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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

OCTOBER 31, 2012

WHAT WOULD LOIS LANE DO
THIS IS WHAT MAINSTREAM JOURNALISM IN MIAMI HAS COME TO

Dear Kathleen,


I really had some hopes when the Miami Herald transferred Chuck Rabin out, and put you in as the City Hall reporter.  You were young, and seemed ambitious and untainted by all of the corrupting influences that had turned Rabin into a PR Flack for Tomas Regalado that angered so many people of a certain age who still remembered when newspaper reporters covering City Hall actually took their jobs as “reporters” seriously.


Alas, it turns out that you’re far more preoccupied with Tweeting and football than you are with being a real reporter.  I know it’s become part of the conventional wisdom that Social Media is the be all and end all of creating a personal brand and all that stuff, but for a newspaper reporter to become “brand,”  you really do need to develop a reputation as a hard charging, almost anal and tenacious pursuer of stories.


Trust me, you’re not going to get far by basically doing a copy/ paste of my stories and/or the stories of other bloggers, and then writing stories with leads like:

Do you really think that your implied claim that Petty “resigned” because you write that he was an incompetent boob is believed by the few knowledgable Herald readers left?


After your first story, that I included links to in my own story THE SAUSAGE FACTORY, I think that 6 or 7 of your readers took you to task for using my investigative efforts and reporting to write your story about Steve Petty, and after your story that came out last night - almost 9 hours after I sent out a Media Alert - that included an email I sent personally to you - several Herald readers chimed in again to take the Herald to task for basically ripping me off without giving me credit.

When it comes to professional courtesy, I’m happy to be able to point out that I have never referenced a Miami Herald story without including a link within the text of my story.  I do that with all of the sources that I cite, and I always make sure to cite my references because I think that’s important, both contextually and out of professional courtesy.


But then again, if your professional experience is colored by the 144 character limits of Twitter, it’s understandable why acronyms like WTF become so popular.


I hate to go on about Twitter, but it’s so obviously become a critical part of your professional life - and a quite revealing insight into what you think is important - that I really can’t pass up including the Tweets that you put out during the last City Commission meeting.

Right away, you can tell that you’re more interested in pithy comments from the Commissioners that can be used as Tweets than you are with comments of substance that might lead to stories that require real reporting skills.


As an example, take my current story about Commissioner Sarnoff lying about the City of Miami not permitting the LED sign on the AAA Arena.


You were there when he said it.  If you were a real reporter, just the fact that a City Commissioner saying - with such emphasis - that the City did not do something should have prompted you to click on the City’s website, go to the Building Department’s webpage, click on ONLINE ACCESS TO PERMITS, PLANS, AND INSPECTIONS ISSUED BEFORE 03/06/12, and then on Permits by Address or Folio, where, had you typed in 601 Biscayne Boulevard - the address you could have gotten by going to Google and typing in AAA Arena - you would have discovered, like I did, that there appeared 2 permits that would have led you to believe that the Commissioner might not have been telling the truth.


Then, because all this happened before the lunch break, you could have eaten lunch, driven over to the MRC, gone to the Building Permit Office on the 4th Floor, where you could have walked out with the 16 page Permit that you could have easily worked into a story about the Children’s Museum Billboards for that evening’s story.


Of course, you could have done all that if you were a real reporter.


But you’re not.  You’re a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism with a Master’s Degree, where it’s obvious no one ever bothered to teach you the nuts and bolts of tracking down information for a story.


Yes, these schools don’t teach the basics anymore, but they obviously teach career management, and high on that list of skills is burnishing your reputation by taking advantage of the work of others.


Now, I don’t want you to think I’m too critical Kathleen, because I know you’re young and stupid - I too was young and really stupid once-upon-a-time, which is how I ended up robbing banks - so I’m willing to overlook your ripping me off, and provide you with a couple leads on stories that could earn you a nice journalism award.


STORY NUMBER ONE


How about doing a story about the City Commissioner that doesn’t live in his District? I suspect, that folks have already told you about this, because I get emails about every 2 week myself.


Let me help you out.  The condo that he and his wife live in is in her name.  The condo is on an island. They’ve been living here for years.  The house that he’s supposed to be living in I’ve written about in other stories.


Is that enough information to get you started?


