Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is the Miami Herald 'past the point of no return?'

Miami Herald building demolition, Nov. 2014.

They've been trying to tear down the old Miami Herald building for a year and half now. But it's not going down without a fight.

Some former and current Herald staffers see the slow-motion dismantling of One Herald Plaza as a metaphor for what's taking place at the paper.

On Facebook, one former Herald employee called the demolition of the building "the slowest death I have ever seen," and then added, "apart from the actual decline of the Herald."

The Herald's print circulation continues to plummet as employees with decades of experience head for the exits - either willingly or unwillingly. But Herald executives continue to insist that they're putting out a quality product...all while they work behind the scenes to cut back on content and trim staff. Today's paper was just 34 pages.

Late last month, executive editor Mindy Marqués Gonzalez apologized to the paper's few remaining print subscribers for eliminating the daily TV listings.

"I guess the changes weren’t so 'carefully considered' after all," one retired Herald newsman told me in an email, adding, "They're the gang that couldn’t publish straight."

But one has to wonder, who are the "many" who still rely on a newspaper for TV listings and why is the Herald going out of its way to accommodate them but doing absolutely nothing to appeal to younger readers? When was the last time you saw anyone in their 20s or 30s reading a copy of the Miami Herald?

Or as blogger David Putney wrote over the weekend, "I marvel that newspapers make any money at all. It’s like finding out MySpace is still around or Abe Vigoda is still alive. How is this possible, seriously? I see someone buying a print newspaper and I think 'why would you do that?'"

A few days ago, retired Herald reporter Elinor Brecher ruminated on how the paper - at one time the largest and most powerful in the state - got to where it is today:

The slow, ugly destruction of One Herald Plaza pretty much parallels the slow, ugly destruction of the Herald as a journalistic institution. 
As I've said in other posts, I truly mourn for my friends there who are still trying to do work that matters.  

Miami Herald building, Feb. 1, 2015.

Yes, the Internet is a major factor, but you can't discount terrible decisions made on both the news side and business side under both Knight-Ridder and McClatchy for hastening the Herald's decline. The governing principle was "give the readers less, ask them to pay more, and expect them to believe they're getting a good deal.'' You can't feed people a shit sandwich and call it roast beef.


McClatchy exec gets a nice retirement gift from the struggling newspaper chain

You can't run a credible news organization with interns, part-timers and absurdly overworked, exhausted, underpaid, demoralized employees expected to work unlimited unpaid OT.

You can't take a newspaper out of an iconic building in the heart of a city's most vibrant business district and exile it to the middle of freaking nowhere, out of sight and out of mind - and too far away from breaking news to actually cover it - and expect it to stay relevant.

You can't get rid of all the quality control (copy editors) so that your newspaper is an embarrassing mess of typos, headlines that make no sense, cringe-worthy mistakes and, on a daily basis, as much wire and TV "news partner'' content as staff content, if not more.

Yes, there are still amazing print and visual journalists working at the Herald and I love them for their dedication, but the decline is past the point of no return. It's a tragedy for them, for Miami, for journalism in general, and for democracy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on anything you read here.

All comments must first be approved. Spam and spam links will not be tolerated or approved.