Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Miami Herald continues to make staff cuts with no end in sight


Updated 1x below main post.

In October 1998, after the Miami Herald decided to kill off Tropic, the paper's popular Sunday magazine, the New York Times began a story on the magazine's demise with this sentence: "In the most painful of a series of recent belt-tightening moves, The Miami Herald's top editors said yesterday that the newspaper's Sunday feature magazine, Tropic, would close before year's end."

In 2006, the Herald's parent company Knight Ridder, "after years of struggling to grow its readership, profits, and stock price...threw in the towel...[and] accepted an offer of $4.5 billion cash and stock from McClatchy (MNI), a newspaper publisher less than half Knight Ridder's size."

Almost 19 years after the death of Tropic,  and 11 years after the sale of the Herald, they're no longer tightening the belt. Now they're chopping off body parts....something that's been going on for quite some time.


Miami New Times, April 9, 2008: Miami Herald Cutting Staff via Buyouts

Miami New Times, March 11, 2009: Miami Herald Cuts 175 Jobs, About 50 in Newsroom

This morning, in an email to the newsroom, Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch announced the paper was letting go two more long-time staffers: "In the next few days, we'll be saying goodbye to two important contributors to the Miami Herald, both gifted storytellers: [dance critic] Jordan Levin and [columnist] Ana Veciana Suarez." 

After reading Hirsch's email, one veteran Herald staffer commented, "Of course, it’s what they didn’t say that’s most interesting."

For instance, the one thing Hirsch didn't mention in his email is that almost no managers or bosses are ever affected by these staff cuts. 

But not all of those leaving the Herald, do so involuntarily. In January, Herald bosses announced that Audra Burch, one of the paper's most talented writers was leaving to join the New York Times.

And last December, Herald investigative reporter Michael Sallah left the paper to become an investigative reporter at Gannett in Washington DC. At the Herald, Sallah was part of a team that looked into irregularities at the Bal Harbour Police Department and government corruption in Opa Locka. Sallah and a team of Herald staffers were finalists for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for their work on the Bal Harbour series.

There are daily indications of the deep trouble now facing the Herald. The paper once employed a staff of more than 30 photographers statewide. But now the Herald and El Nuevo Herald share a combined staff of 7 photographers. A quick check of this morning's "A" section of the paper shows zero staff-produced photographs.

But I did find this full-page ad.

The irony here of course is, that on the same day the Herald publishes a full page ad asking its readers to #SupportRealNews, the managing editor sends out an email announcing the layoffs of two more staffers.


UPDATE 1x at 7:00 pm, March 29: Two other Herald staffers sports columnist Linda Robertson and movie critic Rene Rodriguez were also slated to lose their jobs. But several sources tell me that Robertson will remain at the paper and write some sort of metro column. Rodriguez, I'm told, will become a writer for the business section. See emails below for details on Robertson and Rodriguez.

But the Herald's problems are not just on the news gathering side. After writing this post, I heard from no fewer than three friends who still subscribe to the paper. One is a retired Herald staffer. All three tell me that getting the paper delivered is a hit and miss proposition. Says one: "Of course I haven't had my paper delivered since March 7th.. I've had a range of 'managers' email me and take calls.. I'm about to give up and cancel it... shouldn't be this difficult to drop a paper on a doorstep."


From: Hirsch, Rick
Date: Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:07 PM
Subject: Linda Robertson taking on Miami Aggravations
To: MIA Newsroom


Linda Robertson, who has distinguished herself as a reporter and narrative writer in our Sports department for many years, is taking on a new beat.

We're calling it Miami Aggravations, a fast-moving daily beat that designed to demystify, explain and shine light on the aspects of South Florida life that perplex and puzzle all of us who live here. It can range from why DOT closes I-95 lanes when the big game is letting out from Dolphin Stadium to the backstory on expensive valet parking cannibalizing the best places you'd normally want to park.

We think this work will strike a nerve with our South Florida audience, driving interest and discussion about what we love and love to hate about living here. We think that Linda, who grew up in South Florida and has spent her journalism career reporting here, is especially well-suited to find the stories this beat demands.

But to do this well, Linda will need your help. She'll be soliciting ideas from the staff as well as from South Floridians at large as she digs in.

Linda will begin this new assignment on April 3, reporting to Jay Ducassi.

