Monday, September 30, 2013

Veteran newsman put out of action by a cat

Gary Nelson.
In his 42 years as a TV and radio newsman - 25 of those in Miami - CBS4's Gary Nelson has had to deal with hurricanes, angry cops armed with billy clubs and tear gas, and more than a few crooked politicians who weren't all that pleased at having a microphone shoved in their face.

But he's always survived those encounters with nary a scratch.

However, last month, Nelson finally met his match. A 15-pound cat managed to put him out of action.

Back on the night of Aug. 16, Nelson's cat, Buckles - one of three indoor cats Nelson owns - managed to get out of the house.

Nelson went out to retrieve him, and that's when things went horribly wrong.

As he reached down to pick up the wayward feline, Buckles let Nelson know he wasn't quite ready to go back inside by "planting a nasty fang" on his hand.

The next day, Nelson decided to go to an urgent care center after his hand became grotesquely swollen.

Buckles the Cat.

In the six weeks since being bitten, Nelson has undergone three surgeries, two hospital stays, 31 straight days on an antibiotic IV drip, and a toxic reaction to the antibiotics.

Today, Nelson told me by phone that at one point his hand was so infected he thought he was going to lose it.

But after six weeks of treatment and therapy, Nelson says he plans to return to work next week.

As for Buckles - who sidled up to Nelson in 2006 during a live shot outside a jail - the newsman reports that all is forgiven. "I've learned you don't try to bring a cat in the house until he's darned good and ready," says Nelson.

H/T: Gossip Extra.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rick Bragg's advice for young writers


"In Birmingham, Alabama, I had a senior editor named Clarke Stallworth who had one basic rule of good writing: Show me, don’t tell me. Let me see what you see. Paint me a picture. Then, I’ll follow you anywhere, even past the jump." -Rick Bragg


Excellent piece by Kelly Kazek in today's Huntsville (AL) Times on Pulitzer Prize-winning Alabama writer Rick Bragg, who is now a professor of writing at the University of Alabama.

Kazek writes that Bragg was asked Saturday by someone in the crowd at a festival in Athens, Alabama, how he came to write his first book, “All Over but the Shouting.”
When a member of the audience asked how Bragg came to write “All Over but the Shouting,” he said he wanted to write a love story about his mother and he couldn’t have done it when he was in his 20s and an unknown writer.

“I would have been writing in a vacuum,” he said. “I wanted the book about my mother to be a sledgehammer. I didn’t want it to be a tack hammer.”

Yet, he didn’t recognize the sign he was ready when it came.

He was living in Manhattan writing for The New York Times and had achieved some acclaim in his six months there. One day, he got a call from a well-known literary agent offering to represent him if he ever wrote a book. The next day, an editor from a well-known publishing house called and said the same.

He told them both, “no thank you, ma’ams.”

“I declined because I am an idiot,” he said.

When he relayed the story to a friend, “my friend reached across the table and punched me in the head. He said, ‘You call them both back tomorrow.’ So I did.”

Bragg said the advice he gives young writers is two-fold: First, write the book. “Don’t worry about the agent. Don’t worry about a publishing house. If you have an idea, if you have something you’re passionate about, write the book. Finish the manuscript. Make it as perfect as you can make it, then peddle it.”

Second, Bragg said writers need to understand how to show, not tell. “If you cannot paint a picture and hang it in the air in front of the reader, you’ve failed.”

In his case, he said, it was a learned craft. Bragg often says he comes from a family of storytellers.

“My uncles can make you hear the change rattle in the pockets of a deputy as he chases you down a dirt road,” Bragg said. “That’s just my legacy. And I’ll take it.”

Rick Bragg's Southern Journal

Friday, September 27, 2013

Your lunch hour time waster

Get out the Kleenex!

Fresno firefighter Cory Kalanick saves a kitten.

Miami-Dade police arrest Fernando Granados and charge him with the murder of Tiffany Cabreja

Fernando Granados
Miami-Dade police have arrested a Homestead man and charged him with second degree murder in connection with the death of 18-year-old Tiffany Cabreja.

Yesterday, detectives picked up 20-year-old Fernando Granados after receiving a tip that Granados had told an acquaintance that he had killed Cabreja.

Cabreja's body was found at a South Miami-Dade construction site last weekend.

Soon after arriving  at police headquarters, Granados told detectives that on Friday, Sept. 20, he and an unidentified friend took Cabrejas to a Leisure City park to smoke crack.

Then, for some reason, the trio then went to a construction site at SW 281st Street and 144th Ave. It was there, Granados told detectives, that he began to choke Cabrejas while his friend attacked her.

When police discovered Cabreja's body on Saturday, a ligature was tied around her neck and a bag had been placed over her head.

A source tells me that Granados lives at SW 285th Street and 144th Ct., walking distance from where Cabreja's body was found.

This morning police  are attempting to locate and question the man who Granados says was with him.

On Wednesday police questioned a man and a woman who were believed to have been involved in dumping Cabrejas' body. Police released the couple late Wednesday night after determining they were not connected to the case.

Granados will make his initial appearance in bond court later today.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What changes are in store for the Naples Daily News under Manny Garcia?

They continue to head for the exits at the Miami Herald.

The latest to leave is el Nuevo Herald executive editor Manny Garcia.

He'll start work as editor of the Naples Daily News next month.

The announcement yesterday of Garcia's departure comes less than a week after a going away party last Friday for a veteran Herald reporter and editor.

Upon learning of Garcia's resignation, retired Herald staffer Marty Merzer wrote, "There's no getting around it - this is a huge loss for the Herald and its readers and its remaining staffers. (By some counts, this is the seventh loss of an experienced newsroom employee during this calendar year, and there wasn't an abundance of experienced people left at the start of the year.)"

