Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Tributes and farewells' at the Miami Herald

This week the Miami Herald let go 7 staffers with a combined 128 years of service. They're not being replaced.


From: "Hirsch, Rick"
Date: April 30, 2015
To: MIA Newsroom
Subject: Tributes and farewells


This week, we say goodbye to a crew of talented Miami Herald staffers who have contributed much to what makes this newsroom special.

We wanted to take a moment to acknowledge their contributions:

-- Chuck Buhman has worked in almost every news area in his 12 years at the Herald -- Features, Business, Neighbors, Broward news, Miami-Dade news and even Sports, copy editing and designing fronts and inside pages.

His easygoing manner worked wonders to calm countless stressed out content editors over the years. He never said no to the work sent his way. We will miss his can-do attitude and efficiency that is second to none.

-- Sue Cocking started writing for the Herald as a freelancer in 1992, then became a staff member a little more than two years later.

In the years since, she's taken readers on countless adventures -- hunting hogs, slogging through sloughs, camping and kayaking, diving blue holes in the Bahamas and springs in North Florida, catching every species of fish imaginable and releasing most of them, tickling out spiny lobsters and eating all of them, and last year, her personal challenge, walking Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St. James).

She's battled 10-foot seas, killer sharks, alligators, snakes, venemous lionfish and mosquitos a lot bigger than the ones you see on Miami Beach.

She has chronicled the fading cultures of the Gladesmen and Crackers. She has been an advocate for the environment and for preserving the best of our great outdoors. That’s more than 20 years of escapades and adventures. Her readers will miss those vicarious thrills.

-- Mike Kern has brought excellent news judgment, skilled editing and a breadth of knowledge to our Sports Department for more than 14 years.

He has handled more copy, and collaborated with more reporters -- many times on a tight deadline -- than just about anybody in Sports. He was in the trenches during the championship seasons of the 2003 Marlins, the 2006 Heat and 2012-13 Heat. He is a wordsmith whose time-efficient, common-sense approach has helped our content sparkle.

We'll miss his expertise, attention to detail, his love of Detroit sports and his many great headlines under pressure.

-- Sue Mullin's career at the Miami Herald dates back some 20 years, during which she has done everything from dining reviews to freelance stories in Nicaragua to overseeing the Calendar.

Sue came to the Herald after working as a reporter and TV critic in Washington D.C. for the Washington Star which became the Washington Times.

As the Herald's Calendar chief, she oversaw our conversion to digital -- a huge challenge -- always meeting it with meticulous care and good humor.

-- Ana Rodriguez has had a hand in archiving every section of both the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald during the last nine years. All the while, her true passion for library science and preservation has shone through.

Archiving can be a tedious, thankless job, only relieved by understanding the profound importance of yesterday's news. Ana understood this and was proud to do the work.

During her time here she achieved two masters degrees, one in Library Science and the other in Art History in Latin American Art and Modern Contemporary Art, which she will complete in May.

-- David Walters’ career at the Herald spans 36 years, a career full of adventure, achievement and a bit of notoriety.

David joined the Herald in 1978, a year out of the Missouri School of Journalism. In the next few years, David documented revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the 1980 McDuffie race riots, the Mariel Boatlift, the 1986 Mexico City earthquake (Pulitzer finalist), Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Manuel Noriega’s indictment and the U.S. invasion of Panama and six assignments to Cuba.

In addition to being a Pulitzer finalist, David also won awards from: NPPA Pictures of the Year, Atlanta Seminar on Photojournalism, Southern Short Course, Overseas Press Club, Inter-American Press Association, Green Eye Shade and Society for Newspaper Design (SND).

David became a photo editor in 1992, and he directed the Broward staff for six years before transferring to Miami in 1998.

As an editor, he blended a passion for the best storytelling images with his knowledge of page design. His advocacy for his team -- and great visual journalism -- was as well know as his sense of humor, all which will be missed.

-- Dean Yobbi began his Herald career in 1999 working for the sports department, showing great skill and dedication to his work. After a few years, he began working with Neighbors where his dedication was ever so important working with a product that required keen attention to detail and a seemingly impossible page flow.

But Dean always made it look easy. He is a team player willing and able to do anything asked of him. We will miss his easy going nature and his work ethic.