STORY NUMBER TWO


If you want to do something more challenging, go take a look at the City’s IT Department.  Start with interim Director Cindy Torres.  She’s another rocket scientist that got a waiver because she’s unqualified for the job.


The City has spent close to $20 million dollars trying to upgrade their computer system and much of that money went down a rat hole called “consultants.”


The “consultants” and still there and still raking in BIG, BIG bucks!


I can absolutely GUARANTEE YOU, that if you were to spend some quality time you could maybe walk away with a Pulitzer Prize if you can unravel that cluster fuck of thievery that’s been going on in that department for years.


STORY NUMBER THREE


How about doing a story about how many millions of dollars of CRA money the OMNI CRA spent to fix up the old Fire Station as their new office, and on the money spent on redoing the water pipes, sidewalks, etc. on 14th Street, which, if you drive down the street now, has become a series of mostly empty lots from NE 2nd Avenue to Miami Avenue.


Somethings afoot there.


You might want to look at the set-aside of the $5 million that the OMNI CRA made several years ago to reimbursing property owners who installed new water lines along 14th Street and NE 2nd Avenue and see how much of that $5 million ended up being spent on the 3 Blocks on 14th Street between NE 2nd and Miami Avenue.


See who owns all the properties in that area, and how they’re tied to Commissioner “Ethics.”


STORY NUMBER FOUR


You might want to do a real story about the $45 million bond deal the City Commission just voted on to cover the OMNI CRA’s commitment to the Port Tunnel.


You might start by trying to explain to the taxpayers that the real cost is going to be 71 million, and more importantly provide some real context and explanation on how the City really ended up having to deal with Wells Fargo Bank.


Even though the deal the City accepted was a lot better than the Highway Robbery deal offered by the Gates Company, the Wells Fargo deal was no prize either, and maybe you folks in the Herald might consider it a public service to start actually telling the taxpayers how all of these deals are really screwing them before they find out through some SEC investigation, or because someone like me decides to go digging.


Of course, all of these stories will require more than a couple minutes of your time and 144 characters to tell, but you’re young and should have the stamina to go out and do a real day’s work, for a real day’s pay.


THE VALUE OF SOURCES


I would have expected by now Kathleen, that you would have started developing some sources within the ranks of the city employees, but it appears that other than calling folks up to get quotes, and then asking them, “Is here anything that I haven’t asked that you think I should know?,” you haven’t done much to inspire the kind of confidence that leads to sources who will call you, email you, and send you packets of documents on the dirty deeds going on in Regaladoland.


Too bad.  You have to wait for “official” tips, like Angel Zayon’s hilarious, hamfisted efforts to plant the Calvin Ellis memo with you last week, while I’m getting so many leads that I literally had to tell 2 folks a couple days ago when I visited the MRC building that they had to hold on to their tips for me until next week, because I’m just backed up with stories that need to be researched.


But, as important as leads are, even more importantly is the ability to decipher the meaning of what folks like His Ignorance, Mayor Tomas Regalado tell you.


Take for instance this latest story that you did about Finance Director Stephen Petty being told, “Resign or get fired.’


Normally, His Ignorance would have offered his usual, “I don’t know anything.


But not this time. 


This time, Regalado - who can on occasion have a wickedly dry wit - actually told you a lot. Here’s what you wrote he said:


        “She is on top of the department,” Regalado said. “Even

        before [Petty] came in, she was on top of the department.”


For Regalado, that’s saying a lot.  But what did he really mean.


If you had sources deep inside City Hall and in the Finance Department, you’d appreciate that what Regalado was really telling you was, “This crazy broad’s been stacking up boxes and bodies to get to the window and crawl out.”


Janice Larned is on top of the Finance Department all right, on top of the list of the people who are trying to get away from the City of Miami as fast as their little feet will let them run.


Has it not seemed strange to you that the Finance Department currently has 15 empty spots because people have been leaving by every door and window available?


If you recall Kathleen, I even called you and spoke to you about why Janice Larned would have wanted to quit in August, and told you then that that was a real story worth getting to the bottom of.


The real story now is why she hasn’t left, and whose been threatening her not to leave, and why.


If Lois Lane were around, she would have already figured out that something didn’t make sense and been on the case to find out why.


But then again, you’re no Lois Lane, and retweeting the suck up comments of one of your UM football pals seems to be way more important than being a real reporter.

It’s Miami, Bitches!

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