Miami New Times editor Chuck Strouse was a colleague of Garcia's at the Herald when both started work at the paper as cub reporters almost a quarter-century ago.

Strouse told me today that Garcia "hustled more than anyone at the paper. He seemed to be everywhere and often wrote two or three stories a day."

In 2001, Garcia collaborated with staffer Amy Driscoll on a series of stories that ultimately helped free a man wrongfully-convicted of murder.

May 27, 2001

Miami homicide detectives charged serial killer suspect Jerry Frank Townsend with two murders 22 years ago - even though Townsend offered details about the killings that clearly contradicted crime-scene evidence, a Herald review shows.

In confessions taped during four days in 1979, Townsend provided police with obviously incorrect information about the murders of Wanda Virga, 44, and Dorothy Gibson, 17 - serious discrepancies police now say should have been red flags during the investigation.

``That confession never should have gotten to the point where it got,'' said Miami Lt. George Cadavid, a veteran investigator who now oversees the homicide unit.

``It's almost like they had blinders on,'' he said. ``The signs were there. Townsend was contradicting himself.''

Townsend, 49, is serving a life sentence in prison for the murders, which are now under review by Miami-Dade prosecutors.
On the other end of the journalism spectrum, Garcia also broke stories, that in the days before Twitter and Facebook, were morning must-reads.

October 24, 1998
by MANNY GARCIA, Herald Staff Writer

Esther Hernandez admits it: She slept with her husband's attorney during Miami's vote-fraud trial.

Given a chance, she says, she ``would do it again.''

Esther Hernandez is the wife of ex-Miami Commissioner Humberto Hernandez. He was jailed earlier this year for covering up fraud in last fall's city elections.

His attorney: Jose Quinon, who has a national reputation for keeping clients out of jail.

Now he may become known for something else: jeopardizing the outcome of the high-profile case by sleeping with his client's wife.

Esther Hernandez said she has no regrets. She plans to divorce Humberto.

``We didn't have a marriage,'' she said. ``Funny thing is, we get along better now. If I sound happy, it's because I am.''

She said she ``cares deeply'' for Quinon, 47, who was separated at the time. He returned home this week.

Quinon isn't talking: He's fighting to stave off lawsuits and disbarment for romancing the wife of his prominent client.

``This is totally out of context with his life,'' said attorney Oscar Rodriguez. ``This has affected Jose tremendously because this is a guy who's strived for perfection his entire career.''

Humberto Hernandez isn't talking either. He declined through a prison spokesman a request for an interview. His mother, Caridad, says he is ``devastated'' by Esther's revelation. ``Only God knows why this happened,'' she said.

In an interview with The Herald late Thursday and Friday, Esther Hernandez, 34, wouldn't say much about how the affair began. ``My motto has always been, I don't kiss and tell,'' she says.

She makes no apology for the relationship.

``If I had to do it again, I would,'' said the Shenandoah Elementary School teacher.

She said she is pretty sure her husband had someone tailing her and Quinon - and knew about the relationship well before it became public.

The couple has since had several marathon jailhouse chats, during which they agreed to divorce amicably. Esther Hernandez says she doesn't want to be the ex-commissioner's wife, but still loves him.

``He is the father of my children,'' she said. The relationship between Quinon and Esther Hernandez became a hot topic in town in mid-September, when they were spotted drinking magaritas and smooching during happy hour at Senor Frogs in Coconut Grove.

Meeting the Naples Daily News staff for the first time today, Garcia said, “I view this team as a diamond in the rough, with a tremendous opportunity to grow and succeed and do even better work.”

Hopefully, relocating to Naples won't be too much of an adjustment for Garcia, who, just a few months ago called Miami "the candy store of American journalism."

Make no mistake about it, some rough days are ahead for Garcia.

For one thing, as far as I can tell, there are just a handful of Cuban restaurants in Naples.

And today, the very paper that Garcia will begin to lead next month, carried evidence that parts of Naples are apparently stuck in some kind of 70s time-warp.

Good luck, Manny. Can't wait to see what you do with the paper!

Click here to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

el Nuevo Herald executive editor Manny Garcia to join Naples Daily News

Left to right, Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg,
Miami Herald executive editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez,
and el Nuevo Herald executive editor and general manager Manny Garcia. 


UPDATED at 8:30pm: Garcia is telling newsroom colleagues that he's "headed to Naples to become editor of the Naples Daily News."


Wednesday afternoon, Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg sent an email to the newsroom announcing that Manny Garcia, executive editor of el Nuevo Herald, "has accepted an Editor opportunity at an organization soon to be announced."

However, a story on el Nuevo Herald's website says that Garcia "will accept an executive position with another Florida newspaper company."

From: Landsberg, David
Date: Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM
Subject: Manny Garcia 
To: Newsroom

After 23 years at the Miami Herald Media Company, Manny Garcia has accepted an Editor opportunity at an organization soon to be announced. 
It is going to be difficult to say goodbye to Manny after all his good work at MHMC. Manny's stories over the years have helped change Florida law, led to the arrest of public officials and helped free a wrongfully convicted man serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit. Manny’s work has led to Pulitzer Prizes and other national distinctions.

Manny’s career began as a clerk/reporter where he got paid $35 for his first byline. He worked as a Neighbors writer, moved on to the City Desk, where he covered courts, cops, Miami City Hall and worked on the Investigative Team. As a manager, he was Metro Editor and then Senior News Editor - his last post before joining El Nuevo Herald. 
In ENH, under his leadership, ENH’s reporting team, along with the Miami Herald, was named a Pulitzer finalist in breaking news. ENH was the first ever Spanish language newspaper to receive this honor. Manny’s cross-divisional work has helped boost circulation, generate incremental revenue and exponentially grow digital traffic. ENH just launched Caliente which has had a solid premier and is growing.