Rick and Mindy

Rick Hirsch
Managing Editor

Note to Linda Robertson: Here's an idea for your first column: After more than 100 years in business, why can't the Miami Herald figure out how to get papers delivered on time, AND ON A DAILY BASIS to its loyal subscribers??? How that's for aggravation!


From: Hirsch, Rick
Date: Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:08 PM
Subject: Rene Rodriguez to cover real estate
To: MIA Newsroom


Starting April 3, Rene Rodriguez will become our full-time real estate reporter on the business desk, filling the position that opened when Nick Nehamas moved to the investigative team.

Rene's a good match for this task, with a reporting background that began on the City Desk (writing obits and covering breaking police news), and has included, in addition to film, covering arts and the business of entertainment for the Business Desk. He's a smooth writer and a fast study.

In looking to fill this job, we wanted someone who reported aggressively and could deliver exclusive, news-breaking reporting on a beat that affects us all, from renter to homeowner to high-end condo gawker. We think Rene will give us the combination of enterprise and quick-hit coverage that enlightens readers and keeps them coming back for more.

The change in Rene's assignment obviously means that he will no longer be working as a film critic. That decision is one of several coverage shifts we've made to reflect what our audience is telling us about the news they value most. Rene has had a remarkable run as a critic, and there may be times when we'll call on his expertise and sourcing to inform our coverage of the movie and entertainment industry in South Florida.

Rene will be closing out some film related work next week before starting his new beat a week from Monday. He will report to Jane Wooldridge.

Rick and Mindy

Rick Hirsch
Managing Editor

Monday, March 27, 2017

My objective and unbiased review of this year's Ultra Music Festival

Photo by George Martinez/Miami New Times

Day Two of the Ultra Music Festival took place at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami on Saturday.

If you're like me and are unfamiliar with Ultra...the best way I can describe it is it's like Woodstock for Millennials. Except Woodstock had a better vibe.

Thousands showed up for the three days of sold-out Ultra shows. But not all Miamians were thrilled to see the event come to town.

“It’s a great event for the city, but not so much if you work downtown. I wish they had a better venue,” architect Bernard Zyscovich told the Miami Herald.

Raul Guerrero, a resident of the Loft 2 condo tower on Northeast Second Avenue told the Herald, “It’s five weeks of disruption for everyone who lives for blocks around it.”

But my curiosity got the best of me. So I punched up a live stream of the show on YouTube.

I was underwhelmed to say the least.

I heard a lot of what sounded like noise, but not much that sounded like what we used to call "music."

If you've ever listened to a garbage truck empty one dumpster after another in a South Beach alley at 6:30 in the morning then you've experienced Ultra. 

(Jose Duran of Miami New Times reports that Ultra shipped a free pair of earplugs to everyone who purchased a ticket this year. Isn't that like a restaurant handing out free bottles of Imodium to patrons as they pay their bill?)

One song that did catch my attention was "Porcelain" by enjoyment enhanced by the fact that I didn't have to stand in a driving rainstorm to hear it.")

(And I did enjoy this moment from last year's festival.)

I'm not sure who listens to this stuff. Last year a Miami Herald writer penned an obit for EDM...electronic dance music.
“EDM is over — it’s like disco,” says Vanessa Menkes, former head of communications for the now disbanded Opium Group, whose clubs including Mansion and Set dominated South Beach nightlife for years. “In 2005, you could open your doors on a random Saturday night and make $150,000. Those days are not coming back.”
Fans like Annie Tomlinson, 22, an ardent Ultra attendee when she could get a one-day ticket for around $100, are opting out. She last went to the festival in 2013, though she says her peak experience was the year before.

“I still like the music,” Tomlinson says. “But it’s not worth it for the money anymore. It’s so hyped up and I’ve already experienced it.
After watching some of the acts on YouTube last night, I tried to broaden my understanding of the genre by reading this review of a Day Two performance by Miami New Times' Jose Duran:
"Unlike the Carl Cox stage, the Spider provided virtually no shield from the rain. However, techno fans didn't let that stop them from enjoying Dubfire's set. The Iranian DJ's music was the perfect sound track for the apocalyptic setting that included plenty of standing water even after the skies cleared. And instead of avoiding the muddy mess, the audience kept stomping to the beat. The flames seemed to go into overdrive, which was a welcome surprise thanks to the chill that hung in the air"
Jose's an excellent writer, but his review left me with more questions than answers.

