Sunday, July 01, 2012

Miami Herald editors try to get away with a little journalistic trickery

Click image to enlarge.

So, here's the problem. You're in charge of what used to be the state's largest and most powerful newspaper.

But for the past half-dozen years or so, things haven't been going so well.

Your reporting staff has been slashed to almost nothing and readers and advertisers are leaving in droves.

Then, seven months ago, a relatively tiny paper from the other side of the state sends a reporter to town and kicks your ass - figuratively speaking - on a story your staff should have known about and reported on.

That's exactly what happened last December when the Sarasota Herald-Tribune - a paper with half the circulation of the Miami Herald - discovered that Florida's dirtiest cop, German Bosque, was working in Opa-Locka, a small municipality that's just a dozen miles north of One Herald Plaza.

(Click here to read the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's Dec. 4, 2011 story on Opa-Locka police Sgt. German Bosque.)

So, what do you do?

Well, if you're an editor at the Herald, you wait seven months, then run the story this weekend as if it's your own and cross your fingers and hope that none of your few remaining readers remember seeing it elsewhere.

But, on the off-chance that some may remember; you credit the Sarasota paper, slipping in the barest of mentions somewhere around the 46th paragraph of the story.

This is not the first time the Herald has been beaten on a story and then tried to play catch-up months later by acting as if they were first with the information.

In 1996, the Daily Business Review broke one story after another on mismanagement at the Port of Miami.

In May 1997, the Herald finally got around to covering the scandal at the port. None of their stories bothered to mention the groundbreaking work done by the Review. The Review's editor, Edward Wasserman, retaliated by spending $5,000 to rent a billboard directly across the street from the Herald building.

From Miami New Times:
Under the [billboard's] headline "Following the leader" are two opposing images. On the left are three issues of the Miami Herald; on the right is a front page from the Review. Both papers display stories about Lunetta. Publishing dates are included in large type: The Herald editions are from May 1997; the Review copy dates from December 1996. To the right are these words: "Don't wait for the Herald to catch up." The billboard, located on Biscayne Boulevard at Thirteenth Street, is angled so that it points directly at the Miami Herald's headquarters across the street.

If anyone at the Herald is reading this, here are a few thoughts from someone who's been reading Miami newspapers for over a half-century:
Two of the surest ways for a newspaper to squander what little credibility it might still have is to over-promote or under-credit its material. To pretend for 45 paragraphs that you're reporting new material is truly shocking.

But far worse is the absolute black hole of editing here.

In an age when everyone is on the lookout for plagiarism or near-plagiarism or similar behavior, when respectable publications go out of their way to prominently include "...was first reported by...." references high up in their follow-ups (even when you get grotesquely beat on a story, as you were on this story), how is it remotely possible that any high-ranking editor signed off on this obvious deception?

Does anyone there still have even a vestige of professional pride?


  1. Good catch. This is appalling, even for the Miami Hurled.

  2. I'm not taking sides, because I certainly don't want to incur the righteous wrath of a Random Pixel . . . but in my edition of the paper, the one photo of Bosque was credited to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

    Which says that either the Miami paper gave a back-handed acknowledgement to the smaller Gulf Coast rag, or (and here's where a free-lance photog in Miami should REALLY be upset)the Miami Herald didn't even use any local talent to take the photo of Bosque.

    Hey, Random -- you know any local free-lance photogs that coulda used a job recently?

    1. @ Whack-a-mole: You are correct....

      The Herald did credit the Sarasota Herald-Tribune photog for the photos. The photos were taken by the paper's photographer when he came down with the reporter to report on Bosque last year.

      The main point of my post is that it appears the Herald tried their best to avoid that Sarasota reported this last other words, under-crediting Sarasota.

      Why was the mention of Sarasota having the story first not mentioned until the 46th paragraph? Perhaps it's because the Herald believes their readership is too stupid to notice such things.

  3. Admit the world is changing -- read Ed Wasserman's op-ed piece in today's Herald. Nobody in J-school when I was there could have conceived of Sun-Sentinel bylines in the Herald (or vice versa!), of people getting questioned for using their own copy in different venues, or for local papers using cross-state enterprise for their own gain. Or, the growth and reluctant acceptance of 'blogger-journalism."

    Buggy-whips, steam-powered cars, the Cold War -- all ideas that have changed dramatically. To them, add "Journalism, as a pure and unsullied enterprise."

  4. I cancelled my subscription to the Herald years ago. The online version is much better mostly due to the comments function. Handy for mocking!


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