Manny has been friend, mentor and champion to many. Please join me in wishing him well. Manny’s last day will be 10/18.

With Manny’s departure, we are looking to fill the position of Editor of El Nuevo Herald. The editor is responsible for establishing direction and goals for El Nuevo Herald and is an ambassador in our community. Posting to follow.

Two newspapers...two approaches to a major story

Ocean Drive Magazine,
Sept. 2013.
(Click to enlarge.)
The Miami Herald lost two more long-time staffers last Friday.

An editor and reporter with a combined 45 years of experience left the paper.

Since the beginning of the year, no fewer than a dozen reporters and editors with decades of experience have either retired or resigned.

Last February, staff writer John Dorschner retired after 42 years at the paper.

None of those journalists have been replaced with new hires. Herald managers now fill vacancies from within by playing Newsroom Musical Chairs.

The size of the staff is not the only thing that's shrinking. Today's paper is a mere 56 pages.

But, not everyone is pessimistic about the Herald's future.

While paging through the September issue of Ocean Drive Magazine, I found this eloquent paean to Miami's Gray Lady that notes the paper's move last May to a much smaller building in Doral.

Click here to enlarge.

The writer, Jess Swanson, quotes former Miami Herald editor Bob Radziewicz as saying: "The Miami Herald is not a building, it's the people who work in the building. No matter where it's located, [it] will do what it has done for decades - watch over government and politicians, the education system, and daily life in South Florida."

That quote got me wondering about a couple things: 1) Has Bob read the Herald lately? and, 2) Who is Jess Swanson?

Turns out that Jess is a journalism student at the University of Miami where Bob Radziewicz also happens to teach journalism. (C'mon, Jess! Interviewing your that the best you can do?)

But Bob is right about one thing: The Herald is watching over "daily life in South Florida."

Just one problem, though. You have to read Spanish.

Here's Exhibit A.

Below is the front page of today's el Nuevo Herald.

Dominating most of the page is the story of a police investigation into the bizarre discovery this past weekend of the body of an 18 year-old woman in deep South Miami-Dade County. The Spanish-language paper assigned two reporters and a photographer to cover the story yesterday.

The story broke Saturday when witnesses saw woman's body fall out of a truck. Her corpse was later discovered at a construction site.

Page 1A of el Nuevo Herald, Sept. 25, 2013.

And the Miami Herald? How have they been covering the story?

Well, they haven't. Unless you consider cutting and pasting stories from TV station websites "covering a story." (Are you paying attention, Bob?)

And those cut and paste jobs - without exception - have all ended up on the inside pages of the Herald's local news section.

Let's face it, if you're "borrowing" material from a TV station's website on a regular basis - instead of doing your own reporting - you're probably going to want to hide the evidence.

Page 4B of the Miami Herald, Sept. 25, 2013.

Seriously, why does one newspaper give a story page one treatment while the other buries it?

As I wrote last Saturday, it appears that "Herald editors live in some sort of parallel where crime is almost non-existent, or at the very least, something unpleasant that one does not talk about in polite company."

Or maybe those same editors believe that bodies falling out of trucks in South Florida is daily occurrence, and one not worthy of coverage.

Perhaps that's a subject Bob Radziewicz can discuss with his journalism students at UM.

Your lunch hour time waster

10 Incredible Facts About The Moon.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Your early afternoon time waster

-via My Modern Met:

Graphic designer David Olenick gives a window into another world with these humorous illustrations that show us what would happen if objects and animals could talk.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

The way we were...1963: Cocaine hits Miami's streets

Fifty years ago this week...Sept. 23, 1963:

Reporter of the Miami News

A powdery white drug that kicks like a kangaroo and then leaves its victims in black, raving moods of despair is pouring into Miami from Cuba and Central America ...

The stuff is cocaine.

Along Flagler Street the going price for a gram - "pomo" in exile jargon - is from $25 to $30.

Two grams, [narcotics] agents explain, can turn a rational man into a knife-wielding maniac.

Miami News, Sept. 23, 1963.
Click here to enlarge.

(On April 15, 1962 the Miami News published a story theorizing that one of five Cubans arrested in Miami with a "record supply of cocaine may have been a Castro agent sent ... to spread addiction among local [Cuban] exiles...")

Your lunch hour time waster

Bubbles and Bella are best friends.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WLRN's Joseph Cooper tries his hand at censorship...fails miserably

WLRN's Joseph Cooper.
If you listen to any amount of public radio in South Florida, then you've no doubt tuned into a show called "Topical Currents" on WLRN.

WLRN's website describes the show this way: "Joseph Cooper and Bonnie Berman share the microphone with a wide range of guests including community leaders, artists, scientists, historians, political thinkers and more who bring issues of interest to South Floridians."

What WLRN's website doesn't say is that Cooper's voice is the vocal equivalent of Ambien; while Berman's is only slightly less annoying than fingernails on a blackboard.

And Cooper's show, like the man who hosts it, is relentlessly, incessantly and consistently boring. Looking for excitement and controversy? You won't find it here. And that's always been the case.

Until yesterday, that is.

Cooper, who claims to have attended the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, apparently thought it might be fun to channel some Cuban-American politicians from early-80s Miami by scheduling and then canceling "an interview with a Canadian writer whose book attacks the Miami trial of five Cuban spies, saying the author assumed their innocence and the interview might upset some people in South Florida," the Miami Herald's Juan Tamayo reported in today's paper.

“For this community, [the book] just seemed a little too much,” Cooper was quoted by Tamayo as saying.

But today, in a complete about-face, WLRN's general manager, John Labonia, reversed Cooper.

In an open letter posted late this afternoon on WLRN's website, Labonia apologized to listeners for Cooper's decision to cancel the interview.