Rick Hirsch
Managing Editor
Miami Herald
3511 NW 91 Ave.
Miami, Fl., 33172

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Here are some photos of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Vladimir Putin, Raúl Castro, Kim Jong-un, et al., awkwardly shaking hands with people

The Prime Minister of Aruba, Mike Eman, and 
Mayor Philip Levine.
(Click all images to enlarge.)

Mayor Philip Levine and Miami Beach 
Police Chief Dan Oates. 

Elvis Presley and Mayor Philip Levine. 

North Korea's Kim Jong-un and some Chinese dude.

King Abdullah of Jordan and Vladimir Putin.  

Raúl Castro and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.

Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. 

A classic Don Wright cartoon from April 27, 1985

Miami News, April 27, 1985.
(Click image to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Two snapshots from Baltimore

Some saw the chaos yesterday in Baltimore as an opportunity to stock up on toilet paper...

....while others saw it as a teachable moment.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The way we were...Gene Dodge writes a letter to the editor

Forty-nine years ago - before there was a Google - you could always write a letter to the editor of your newspaper if you had a question for which there seemingly was no answer.

At least that's what Gene Dodge did.

Miami News, May 5, 1966.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner: 'I have something that rhymes with bucket'

A few of the best jokes from last night's White House Correspondents Dinner - via NPR:

1. The "Bucket" List: Obama said he's asked, " 'Do you have a bucket list?' I say, well I have something that rhymes with bucket."

Immigration executive action? "Bucket!" he deadpanned. Stricter climate rules. "Bucket!"

2. Those Grey Hairs: "I look so old John Boehner's already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral."

Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama looks great, he said. "I ask her her secret. She says, [Obama employing a nasally voice] 'Fresh fruits and vegetables.' It's aggravating."

He also lamented that he has so much to do, like negotiate with Iran, "all while finding time to pray five times a day."

3. "Arrogant And Aloof": "People say I'm arrogant and aloof," the president said. "Some people are so dumb."

4. End of Times: "Michele Bachmann predicted I would bring about the Biblical end of days. Now that's big. ... Lincoln, Washington — they didn't do that."

5. Hillary Clinton: The economy's gotten so bad for some people, Obama said, "I had a friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and now she's living out of a van in Iowa."

6. The 2016 GOP Field: "The Koch brothers think they need to spend a billion dollars to get folks to like one of these people," Obama said of the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. "I raised a lot ... but my middle name is Hussein."

7. Reach Out And Touch A Veep: Talking about how close he and Vice President Biden have gotten, especially in stressful times, Obama joked that he loves Biden's back massages. "Those Joe Biden shoulder massages are like magic. You should try one." [Pause.] "Oh, you have?"

He added, "We've gotten so close, in some places in Indiana, they won't serve us pizza anymore."

8. A Third Obama Term (Sorta): Talking about how much he liked Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who could run for the Democratic nomination for president: "Apparently people really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all."

9. Dick Cheney: "Dick Cheney said I was the worst president of his lifetime, which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime."

Friday, April 24, 2015

What a difference 24 hours makes...

Yesterday, the Miami Herald fired its outdoors writer, Sue Cocking...

But today on the paper's Facebook page, boating is called "an essential South Florida pastime ... "

So what's the deal, Rick and Mindy? If boating is so essential, why did you fire Sue?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

'Full-scale panic' at the Miami Herald

(Former) Miami Herald outdoors writer Sue Cocking. 

UPDATED Saturday, April 25: McClatchy’s stock continues to take a pummeling. "McClatchy shares have been trading between $1.50 and $1.60 the last several days. That is about half where they were at the start of 2015, and they have lost roughly three-quarters since this time a year ago." Put another way, a copy of the Sunday Miami Herald costs more than a share of McClatchy stock.


UPDATED Friday, April 24: In its first quarter 2015 earnings report, McClatchy, the Herald's parent company warns of more layoffs: "Management noted that expenses may be reduced further if needed based upon the revenue environment."

And there's this from McClatchy's president and CEO Pat Talamantes: "In light of weaker print advertising revenues this year, individual newspapers are adopting additional cost reduction plans to achieve their budgets. We expect to have another challenging quarter in the second quarter before cash flow flattens in the second half of 2015."


The Miami Herald fired long-time outdoors writer Sue Cocking yesterday.

