Monday, April 10, 2017

Last Saturday, less than three miles from the home of Miami Herald publisher Alexandra Villoch, crime reared its ugly head...and the paper's editors reacted predictably

Shortly after noon on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010, 20-year-old Michael Beatty was gunned down in broad daylight near NW 15 Avenue & 59th Street in Liberty City.

Beatty was standing outside a convenience store at that location when a Nissan Maxima pulled up and a masked man emerged holding a Mac-10. The man chased Beatty down and executed him.

Police say Beatty's murder was witnessed by dozens of bystanders, but more than six years after the crime, police have yet to find his killer.

Several Miami TV stations reported the murder.

But despite the cold-blooded nature of the Beatty's killing and the fact that the crime was captured on surveillance video, the Miami Herald ignored the story completely.

In 2012, Crimestoppers produced a video that examined Beatty's murder.

Three and half years after Michael Beatty's killing - in a post on this blog that examined the Herald's spotty, haphazard and sometimes non-existent coverage of crime in certain South Florida neighborhoods - I mentioned Beatty's murder, asking: "Would the Herald have ignored the story of Michael Beatty's killing had he been white and had his killer chased him through the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, spraying bullets from a Mac-10?"

A little more than three years after I asked that question, we finally have an answer.

On Saturday, just hours after being fired from a fitness club located at the "the upscale Shops at Merrick Park" in Coral Gables, the Herald reported "A popular personal trainer ... fatally shot one of his former co-workers and critically wounded another at the Equinox fitness center in Coral Gables on Saturday afternoon before killing himself."

Within a few hours of the shooting, Herald editors had mobilized a flying wedge of no fewer than eleven reporters and one photographer to cover the tragedy....a dozen more journalists than were assigned to cover Michael Beatty's murder. By Sunday, the Herald's newshounds had filed no fewer than eight stories on the shooting.

(By comparison, on April 11, 1986, when the Herald employed hundreds more journalists than it does today, the paper assigned about the same number of reporters to cover the bloody FBI shootout in South Dade that left two FBI agents dead and five agents wounded at the hands of two bank robbers who were also killed.)

A newsroom source tells me that a few Herald staffers wondered about Saturday's mass call out compared to responses to other shootings elsewhere in Miami-Dade.

Early fears of a mass shooting or hostage situation were quickly dispelled. Less than an hour after the shooting was reported "Coral Gables police said they secured the scene — that is, they were certain no mass shooter was on the loose — by 1:45 p.m.," the Herald reported.

Police early on declined to name the fitness club shooter or victims, but by late Saturday afternoon, the Herald - using unnamed witnesses - had identified both victims and the shooter. 

And while Michael Beatty's 2010 murder was ignored by Miami's paper of record, the Sunday morning Herald carried stories examining every angle of the Equinox shooting:

  • An overview of the shooting: "The 12:55 p.m. shooting shut down the upscale Shops at Merrick Park mall and scattered scores of scared shoppers and Equinox members onto the surrounding streets, many of them clad in exercise clothes and holding nothing but their workout towels."

  • A profile of one of the shooter's victims: “She was warm and caring, and she was an expert at guest service."

  • And a profile of the shooter: "The first thing people noticed about Abeku Wilson was his size."

  • So how do Herald editors decide which South Florida murders the paper will cover and which ones will be ignored? "You mean in comparison to black on black shootings in the 'hood? I think you already know the answer to that one. Upscale shopping mall, attractive white [victims.]" a Herald veteran responded when I asked if the shooting warranted all the resources deployed. 

    Fact: Miami Herald publisher Alexandra Villoch lives less than three miles from the scene of Saturday's shooting, as does a Herald editor who directed Saturday's coverage.

    Bottom line: I would love to be in the room when Herald editors explain to Michael Beatty's family why his death didn't deserve at least a fraction of the coverage that was afforded the victims of the Equinox shooting. 

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