In the letter, Labonia also publicly censured Cooper, writing that Cooper's decision to cancel the interview "in no way reflects – in fact, blatantly contradicts – who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion." [UPDATE: I'm told that an audio version of Labonia's apology will air Thursday, Sept. 19, on WLRN.]
[W]e want to apologize to our South Florida listeners for the decision made this week by Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, to cancel an interview with the author of a controversial new book on the so-called Cuban Five, the Cuban spies who were convicted of espionage charges here in 2001.

The book argues that the Cubans are innocent, a claim that Mr. Cooper deemed too “incendiary” for this community to hear – a judgment that I and the rest of WLRN’s management strongly disagree with. Mr. Cooper’s decision, in fact, was made without our knowledge, and it in no way reflects – in fact, it blatantly contradicts – who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion.

It also belies the recent launch of WLRN’s efforts to provide our listeners with more coverage of Latin American news and issues, and that includes more open forums on Cuba policy.

We want to do more than express a mea culpa, however. We want to make this right. As a result, WLRN’s news division (to which Mr. Cooper does not belong) will be interviewing Stephen Kimber, the author of "What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five," this Friday on its weekly The Florida Roundup show.

Note to John Labonia: Is there any way you can get Phil Latzman back on the air? I'm sure someone at the station still has his number.

Note to Joseph Cooper: Kicking off Pledge Week by insulting the intelligence your listeners doesn't seem like a very bright move. Practicing censorship is even dumber. What were you thinking?


South Florida Lawyers: Joseph Cooper: Grow Some Man Balls!

Caliente unveils its first ever, 'La chica CALIENTE de la semana'

Ever since word leaked out 10 days ago that el Nuevo Herald was close to launching a Spanish-language tabloid called "Caliente," the topic of conversation from every mostrador and dulceria on Calle Ocho to every bodega and botanica in Hialeah was this: "Who will be the first Chica Caliente of the Week?"

Well, today we learned who the lucky lady is.

Somehow, Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago was picked as Caliente's first "Chica Caliente."

Long-time el Nuevo reader Juan Reyes told me by phone, "If this is their idea of a joke, then it's a sick and twisted joke."

"This was to be a historic and proud moment for Miami's Cuban community, and the Caliente editors ruined it," said Reyes, who sounded as if he was on the verge of tears.

Reyes continued, "Miami is home to some of the most beautiful Hispanic women in this hemisphere...and they picked her?"

Click here to enlarge.

Meanwhile, on the English-language side of the newsroom, Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch was also irate, but for different reasons.

In an email exchange with Random Pixels, Hirsch told me:
Thanks, Bill, for bringing this new publication to my attention.

I think I'd recently heard something about Caliente, but, as you know, I have a full-time job keeping my side of the newsroom afloat, so I really didn't pay much attention. (Just between you and me, I've never understood much of what goes on at el Nuevo Herald. They actually cover news over there, and we...well, you know.)

But this Caliente publication does nothing but make a mockery of the high standards of journalism we try to uphold here at the Herald every single day. (We have 20 Pulitzer Prizes, you know. )

Using scantily-clad models to lure readers is about as sleazy as it gets.

By the way, Bill...take a look at our latest house ad (attached below) and let me know what you think. As you know, there's no one in Miami whose opinion I value more than yours.



P.S. Let's do lunch real soon.

Click here to enlarge.

The Random Pixels Question of the Day: Why is CNN still on the air?

"When America needs context and clarity, it can depend on cable news to provide speculation and error."

jon stewart, cnn, washington navy yard shooting

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

This is Ellie Brecher's last week at the Miami Herald

Miami Herald staff writer Ellie Brecher, center, with colleagues
Howard Cohen, left, and Leonard Pitts.

She's never been featured in a commercial for Mexican beer, but Miami Herald writer Ellie Brecher just may be the most interesting reporter in the world.

Ellie was born in New York City. Her grandfather, Leo Brecher, was one of the founders of Harlem's Apollo Theater.

In the 1960s, she was a proud, card-carrying hippie who dropped out of college to join the Students for a Democratic Society, leading "anti-Vietnam War activities at the University of Oklahoma/Norman," according to her website.

After Oklahoma, she moved to Arizona "and lived a counterculture lifestyle until 1975, when she enrolled in an English course at the University of Arizona, while serving as head waitress at the historic El Charro Mexican restaurant downtown," her website says.

Somewhere along the way, Ellie's antiwar activities were noticed by the FBI and agents started a file on her.

Herald staffer Hannah Sampson recalls that when she heard the anecdote from a colleague, her first thought was. "I always knew she was a bad-ass, but that kind of confirmed it."

In 1977, Ellie joined the staff of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where she worked for 12 years.

In May 1989, she was hired by the Herald as a features writer in Broward.

In the 24 years since joining the paper, Ellie has "done everything there is to do here," says her best friend and colleague, Carol Marbin Miller.

"Everything" includes reporting stories from Haiti, Israel and Germany, and from Ground Zero on 9/11.

She's also profiled characters as diverse as designer Gianni Versace, pornographer Al Goldstein, a Pompano Beach husband and wife who ran a company that made instructional sex videos for couples, and controversial talk show host Neil Rogers. (On the air, Rogers often referred lovingly to Ellie as, "that psychotic bitch from the Herald.")

In the early 90s, Ellie managed to get on the bad side of a newsroom honcho and was punished with a demotion to fashion editor.

For the past few years, Ellie has been the paper's obituary writer. And its animal rights writer. And its religion writer. And a general assignment writer. All simultaneously.

“It’s not easy being an obit writer,” said her long-time editor Heidi Carr. “You’re having to talk to loved ones at the most difficult time in their lives, and pull out anecdotes that made the deceased so very special.”

"Ellie," Carr said, "quickly made family and friends feel comfortable, and instead of grieving, they were laughing and recalling joyous moments."