Before we continue, let's just stop for a minute and let that sink in: The executives at a newspaper in Florida - the Sunshine State - just fired a writer who covered the outdoors. (The paper, however, still has a dance critic.)

Retired Herald staff writer Elinor Brecher posted this on Facebook today:

More layoffs at the Miami Herald. Five years ago they cut through the fat into the muscle. They've been cutting through the muscle down to the bone ever since. Now they're dismembering the carcass. Heaven help the handful of news staff remaining if there's a Cat 5 hurricane or a major plane crash or any other big story. My heart breaks for my friends who lost their jobs - and for those who still try so hard every day to do good work. There's a special place in hell for the corporate bloodsuckers who get bonuses for figuring out how to destroy their underlings' careers --- and a once-great newspaper in the process.

I'm guessing that since 2009, at least 100 newsroom and HR staffers have been laid off, bought out, outright fired, strongly urged to retire, moved on to new careers (after seeing the handwriting on the wall), quit because they were about to be reassigned to crappy jobs and/or couldn't stomach the Doral move, which was the nail in the Herald's coffin.
And here's what retired Tampa Bay Times Florida writer Jeff Klinkenberg had to say on Facebook...trying to make sense of the firing of an outdoors writer by a newspaper in the Sunshine State:

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that the bean counters running Florida newspapers these days are not rocket scientists. Today's case in point: The Miami Herald has eliminated my friend Sue Cocking's job, outdoors writer.

S. Florida is arguably the outdoor sport capital of the free world, with thousands (if not millions) of residents choosing to live or visit there because of the fishing, sailing, offshore boating, birding, kayaking, hiking and even hunting. Sailors and fishers usually have money--their sports are expensive. They're just the demographic, by the way, most likely to read a newspaper.

Newspaper managers clearly are in full-scale panic and seem out of touch with readers. In fact, this makes me wonder if the Herald has given up.

Finally, could there be any connection between the Herald's disastrous management strategies, partly advanced by Executive Editor Mindy Marques, and the mysterious failure of Innocents Lost to make it to the finals of the Pulitzers, where she serves on the board? Keep checking back here for an answer to that question.

So, why should you care about any of this?

Here's why.

If things keep going the way they are at the Herald, pretty soon there won't be a Miami Herald and this is how you'll get your news...from goofballs like this guy.

Click to enlarge.

Miami Beach's long history of ridiculous, fun-killing laws

Illustration by Cindy
(Click here to enlarge)

As I watched Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine speak from the dais at last week's city commission meeting, I was immediately struck by two things: How little this mayor knows about anything going on in his city, and....

....despite the fact that Levine organized a multi-million dollar birthday party celebrating Miami Beach's 100-year history, it was apparent to me that he knows very little about Miami Beach's history.

At the meeting, the Mayor proposed a ban on liquor sales after 2 a.m at outdoor venues on the beach.

But as I write in a post on Miami New Times, Levine isn't the first Beach politician to introduce an ordinance designed to cure all of the city's ills.

Click here to read my entire post at Miami New Times.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It's official! Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine says Ocean Drive is a toilet!

Illustration by Cindy
(Click here to enlarge)

Miami Beach's fabulously popular, millionaire populist mayor Philip Levine has officially declared Ocean Drive to be a sh*thole! And at least one commissioner is in agreement.

From today's Miami Herald:
At Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Philip Levine proposed a change to city law that would prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol at sidewalk cafes, patios and bars throughout the city between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Currently, last call inside and outside is 5 a.m.

Levine said Ocean Drive — a stretch known for its busy nightlife in clubs and restaurants — has deteriorated over the years into a dangerous, “terrible” place. After asking law enforcement about it, he proposed the tighter restrictions on selling alcohol.


“This place [Ocean Drive] has turned into a very challenging area that requires a tremendous amount of our police resources to enforce and create safety. We’ve had this conversation many, many times. It’s turning into a Bourbon Street. It’s turning into a terrible place that’s become a blight, a cancer that spreads to our entire city.” -Mayor Philip Levine


“I personally walked there at 10:30 at night on a Thursday two weeks ago and I didn’t see one cop.” -Commissioner Michael Grieco


Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be newspaper reporters

They released one of those studies today that rates jobs from the best to the worst.

