Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Miami Herald continues shielding its readers from unpleasant news

Daniel Cárdenas Sr. kisses the casket of his son Daniel, at the boy's funeral Tuesday. photo by Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald.

"News is the deviation from the normal." -Miami Herald executive editor Janet Chusmir, quoted in the Herald, Feb. 2, 1988

What Chusmir was talking about when she made that statement - almost 3 years before her death in December 1990 - is journalism's "man bites dog" rule. A rule that says, "an unusual, infrequent event is more likely to be reported as news than an ordinary, everyday occurrence."

But if you looked at a copy of Tuesday's Herald you might have noticed at least two stories on page 1 that run counter to the "man bites dog" rule.

Taking up much of the front page, left, was a back to school story.

A story about kids going back to school at the end of summer. To most of us, that's an ordinary occurrence. Happens every year around this time. Yawn!

Another story gracing the Herald's front page Tuesday was about Haitian president Michel Martelly "having a hard time meeting expectations in his first months in office."

Stop the presses! Things are not getting done in Haiti!! As sad as that is, many would consider that another "ordinary, everyday occurrence." OK, so it's news. But page one news? I think not.

What isn't an ordinary occurrence is three teenagers - their lives full of promise - having those lives snuffed out in a violent, horrific and senseless car crash.

That's what happened Saturday night in Doral

A car driven by a 19 year old kid with an abysmal driving record, crashed into a light pole killing his three teenage passengers. The driver, Alberto de Jesús Coterón Oliva, survived and fled the scene of the crash. He later surrendered to police.

The Herald tried its best not to run the story. But the story - written by two El Nuevo Herald reporters - ran anyway, on page 4B....far from the prying eyes of casual readers of the paper.

To their credit, editors at El Nuevo recognized this story as an important one and it ran on the paper's front page. They followed up today with another page 1 story and photograph of the funeral of one of the victims. (See photo above.)

This is not the first time the Herald has attempted to protect its readers from the unpleasantness of death.

Late last year, the deaths of five Little Haiti teens in a Hialeah motel room barely made it to page one.

Last November, 20 year-old Michael Beatty was chased down a Liberty City street in broad daylight and gunned down by a thug with a Mac-10. The crime was caught on tape. But Herald editors thought this was more violence than their squeamish readers could handle and the paper never printed a word about it.

But Herald editors also shy away from other newsworthy stories.

A couple of weeks ago, an alert Miami police officer arrested two Miami men who were driving around Miami in a 2002 Pontiac Bonneville that was a rolling arsenal. Inside the car the officer discovered a loaded 45 caliber Glock handgun with an extended magazine, a loaded AK-47 assault rifle and a 45 caliber Ruger handgun.

A Miami police officer told me, "these arrests probably prevented a drive-by shooting or a homicide."

Herald editors apparently decided that a story of two potentially violent felons being removed from the streets wasn't newsworthy enough. Nothing appeared in the paper.

Perhaps one of these days the Herald will return to its original mission as outlined by Janet Chusmir in 1988: printing stories of "unusual, infrequent events," which at most other newspapers is still known as "news."

1 comment:

  1. I don't really get what the Herald is all about; what their "goals" are, I guess.

    I got my degree in journalism from a school outside of Florida and until I moved here, I always had an impression of the Herald as an award-winning, quality newspaper. (Kind of the same impression I had of the Dolphins before I moved here.)

    But after living here for a few years and irregularly reading the paper - and comparing it to what I know to be quality publications - I feel like the Herald caters to the lowest common denominator, much like TV news does. It's about a half-step up from USA Today.

    I know print media is fast becoming obsolete, but I hate to see it digging its own grave.

    thanks for this post.


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