“The only bad part about Ellie writing obits was that her subject material was already dead,” Carr said. “I’d finish reading her stories and say ‘Gosh, I wish I’d had the chance to meet that person. What a fascinating life!’”

But now, after almost a quarter-century at the Herald, Ellie is retiring.

Her last day is this Friday.

In case you missed some of Ellie's earlier work, I've searched the paper's archives and compiled some of my favorite "Ellie ledes."

(Thanks for everything, Ellie...especially your loyalty and friendship. )


From a 2008 story about a funeral for a beloved pet pig:
In the lace-trimmed white coffin, Rachel Fernandez lay under her favorite pink "princess" blanket, her head atop a pink chenille pillow, a sweet smile on her lips.

She lived only 15 months, but with each anguished sob from the family in the funeral-home viewing room, it was clear that no pig had ever been more loved.

"Bless this wonderful daughter," Jesus Fernandez prayed over the pink, 86-pound royal dandie, the smallest of all potbellied pigs. "I give her unto you for her eternal rest, in the name of Jesus Christ."

The Oregon-bred Rachel, a full-fledged member of the Fernandez-Fleites family of Miramar since she was the size of a football, died Oct. 2 following dental surgery.

Jesus and his wife of five years, Lidia Fleites, her daughter Ashley Fleitas and his son Joshua -- plus the abuelitas on both sides and other relatives -- laid Rachel to rest Friday at Pet Heaven Memorial Park, 10901 W. Flagler St.

She's the first pig interred at the 40-year-old, two-acre cemetery, where some 4,000 pets lie under leafy black olive trees. Most are dogs and cats, but there are a goldfish and a frog, monkeys, birds, ferrets and Coral Park High School's mascot ram.

From a 2003 story on a smoking ban in Florida's restaurants:
"Smoking or non, Hon?''

Shorty the waitress greets you a few steps inside the door of Jimmy's Eastside Diner in Miami. Depending on the answer, she shows you to a table in front or in the back.

If you sit in front, she'll plunk down a heavy glass ashtray along with your menu.

Or at least that's how it used to be.

Starting Tuesday, a statewide restaurant smoke ban alters the drill: Don't ask because there's nothing to tell. Indoors, it's all non-smoking now.

From a 2003 story on a man who shared the same name with a wanted fugitive:
Who is Jose Luis Alvarez?

Jose Luis Alvarez would love to know, because that other Jose has been making his life miserable since 1996.

If that sounds confusing, imagine what it's like to be a regular Joe - which everyone calls him - who gets hauled off to a Miami International Airport detention room after each international business trip because he and a fugitive share the same name and birthday.

Imagine being a 39-year-old, Presbyterian Church-going Kendall father of four with a loving wife, two dogs, a pet bunny and a career that supports all of them in comfortable suburban style, "treated like a criminal'' even though he carries documents from U.S. Customs officials assuring anyone who looks that he is not the bad guy who apparently has eluded Interpol for the better part of a decade.

Imagine anticipating a return to the country on Aug. 23 with two of your kids - who have been visiting relatives in Argentina - knowing how rude and threatening the federal agents who hold you for 15 to 45 minutes every time can be.

"The anxiety starts building on the plane," says Alvarez, an Argentine-born naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up in Virginia as the stepson of an American foreign service officer and who travels Latin America for British Telecom. "I'm mad. I want to hit someone."

From a 2003 profile of an animal rights activist:
Russ Rector, South Florida marine-mammal advocate, is chowing down on breakfast sausage - counterintuitive for an animal rights activist, but then again, Rector tends to be that way - and fulminating against the theme parks that use performing dolphins and killer whales.

"There is no redeeming social value in these stupid pet tricks," he growled, calling such attractions "little better than a roadside zoo."

In 1992 he founded the Dolphin Freedom Foundation, which promotes the notion that marine mammals belong in the ocean, not in captivity forced to ``live in their own toilet'' and beg for food.

At the moment, Miami Seaquarium is the target of Rector's near-obsessive loathing. He's trying to cost the Rickenbacker Causeway attraction so much money and trouble that it will either ``shape up'' or bail out.

"I'm a lethal mother---," declared Rector, 55, with bravado worthy of the visual: Hemingwayesque facial hair and a black eye patch protecting a right eye mauled in a construction accident.

Seldom at a loss for the incendiary phrase, he added: "When I come after you, it's not for fun or exercise, it's to get you gone."

From her 1993 profile of Gianni Versace:
Gianni Versace is snuggled into an armchair in the lobby of the Marlin Hotel. The sizzling Italian designer is oblivious to a photo shoot behind him and to journalist Carl Bernstein, who claims to know him, wandering around clutching a coffee mug.

Chilly gusts fling raindrops against the windows of the Collins Avenue hotel, which sits catty-corner to the rear of the Amsterdam Palace, a '30s-era Mediterranean fantasy that Versace is restoring.

Versace -- lord of a $350 million fashion empire, who has dressed Elton John, the casts of La Scala and Miami Vice -- adores Miami Beach. Adores it.

In fact, his current collection -- aflutter with the latest bellbottoms -- has Miami written all over it. Literally.

"Miami" in bold, candy-colored letters emblazoned on a scarf accented with vintage Cadillacs and bathing beauties.

"Florida" trumpeted in flowery medallions across tropical and jungle-print silk shirts bursting with palm trees, hibiscus, alligators, fish and fanciful images of old Sol -- upwards of $1,800.

"I think fashion must put joy in life, quality and a sense of luxury," Versace says. "Life is enough sad."

In a 1990 story about depression she talked about her own struggle with the mental illness:
On a chaise longue by the water of Biscayne Bay, watching a squadron of pelicans wing silently toward the ocean, I could not recall when I'd felt much better, either. As recently as two months before, I had spent my mornings cowering under the covers dreading the day, my nights in a bizarre obsessive ritual, weeding my garden by flashlight, the stereo cranked up loud enough to drown out all thought. Weekdays were feeble efforts to maintain an illusion of competence at work. Weekends I spent virtually entombed in the house. My sense of humor was immobilized; my capacity for joy, gone. I felt as though my personality had drained out through a hole in my aching heart.

