Friday, September 16, 2011

The slow, painful death of a once majestic beast

A few days ago, Miami Herald investigative reporter Matthew Haggman told colleagues he was resigning to take a position as program director with the Knight Foundation.

And just today, the Herald's Dolphins beat reporter Jeff Darlington, announced he's leaving the paper to become’s national reporter.

No one's blaming Haggman or Darlington for jumping ship.

The Herald, like the lion in the National Geographic video above, is slowly dying.

And as someone who's read the Herald for over half a century, it's as difficult and painful to witness its demise, as it is to watch the video of the dying lion.

Coincidentally today - for anyone who cared to look - there was more evidence that those in charge at the paper have lost their way and are doing their best to hasten the Herald's death through incompetence or indifference.

A day after Miami-Dade state attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, held a press conference and revealed parts of an accused 17 year-old killer's chilling confession that everyone in town was talking about, there was no evidence of it on the front page.

Instead, readers got another casino story, something about Palestine and a hurricane season story chock full of titillating facts like, "But overall, he said, the patterns that spin up a lot of storms remain in place. Those include a continuing cycle of favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions that have increased storms since 1995, warm Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean temperatures, and the redevelopment of La Niña, a weather pattern that tends to help more hurricanes form by reducing the windshear that can weaken or shred developing systems."

One long-time Herald reader thinks he knows why you won't find crime stories on the Herald's front page these days: "They're trying to push casinos and the new Marlins stadium. You don't think they're going to muck-up their front page with stories about cold-blooded killers, do you?"

The paper that once employed tough-as-nails reporters like Edna Buchanan, Gene Miller, Arnold Markowitz, Joan Fleischman, Marty Merzer and Henry Reno, has now become a purveyor of fluff and soft news.

A veteran Miami journalist told me tonight: "This surprises you? They don't care about hard news. There are people in charge at the Herald who couldn't have gotten a job at the paper in its heyday cleaning bathrooms. There's an obvious crisis of leadership."

But some Miami newspaper editors aren't going down without a fight.

Someone at the Herald's sister publication, El Nuevo Herald, thought the killer's confession was a front page story.

It's nice to know that some journalists at One Herald Plaza haven't forgotten the lessons taught by former Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan.

In 1986, Buchanan told New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin that her idea of a successful [story] "is one that might cause a reader who is having breakfast with his wife to "spit out his coffee, clutch his chest, and say, 'My God, Martha! Did you read this!'"

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget in the past few months, others have jumped ship. I live in the Boston area but am from Miami. So I read the Herald and Sun-Sentinel online. So imagine how shocked I was a couple months ago to start seeing "James H. Burnett III" in the Boston Globe. I had gotten used to that name in the Herald. Also, I have a sister-in-law who works in advertising at the Herald. And she says her friends in the newsroom tell her investigative reporter Rob Barry recently quit to, she thinks for the Wall Street Journal or maybe the Chicago Tribune. One sports reporter quit but came back before his new job took effect. You should reach out to all the Heraldies who've voluntarily left over the past year and ask them why. That's a blog post I would read!


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