Here's how journalism blogger Jim Romenesko titled a post on the study:


Coincidentally, Miami Herald crime reporter Chuck Rabin was photographed today by a TV station as he filed a story on his iPad outside a gas station on NW 79th Street while sitting in only God knows how many years of accumulated bodily fluids. (That's Chuck just to the right of the ice machine.)

Click image to enlarge.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The way we were...The Barry Adler murder case

Barry Adler in 1977.
On Jan. 8, 1979, convicted killer Barry Adler stood in a Dade County courtroom and sobbed as he waited to hear his sentence for a brutal killing he had committed when he was just 18 years old.

On Aug. 16, 1977, Adler and a friend picked up Robert Topping at Miami International Airport, after Topping, the heir to a sports empire, arrived on a flight from Atlanta.

From the Miami Herald, April 28, 1986:
Robert Reed Topping had everything to live for when he stepped off an Atlanta-to-Miami flight on Aug. 16, 1977.

A sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta, he was listed in social registers. He was the son of Dan Topping, a one-time owner of the New York Yankees, and the stepson of Rankin Smith, owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Robert Topping was no stranger in Miami. He was a graduate of Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove and Miami Beach High. Homicide detectives said he visited Miami 10 times, maybe 15 times, in the six months before his murder.

Topping came to Miami for cocaine.

Adler, who also had attended Ransom Everglades, was one of Topping's drug sources, according to Circuit Court files. Instead of returning to a summer job at a day-care center, Barry Adler waited to leave for college and dealt in drugs.

He told police he pocketed between $15,000 and $20,000 "tax free" selling cocaine and marijuana -- enough to buy a boat, a stereo, stylish clothes, expensive winners and racing tires for his car.

Topping came to Miami at Adler's request. More than 20 pounds of cocaine was available, Adler said.

Less than 25 minutes after his flight landed, Topping was dead.

Adler and his close friend, 19-year-old Andrew Schell, were quickly identified as suspects. When Adler was first questioned by homicide detectives, he said he knew nothing about the murder. He said he was asked to pick up Topping at the airport. The car he was in broke down, he said; the horn was stuck, and he cut his hands fixing it.

Adler said he knew nothing about drugs or drug money.

Adler pleaded guilty to second degree murder in connection Topping's kidnapping and killing, but then had a sudden change of heart.

"I've been railroaded by my lawyers. I didn't mean to plead guilty," Adler told the judge at his sentencing in Jan. 1979. "I want a jury.

Judge Alan Schwartz listened and then said, "I do not believe a word the defendant has said."

He then sentenced Adler to life plus 99 years, telling the 20 year-old defendant he hoped he would stay in prison forever.

But in April 1986, after serving just seven years, three months and 20 days in prison, Adler was paroled.

The crime for which Adler went to prison was particularly vicious. Topping had been stabbed 33 times and his throat was slit.

Here's how a September 14, 1977 Miami News story described Topping's killing.

One Florida newspaper called Adler's parole, "a stench in the nostrils of justice."

The Miami Herald quoted Adler's attorney, Marshall Cassedy, as saying "sentence reductions are a reward for good conduct in prison."

But Lance Stelzer, a former prosecutor who helped negotiate Adler's guilty plea told the Herald, "As long as you behave as a model prisoner, you can kill a person in the most brutal fashion and only serve seven years."


On September 11, 1986, a 28 year-old Miami Herald photographer named Al Diaz pulled into the parking lot of a Lum's at 550 NE 125th Street in North Miami.

Diaz had planned to treat his girlfriend to a romantic dinner of beer-battered hot dogs and then cap off the night with a trip to a local bowling alley.

As he pulled into a parking space, his high-beam lights shone through the front windshield of a car that was backed into another parking space. A man was sitting behind the steering wheel.

Diaz remembers thinking that the man looked to be very pale. Diaz also says that shadows from nearby tree branches appeared to be falling across the man's face.

As Diaz and his girlfriend walked into Lum's, they passed the car and got a closer look the man behind the wheel of the $25,000 gold Datsun 300ZX Turbo. He was wearing designer sunglasses and the shadows turned out to be streaks of blood. The man had been shot in the head.

Diaz and his girlfriend walked inside and asked the cashier to call the police. "There's a dead man in a car in your parking lot," Diaz told the cashier who was taking care of an older couple who were paying their bill.