Dockside, I raised my coffee mug in salute to Lawton Chiles, and reached for the amber plastic vial in the pocket of my nightshirt.

"Prozac," I announced to Harpo, popping a small, green-and- white capsule onto my tongue. "Breakfast of champions."

A 2002 piece about Robert Kraft, a Miami Beach resident who was about to set a personal record of jogging on the sands of Miami Beach for 10,000 straight days:
On Jan. 1, 1975, Robert Kraft took a step in the Miami Beach sand that began a journey of 80,000 miles. And he never left home.

He could have thrice encircled the globe. He could have run 3,053 Boston Marathons. He could have scaled and descended Mount Everest 7,273 times.Instead, the man in black called Raven has jogged the same eight-mile stretch of shoreline every day for 27 years, attracting disciples who have imbued his ritual with near-mystical significance.

Today, he does it for the 10,000th consecutive day. He expects perhaps 50 ``Raven Runners'' from around the country to join him. Certainly, the woman called Miracle will be there: his girlfriend, Priscilla Ferguson, 43, who teaches at the International Fine Arts College in Miami. And most likely Taxman, Warden, Angry Man, Caribbean Queen, Stryper, Sleeper, Algae Man, Bookworm, Electrolyte, Colonel, Flying Dutchman and Deliverance - all nicknames Raven has given them.

A 2011 story about a skateboarding dog:
In human-canine relationships, generally it’s people who have dogs.

But if you are Tillman, the world’s fastest skateboarding dog — you can look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records — you have people.

You have an agent, a personal assistant, a driver, a pedicurist, publicists, and a guy named Ron Davis, who picked you out of a litter of six English bulldog puppies and made you an Internet star...

A 2008 obit about a South Florida rabbi with a special skill and a steady hand:
Cantor Abraham Seif, the ritual circumciser who probably separated more newborn Jewish boys from their foreskins than any other mohel in South Florida history, has died at 86.

Known far and wide as Seif the Knife -- or The Yankee Clipper -- the Polish-born Holocaust survivor learned the delicate procedure in Brooklyn after World War II.

By 1988, Seif estimated he'd done 10,000 circumcisions, yet he told The Miami Herald that he still recalled the first one.

"I fainted," he said. "Everyone does."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Is incompetent 'leadership' killing what's left of the Miami Herald? [UPDATED x1]

Peter principle: (noun) The theory that employees within an organization 
will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted 
to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.


UPDATED x1 below

For a newspaper, there's no more important job than covering vital issues and stories that affect readers' lives.

In a 1986 letter nominating Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan for a Pulitzer Prize, an editor wrote, "Edna Buchanan does not write about cops. She writes about people. To the Miami Herald, she is a natural resource and treasure."

On Thursday afternoon, Miami-Dade homicide detectives arrested 17-year-old Jamal Royal Jackson and charged him with murdering 71-year-old Miguel Pilotos last month at an Opa-Locka supermarket.

But yesterday, someone at the Miami Herald decided that Jackson's arrest - one of the day's top stories - wasn't important enough and didn't warrant coverage. This despite the fact that it was the lead story on every newscast in town and was featured all day on the homepage of the Herald's sister publication, el Nuevo Herald.

Apparently, Herald editors have grown weary of assigning reporters to cover crime. The paper hasn't had a full-time cops and crime reporter since it reassigned David Ovalle to the courthouse beat several years ago.

As I wrote last March, but it bears repeating, "To fill that gap, the Herald now copies and pastes crime stories from TV station websites...or, on some days, it just ignores crime stories altogether."

So, what's more important to Herald editors than alerting readers to crime trends that might be occurring in their neighborhoods?

At the Herald it's 1) Cuba, 2) Haiti, 3) George Zimmerman, 4) The World of Dance, and 5) More Cuba. 

To the Herald's leadership, those are important subjects.

Teenage thugs running around your neighborhood shooting people in the face over a cell phone or some jewelry, or shooting someone simply because they "didn't look scared enough...." that's not so important.

But not everyone working at the Herald's new building in Doral thought the story of Jamal Jackson's arrest was one that belonged on page 5B.

Here's how el Nuevo Herald editors played the story on the paper's local front.

And the Herald? The paper buried - on page 5B - an early version of the story copied from CBS4. A version, by the way, that doesn't even mention Jackson's name.

The newspaper that won two Pulitzer Prizes for its
coverage of crime, now cuts and pastes crime stories
from TV station websites. 

It's not the first time that el Nuevo Herald editors have given an important crime story the space it deserves, while their colleagues on the English-language side of the newsroom stick their heads in the sand.

So, one has to assume that Herald editors live in some sort of parallel where crime is almost non-existent, or at the very least, something unpleasant that one does not talk about in polite company.

Will the mind-set of Herald editors ever change when it comes to crime coverage?


When? The first time someone gets shot in the face by some punk, teenage thug over a Rolex or a smartphone in front of their half-million dollar condo on Belle Isle in Miami Beach...the very next day is when you'll see crime get the coverage it deserves in the Herald. That's when the candy-ass Herald editors will begin to take crime seriously. But until that happens, violent crime is someone else's problem.

But there's another reason the Herald shouldn't shy away from this kind of story. The Drudge Report thought it important enough to link to. Any webmaster will tell you that a link from Drudge is worth 50,000 clicks....minimum. The story Drudge chose to link to was CBS4's story....which as of this writing has over 1600 comments.

One doesn't need a PhD in criminal justice to know that there's a small army of teen thugs roaming Miami-Dade County willing to kill for a cell phone or a couple of dollars. But it's something you won't read about in the pages of the Herald. 