For instance, "What's the deal with all the flags?" a curmudgeonly Andy Rooney-like voice keeps asking inside my head.

Photo by Matias Ocner/Miami Herald

So, if it's OK with you, Jose, I'm gonna stick with the old stuff....the really old stuff. 

Did you see anything like this Saturday night? A 1960s live performance by Jerry Lee Lewis on British TV? Look at the audience interaction with Lewis. 

And as I watched Saturday night's show, I didn't see any saxophone solos performed on top of a piano!  (When I showed both the Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard videos to a 25-year-old woman who attended the Friday Ultra show, her immediate reaction was, "That's just like Ultra, right there!")

OK, so this Chuck Berry performance is lip-synced....but the kids really get into it just like at Ultra.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Are we sick of winning yet?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sun Sentinel editorial board says Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine's behavior is "bizarre," "reckless" and "juvenile. "

It's been almost two years since veteran political reporter Michael Putney talked about Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine's "bright political future."

Later that same year - as Levine was running for a second term - he again appeared on Putney's show... and told a bunch of lies.

A few months after winning a second term as mayor, Levine made headlines locally when he videotaped himself harassing a Fed Ex driver for double parking on Miami Beach.  Levine posted the video on You Tube that showed him confronting the driver.

I wrote about the incident on this blog and noted that Levine came off looking like a ninny as he ran after the driver. I also posted Levine's video. But for some reason Levine has made the video "private." (As is often the case...the Internet never forgets and the video still exists elsewhere ... I've posted it above.)

Why did Levine remove the video? Perhaps it's because he's mulling a possible run for Governor of Florida and would rather that Florida voters not see what happens when he becomes unhinged....which has been happening a lot, lately. And more people are starting to notice.

That bright political future that Putney spoke of in the summer of 2015 is beginning to dim somewhat. 

In an editorial posted last night, the Sun Sentinel called Levine's recent behavior "bizarre," and "reckless." And referring to Levine's habit of blocking people on social media who don't agree with him, the Sun Sentinel called Levine's behavior "juvenile. "

"Levine is the mayor of a metropolitan city. Blocking people from seeing what he's saying in the social sphere is alarming behavior, especially for someone who wants to lead Florida," the Sun Sentinel's editorial board concluded. The editorial went on to compare Levine with another thin-skinned bully: Donald Trump:
"With the gubernatorial field beginning to take shape, Democrats should be asking themselves whether they really want a nominee whose temperament draws comparisons to that of President Donald Trump."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marty Merzer's tribute to newspaperman Jimmy Breslin

"Journalists have graduate degrees, wear clean suits and sip cappuccino at the Starbucks. Newspapermen generally attended high school, sometimes wear clean shirts, especially on Mondays, and, not so long ago, stashed booze in their desks." -Martin Merzer, Miami Herald, Aug. 22, 2000.


Retired Miami Herald staff writer Marty Merzer's tribute to newspaperman Jimmy Breslin:
By Marty Merzer

New York newspaperman Jimmy Breslin died today at age 88. He was my professional idol and role model. Not that I placed myself in his league, just that...I strived to do so.

I've always tried to emphasize this to newbies: If you want to be a good newspaper writer, you must read good newspaper writing. And, boy, did I.

Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, I was blessed to be surrounded in print by some of the best newspaper writers ever to pound typewriters and yell, "Copy!" Among them: Pete Hamill, Jack Newfield, Nora Ephron, Red Smith, Dick Schaap, Tom Wolfe, Gail Sheehy and, chief among them, Jimmy Breslin.

Later in life, I got to know Hamill and Breslin a bit, but that wasn't as important as...hearing their voices as I wrote, and employing what I learned from reading their work.

That meant finding an original angle, even if that required looking along the edges of an event. Noticing and employing telling detail. Using plain language in a...voice...that's appealing, welcoming, but doesn't get in the way.

Breslin and Hamill and the others. They were enormous influences on my life, and consequently on the lives of my family. I thank them for that.

Below [this post] are some of Breslin's best-known pieces. Look at the detail, the storytelling. Sense the humanity, the empathy. Listen to the voice. But also make no mistake about it - every one of his pieces was worth your time. He never bagged a story or a column. He knew that his name would be atop it and that carried real responsibility. (That's another thing I try to tell newbies: Never, ever bag a story. For god sakes, your name is on it.)

