the paper are frustrated, it's rare that their frustration gets aired so publicly.

Norman posted the email late on Friday, so there hasn't been much discussion in the blogosphere....yet.

(Take the time to read the entire email here.)

"Rick" at the South Florida Daily Blog offers his thoughts: in a post titled "But Will They Listen?
Probably one of the most distressing things to watch in a workplace is a group of talented, motivated workers who want to do better and who are willing to give it their all, battle a management staff who just doesn't get it as they continue to steer the company down a dead end road.

This is where the Herald and many major newspapers are at today. There are a lot of accomplished writers out there who are ready to work hard if it means that they can keep writing for a living. Unfortunately, they are being led by inept and incompetent managers and owners who either don't have the tools or, as in the Sun-Sentinel's case, the inclination, to fix whatever is ailing their newspaper.

I applaud those Herald writers that laid it on the table in this letter. But considering the lack of energy that the Herald bigwigs have shown us thus far, I hold little hope that anything of substance will come of it
Rick's sentiments are backed up by one Herald employee who has told me in the past that staffers have been complaining to management for years about the issues raised in the email.

They haven't listened in the past, so why would anyone expect things to change now?

1 comment:

  1. My problem with the 9-12 Herald wasn't necessarily the absurd reprinting of Tweets and e-mails. That almost speaks for itself.

    My problem was the sad-sack photo that accompanied the property tax story, featuring those 'poor' old people who's taxes are going up $700 -- which is about 1 percent of the value of the home, about 9 percent of the current tax amount.

    Are their taxes doubling? No. Going up, uh . . .25 percent? Nope. 15 percent? 12.5 percent? No, no. Is it awful and terrible? No! Only 10 percent.

    These folks have a home worth a little under three quarters of a million dollars, and are so depressed over an additional $700 tax bill?

    Can I have their problems? I'll trade my condo for their place!


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