At what point in his young life does a 14 or 15-year-old kid decide it's okay to shoot someone in the face for the fun of it? What kind of homes do these kids come from? Is anyone helping them before they get to this point?

Anyone at the Herald want to tackle those very important questions; instead of writing yet another story on soccer in Haiti?

And here's a direct question for Rick Hirsch and Mindy Marqués: Since the Herald's dance critic has her own page on the website, and there's an entire page devoted to George Zimmerman, why not put up a page on your website that contains information that's actually useful to your readership ?

Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times and New Orleans Times Picayune all have pages on their websites devoted to tracking crime in those cities.

Why can't the Herald have the same?

One more question, Rick and Mindy: Can you think of anything more important than giving your readers information that will help keep them safe? Or a cops reporter who also "writes about people."


UPDATED at 11 am, Sunday: Herald finally gets a story of Jackson's arrest in the Sunday paper...a full 48 hours after the story broke and 24 hours after el Nuevo Herald's story yesterday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Miami-Dade Police arrest Jamal Royal Jackson for the murder of 71-yr.-old Miguel Pilotos

Jamal Royal Jackson

On Thursday, Miami-Dade police homicide detectives arrested 17-year-old Jamal Royal Jackson and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death last month of 71-year-old Miguel Pilotos in the parking lot of an Opa-Locka supermarket.

In a town almost numb to this kind of crime, the shocking, caught-on-video killing seemed particularly senseless and inexplicably vicious.

Pilotos was gunned down in broad daylight during what police believe was a robbery attempt at the Top Value Supermarket at NW 139th Street and 27th Ave. in Opa-Locka last Aug. 21.

Pilotos, who came to South Florida from Cuba in search of the American dream, died leaving his heartbroken family struggling for answers.

And despite the heinous nature of Pilotos' murder, the Miami Herald's coverage barely amounted to a few sentences.

Surveillance video from inside the store on the day of Pilotos' murder showed Jackson, wearing camouflage cargo shorts, walking through the supermarket, appearing to stalk his victim.

Outside the store, another surveillance camera picked up Jackson slowly circling the parking lot on a bicycle as Pilotos walked to his car.

As Pilotos opened his car door, Jackson rolled up on his bike, pointed a gun and shot him at point-blank range. El Nuevo Herald reported that after shooting Pilotos, Jackson fled without taking anything.

Last week, police released the grainy surveillance video.

Miami TV stations aired the footage on their evening newscasts.

Back at Miami-Dade police headquarters, detectives waited for a phone call they knew would come. It did.

Yesterday afternoon, according to an arrest affidavit, homicide detectives picked up Jackson and charged him with Pilotos' cold-blooded murder.

A police source tells me that detectives were tipped to Jackson's identity by someone who saw the store surveillance video on a TV news broadcast.

The arrest affidavit lists Jackson's address as 640 Douglas Road in Opa-Locka....about a 2 mile bike ride to the supermarket where Pilotos was murdered.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ejecutiva del Miami Herald pinta el cochino con pintura de labio

On Sunday, Random Pixels posted an internal email from Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg in which he announced the upcoming launch of a new Spanish-language tabloid called Caliente.

Reaction to Landsberg's email, and the new publication, was quick, and pretty much the same.

Miami New Times summed up the new tabloid this way:
New Miami Herald Gossip Rag Panders to Racial Stereotypes

Gossip! Bikinis! ¡Futbol! Next Wednesday, Hispanic readers will finally get what they've been waiting for...or at least that's what Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg seems to think.
On a Facebook page for current and former Miami Herald staffers, one former Herald reporter - perhaps half-jokingly - posted this comment: "If I still worked there, I would chain myself to the presses to prevent its distribution."

But the most vocal criticism of Caliente and Landsberg's email came from inside the Herald's Doral headquarters.

In an email to Random Pixels, a Herald staffer reacted angrily to Landsberg's memo: "It is unreal. Also so revealing. There are so many great people left at the paper doing good work. For this f**kface to taint us all with an email is so painful. Plus HOW COULD HE NOT KNOW HOW THAT EMAIL READ???"

However, not everyone thinks the new venture is such a bad idea.

One South Florida-based Cuban-American journalist told me: "The email doesn't offend me. It sounds like they are trying to do a print version of what you see on Spanish-language morning TV news and gossip/entertainment shows."

And the reaction yesterday from Miami Herald executives regarding my leaking the news of their new baby? Pretty much as you might expect: Crickets.

But today, a writer at the Maynard Institute's Journal-isms blog managed to get a comment from Lourdes Alvarez, the Herald's Marketing manager, who comes off sounding a bit like she's trying to put lipstick on a pig:
Asked if he wanted to elaborate or clarify, [David] Landsberg referred Journal-isms to Lourdes M. Alvarez, marketing manager of Miami Herald Media Co.

"The comments on the site that you reference are unfortunately not correct. While we do not respond to sites of this nature, we appreciate that you reached out to us to get the correct information," Alvarez said by email.

"We constantly use research to help us broaden our array of publications to reach the greatest number of readers in South Florida.

"Our new Caliente weekly tabloid is an exciting product that mirrors tabloid publications that are commonly produced by mainstream newspapers in Latin America and the Caribbean to capture a different audience.

"Caliente is hyper-local, light and very interactive. Features will include headlines from Latin America, celebrity gossip, movie reviews, dining trends, health and recipes, advice columns, horoscopes, sports and telenovelas (Spanish soap operas). It will also profile our Chica Caliente, a bikini model who will heat up the pages of Caliente with fashionable swimwear. This product is exciting for us. It is new and unlike any other currently in the market, and will serve a segment of our diverse South Florida community. . . ."

