Friday, January 27, 2017

'You just do'

Miami Herald investigative reporter Carol Marbin Miller.

Carol Marbin Miller is a senior investigative reporter at the Miami Herald. She's worked at the paper since 2000. Before that she worked at the Tampa Bay Times and the Palm Beach Post.

Miller, and colleague Audra D.S. Burch collaborated on the Herald's 2014 "Innocents Lost" series .... the result of three years of digging through Florida Department of Children and Family records.

Click to enlarge.

During the course of Miller and Burch reporting the "Innocents Lost" series, the Herald "filed three public records lawsuits demanding access to many of the documents about the treatment of the children and their caregivers.”

Three years after the "Innocents" series, Miller and Burch continue to be a voice for the state's most vulnerable children

A few days ago, after Miller posted a link on Facebook to a story she'd written about Naika Venant, a 14-year-old girl in foster care who hanged herself last Sunday while streaming it live on social media. I commented, "I don't know how you do this." Miller responded: "You just do."

Naika Venant.

A day later, Miller followed up on the death of Naika with a story that carried this chilling headline: "Hundreds watched a teen kill herself on Facebook. But they didn’t save her."

Over the past few days I've asked some of Miller's current and former Herald colleagues what drives her.

Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas emailed this explanation:
What drives Carol Marbin? I have asked myself that many times, as I watched her time and again break away from untangling the bureaucratic complexities of some scandal she is investigating to take the time to turn a daily story on another tragedy she knows should not be overlooked.

Yes, she is motivated by outrage, and she lets it reside close and remain raw, where it fuels her passion and energizes her pen. But she also has something unique, endearing and inspiring: the ability to see tragedy and not get callous, trauma and not become immune to its searing pain and human toll.

When Carol writes about a child's death, she brings with it the compassion of a mother, and yet, with a careful touch, she lets the evil, inequity and injustice surface. I honestly don't know how Carol does it, but I do know it is with an extraordinary heart. That's why people think of her when they have a story they know needs to be told, and it's also why, as a journalist, she is feared.

Retired Herald staffer Marty Merzer wrote:
Carol is utterly devoted to the children of Florida. Tenacious, professional, resourceful. Year after year, as other reporters turn to easier tasks, she remains undaunted by hurdles erected by recalcitrant officials or anyone else. She is the best journalistic friend of children in the state of Florida.

And here's how retired Miami Herald staffer Elinor Brecher described Miller's work.
Carol Marbin Miller has been on the "dead kids'' beat for decades - a beat that might drive the average reporter into deep depression or a different career. But she has a core of iron resolve about exposing cruelty toward and injustices against all vulnerable and helpless people: children, elderly, disabled, poor, sick. I think this comes from her non-negotiable sense of right and wrong and very definite ideas about morality, ethics and abuse of power, which she can't abide. The misery she has to immerse herself in to do these stories does get to her, especially when it involves kids, but the sense of duty she feels to expose the conditions that cause these situations tends to override any emotional impact.

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