Diaz remembers the woman turning to the man and saying, "See, I told you it was a body!"

Barry Adler had been murdered just four and half months after leaving prison.

Police quickly ruled out robbery as the motive for Adler's killing. According to the Miami Herald, he was wearing a Rolex wristwatch and a gold chain, and had money in his pocket.

He was 27 years-old.

His killer has never been caught.


Miami Herald, April 26, 1986: "Life" term ends after seven years

Miami Herald, Sept. 13, 1986: Freed drug case killer gunned down

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Why hasn't Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine been arrested and charged with a crime?

Why haven't you made this happen, Chief Oates? 


"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."


The phrase above has been attributed to the late "cutthroat hotel magnate," Leona Helmsley. Helmsley was more commonly known as the "Queen of Mean."

Closer to home, it seems that Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine - aka Mayor Dickhead -  has made some slight revisions to Helmsley's adage, and it goes something like this:

"I don't obey the law. Laws are for schmucks."

In a post on this blog last month, I looked into allegations that sometime in March, Mayor Levine entered the cab of a Coca Cola delivery truck that was double-parked on Washington Ave. and removed the keys.

I've now confirmed with several sources that the incident did, in fact, take place.

Sources familiar with the incident say that Levine was angered at the sight of the illegally parked soft drink delivery truck.

More than one source has confirmed to me that Levine climbed into the cab of the truck and removed the keys from the ignition, telling the driver he'd get them back after a police officer arrived and issued him a citation for illegal parking.

Last year the Miami Beach City Commission enacted a set of stringent new rules that spell out where and when delivery trucks can and cannot park.

But in the instance of the double-parked Coca Cola truck, Levine decided he would take the law into his own hands.

A source tells me that after removing the keys, Levine called someone at police headquarters at 1100 Washington Avenue and asked them to send an officer to write the driver a citation. (He took pains to avoid calling the complaint desk, because all calls there are recorded.)

But numerous law enforcement sources tell me that the officer should also have arrested Levine for violating two Florida statutes: 810.02 and 812.014.
Florida statute 810.02: Burglary.— Entering a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter....

Florida statute 812.014: Theft.— (1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.

The Washington Avenue incident is just the latest instance of Levine bending or ignoring the rules.

In Dec. 2013, a few weeks after Levine was sworn in as Mayor, he got caught up in an ugly scene outside the Star Island home of Thomas Kramer. Police were called, and then according to an Internal Affairs follow-up report on the incident, this occurred...

Click to enlarge.

Levine complained about the officers' actions that night, but when Internal Affairs investigators tried to interview him, he refused to speak with them.

Remember, in Phil Levine's world, only "schmucks" have to follow the rules.

So here's a question for Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates: When are you going to stop playing footsie with Mayor Levine and have him arrested for burglary of the Coca Cola truck and theft of the keys?

After all, don't the laws apply to everyone?

Do your job, Chief Oates.

'I hate selfies. Just take a normal photograph!'

Listen to Prince Harry, kids. He knows what he's talking about!

In a comment that sounded like the beginning of a public service announcement, Prince Harry told a fan who wanted to take a selfie with him, “I hate selfies.” He was greeting a crowd at the Australian War memorial in Canberra, where the British Army captain is starting a month-long assignment with the Australian Defence Force.

“Seriously, you need to get out of it,” he told the young woman. “I know you’re young, but selfies are bad. Just take a normal photograph!”

So there you have it....selfies are bad. Avoid taking them at all costs....or else you'll end up looking like a narcissistic jerk. Like this guy. (Have you ever seen anything more pathetic?)

Saturday, April 04, 2015

It's time for Steve Berke to get himself a big-ass dog

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Former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke's house was burglarized last Wednesday. He wasn't home, but his girlfriend was and she actually saw the burglar in the house. But instead of calling the police, she called Steve, who in turn called 911....twice.

But after two calls to 911, Steve says it was more than 30 minutes before the cops showed up.

Click to enlarge.

Normally, this would be the end of the's house is broken into, man calls police, police show up a little late, story shows up on the news, case closed.

But Steve lives on South Beach, so this happened last night....

Click to enlarge.

My advice, Steve....get yourself a big-ass dog ... or an attack cat!