Jimmy Kimmel reveals he punk'd the Internet with twerking girl video

“Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.” ― Edgar Allan Poe .

Watch the video to find out how late night host Jimmy Kimmel pulled off the most successful Internet hoax of all time.

Monday, September 09, 2013

First the Miami Herald announces the launch of 'Caliente' this....Oy Vey!

Late last night I got this email from someone at the Miami Herald taking me to task for poking fun at Miami Herald publisher David Landsberg's email announcing the launch of the Herald's new Spanish-language new tabloid, Caliente:
Hey, Bill:

You are being much too hard on Mr. Landsberg.

Clearly, you do not have the makings of a McClatchy publisher in this, The Summer of Career Survival and Revenue Maximization Ahead of The Annual Bonus.

Sure, previous publishers resigned rather than sell their souls, but Mr. Landsberg and his managers are made of more flexible stuff. In fact, here is a sneak peek at next week’s innovation and Landsberg's planned email announcing it

Logo for the Miami Herald's new tabloid, "Oy Vey!"
(Click to enlarge.)

From: Landsberg, David
Date: TBD
Subject: Oy Vey!
To: MIA All Herald Users

We are excited to announce that beginning Sept. 25, The Miami Herald Media Co. is launching Oy Vey!, a free Yiddish-inspired tabloid, and a fresh idea for our market.

Oy Vey! is pastrami-in-cheek fun, but not too much fun because life isn’t all jokes and laughter, is it? This makes perfect business sense for us: it targets the six remaining Jews in Miami-Dade County, all of whom are too well educated to consume our other products.

What a punim!
The 40-page tabloid features chicken soup recipes (no shortage), Nebbishes in the ‘Hood (our Woody Allen look-alike contest), a holiday feature (“Yom Kippur or Yum Kippur – Should Jews Fast or Nosh on the Holiest of Days?”), fashion tips from mom (“Bubula, You’re Wearing That?!”), career guidance – for doctors and lawyers, financial advice for genetic cheapskates, no sports whatsoever, and photos not only of Bette Midler but also of Natalie Portman (What a punim on THAT one!).

It will be interactive, not that most of its readers will know how to get on the Internet. Fun, but again, not too much fun because…well…you know. Our website will be it’sokdear-l’

Our initial launch, at exactly six copies, will go to two targeted homes in Kendall, two in North Miami Beach and one each in Aventura and on Fisher Island.

We'll share further details on the launch shortly, we should be so lucky and God willing.


Saturday, September 07, 2013

Breon Davis played 'Let's Make a Deal' last month at the Broward County Courthouse. He lost.


Who remembers the TV game show, "Let's Make a Deal?"

For those too young to remember, "Let's Make a Deal" was a 60s and 70s game show in which studio audience members were given the opportunity to trade a known prize for an unknown prize behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3.

So, someone might end up trading $1,000 in cash for a basket of dirty laundry hiding behind Door #1, or, they got lucky, a more valuable prize like a trip to Italy behind Door #3.

The other day, 24-year-old Breon Davis played the criminal courts version of "Let's Make a Deal" at the Broward County Courthouse.

Breon Davis.
(Click to enlarge.)
Davis had been on probation for a string of armed-robberies he committed in 2008 and 2011. One of the conditions of his probation was a 10pm to 6am curfew. Cops showed up at his house one night last July to check on him and he wasn't home.

A warrant was issued for his arrest. Cops found him and put him in handcuffs on July 29.

A month later, on Aug. 29, Davis found himself standing before Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman for a violation-of-probation sentencing hearing.

And just like on "Let's Make a Deal," Davis was offered a deal: Agree to a sentence of 15 years in state prison...or, take the prize behind Door #1 instead.

Davis rejected the plea deal and decided to gamble on what was behind Door #1: Turns out there were three life sentences behind the door.

Yesterday, I posted this story on Facebook and one of my friends responded: "Haha, stupid guy exercising his right to trial and now he'll spend the rest of his life in prison!"

That got me to wondering...did Davis really have a right to a trial or, as a habitual criminal on probation, had he run out of chances?

Today, I asked Miami Beach defense attorney Michael Grieco to weigh-in.

Grieco's response:
When you accept probation, especially for very serious violent felonies, you are sometimes setting yourself up for failure. We don't know the underlying facts of his original cases, but if a gun was involved, then a 10/20/LIFE min man would have been waived, likely because of his youth.

I also do not know if this is his first violation either. Regardless, the standard of proof on a probation violation is very low (preponderance) and the judge is the fact-finder. Probation is both punitive and a privilege. The sentences are harsh but legal and common. What isn't common is receiving probation on multiple armed robbery cases. You usually don't get a second bite at the apple on Life Felonies.
In an email, an attorney who publishes the Justice Building Blog, put it this way:
For new charges he gets one trial with a jury. Some judges do the probation violation hearing first and sentence the defendant as a way of coercing him into pleading guilty and avoiding the work associated with a jury trial. The better/fairer judges will agree to hear the PVH during the trial. I once won a very serious trial but the judge violated his probation anyway and gave him five years. Cannot say the decision there was wrong.

The lesson is that it is very dangerous to be on probation, especially in Broward.

Meanwhile, back on Facebook, my friend offered this: "My heart doesn't bleed for him. I just think it's bad, not good, when sentences make examples out of people who don't take plea deals. He's 24 and likely did not have the best legal representation. I'm just not that gleeful that he'll spend the rest of his life in prison."

Well, when you run around town sticking guns in people's faces, maybe a life sentence is too lenient.

He's lucky one of his victims didn't blow his head off. It does happen.

The two charts below are from the Florida Department of Corrections website.

The top chart shows that Davis had been given just two years of probation for some very serious charges.

The bottom chart shows what Davis is looking at now...on those very same charges.

Any other wanna-be thugs out there want to play "Let's Make a Deal?"

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.