I'll never forget Jimmy Breslin. My fingers never will stop hearing his voice.


Breslin: Digging JFK grave was his honor

Breslin: A Death in Emergency Room One

Breslin: A Matter of life or death

New York Times: Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry | October 18, 1926 - March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry - vocals, guitars
Lafayette Leake - piano
Willie Dixon - bass
Fred Below - drums

Above personnel on Johnny B. Goode, Sweet Little Sixteen and Rock and Roll Music.

Gator on the golf course? No problem!

ORLANDO, Fla. – It looked like a risky maneuver, but Cody Gribble barely even blinked.

Gribble was in the midst of a tough round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he snuck up on a gator sunning itself just left of the sixth fairway at Bay Hill. With a swift thwack on the tail, Gribble startled the gator and then nonchalantly watched it jump back into the water lining the hole.

“The gator looked like he needed some exercise,” Gribble said after closing out a 5-over 77. “I guess I was trying to get some adrenaline going somehow, but I wasn’t really afraid of it.”

Friday, March 17, 2017

Here's why it's not a good idea to barge into a bank waving a gun....

....Because there might be a former deputy sheriff working as a security guard who actually knows how to use a gun.


A bank security guard in Illinois who fatally shot an armed would-be robber will not face charges, authorities said Tuesday.

Brian Harrison acted heroically, authorities say, as he pulled his weapon and fired repeatedly at suspect Laurence Turner at the Alpine Bank in Rockford on Jan. 20. The dramatic incident was caught on surveillance video. [via New York Daily News}

Laurence Turner waves gun inside the Alpine Bank
in Rockford, Illinois. (Scroll to 4:30 on the video
to see this angle.)

Turner falls to floor after being shot dead by former
deputy sheriff Brian Harrison.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

Is your microwave watching you? Let's check with the White House experts

I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera.”
"America" —Simon & Garfunkel.





Washington Post, March, 13, 2017.


Your mid-afternoon time waster

Olly the Jack Russell Terrier goes nuts at a dog agility contest.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Your lunch hour time waster

Today's lunch hour time waster is about South Korea and kids.

Professor Robert Kelly was speaking with the BBC [via Skype] about the ousting of South Korea's president when his office door opens up and a toddler stomps in jovially and taps dad on the arm, eager to play. "I think one of your children's just walked in," the BBC interviewer says, stifling a laugh.

As Kelly tries to nudge the child away with a swipe of the arm, a second child pops into the room. It's an infant sibling obliviously scooting through the door on a rolling walker. "Pardon me, pardon me," Kelly says, while closing his eyes in frustration, clearly conflicted between the urge to laugh or cry. "My apologies."


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Your lunch hour time waster

Due to numerous requests, the once wildly popular Random Pixels feature known as the Lunch Hour Time Waster returns today with this video of a kitten playing with a dog's tail.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

'If he thinks his phones were tapped, then he believes we know everything.'


Former Miami Herald senior writer Marty Merzer analyzes the latest news out of Mar-a-Lago this morning....

Via The Minority President Report:
He’s going down, and in the not-too-distant future. Though the technological details are more modern, this is all very Nixonian. The patterns - denial, then weak and partial actions in failed attempts to quell the scandal, then total psychosis ahead of capitulation - are precisely the same. [Emphasis added]

- Beginning at 6:26 a.m. today and continuing throughout the early morning, the Minority President posted five six seven bizarre - even by his standards - tweets. The activity was clearly manic.

- As you read the rest of this, keep in mind that the Minority President has a long history of accusing others of doing precisely what he has done. Psychologists call it “projection.” It's the "So's your mother" form of debate.

- In this morning’s series of tweets, the Minority President accused President Obama of undermining “the very sacred election process.” He said: “This is Nixon/Watergate.” These are precisely the accusations and comparisons being made about the Minority President and the scandal that is closing in on him.

- He accused Obama of wiretapping him at Trump Tower. (Point of fact: No president can order a wiretap.) He said: “This is McCarthyism!” Again, that’s precisely a charge that has been leveled against him. In addition, one of the Minority President’s early and most influential mentors was the notorious Roy Cohn, who served as McCarthy’s chief counsel during the infamous Army-McCarthy hearings.

Click here to continue reading.


And now....let's go live to Mar-a-Lago ....