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Getting Informed

April 17, 2012

I think most people moving to Florida either full time or as snow birds just want to enjoy the nice weather, hit the beach, and take a long vacation from state and local politics where they came from, thinking that all of that stuff happening here really doesn’t affect them.  Unfortunately, it does.

Politics ultimately shapes almost everything in our daily life—taxes, transportation, schools, health, the environment, insurance—you name it.  I think one of the reasons Florida politics is so corrupt and generally screwed up is that too many people have just tuned out.  So pay attention, people!

Here’s a primer on local news media:

Television:  If you depend on TV as your only news source, you will have no clue whatever about what’s going on.  The local news broadcasts will tell you about traffic accidents, shootings, drug busts, the Marlins, the Dolphins, all the typical local news fodder, but they almost totally ignore decisions and—more important—process taking place in state and local government.  When they do report on such issues, it’s in the most perfunctory and superficial way.

One important exception:  Former Miami Herald columnist Jim Defede periodically does stories on CBS4 news that are definitely worth watching.  Defede may look like a bit of a shlub, but he’s a real bulldog of an interviewer and a true investigative reporter.  If you miss his segments, you may be able to find them here.

Newspapers:  The Miami Herald has long been the leading newspaper in Florida and by the low-bar standards of regional US journalism was once pretty good.  Its coverage of Latin America—especially Cuba—was perhaps the best among US papers, and it started a Spanish-language edition, El Nuevo Herald (now an independent publication), in 1976 in response to Miami’s changing demographics.  It has occasionally run afoul of Miami’s Cuban community for not being sufficiently hardline on Fidel, but I wouldn’t consider that a deficiency.

The Herald used to be the flagship of the Knight-Ridder papers, but in 2006 was sold along with the rest of the K-R chain to the California-based McClatchy Company.  Like most US newspapers, it has been hit by declining circulation and has cut its reporting and editorial staff, with predictably negative impact on the quality of reporting.

The Herald is still an important resource, and does produce good reportage and editorial content—if less consistently than it used to.  It is available online. It also supports a blog called “Naked Politics” that contains material that may not make it into the Herald’s print edition and also sometimes seems a bit less inhibited.

The Herald’s major weakness, at least in recent years, has been excessive coziness with Miami’s business elite—especially developers and gambling interests—which seems to have influenced its coverage (or lack thereof) of related news stories.  Indeed, the Herald itself has become a player in the controversy over casino gambling with the decision by its parent company to sell its downtown bayside building to the Malaysian Chinese gambling conglomerate Genting Berhad to build a megacasino resort on the site.  Just Google that name.

Up the coast in Broward, the Sun-Sentinel fell into the clutches of loathsome real estate mogul Sam Zell when he acquired and then proceeded to loot its parent Tribune Company, in the process eviscerating once-proud and important newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and the Baltimore Sun.  Zell is no longer in control, but the damage he wrought lingers on.  The Sun-Sentinel limps along, and still produces some good stories and editorials from time to time. It’s also available on-line, but recently announced that it will put up a “pay wall” for access to its content.  For political coverage check out its blog “Broward Politics” written by the paper’s political journalists.

Still further north, the Palm Beach Post has a pretty good reputation for covering state politics.  To be honest, I have not read the paper that often, but I’ve seen some good material from it picked up in the blogs.  You can catch it on-line here.

Alternative Press:  The Miami New Times is a free tabloid weekly available all over town.  It covers restaurants, the arts, music, performances, etc.—typical alternative stuff—but also does great feature articles on local stories that break new ground.  And sometimes they’re really juicy, like this one.  The paper also supports a political blog called Riptide 2.0, which is worth checking out.

The rival monthly free tabloid Biscayne Times covers the Biscayne Boulevard corridor from Wynwood/Midtown to Aventura, and focuses more on real estate and neighborhood issues in addition to the arts.    It features columns covering individual neighborhoods like Belle Meade or incorporated entities like North Miami, so here you get political reporting that dishes the dirt on a really local level.  There is usually also an article about some fascinating but half –forgotten aspect of local history.  I found it very helpful in getting oriented when I first got to town, and continue to learn something I didn’t know with every issue.

The Blogosphere:  South Florida has an extremely robust blogging community, and some of the blogs are quite extraordinary.  You will find great material here that you’ll never see in mass media. Of course, blogs vary tremendously in content and quality, but I think all of the ones listed in the Blog Roll at right are worth reading regularly, and want to point out a few for special praise.  There are lots more out there.

For starters, “South Florida Daily Blog” scans the blogs for you and provides little excerpts with commentary so you know what the featured posts are about. Now how cool is that!  The blog roll covers about every imaginable subject from food and photography to politics.  The dedication to keep this going is pretty amazing.  Blogger Rick also does his own posts on various issues of the day, which I find very sharp and well-written.  If you’re looking for a place to start diving into the local blogging pool, this is it.

If you read only one South Florida blog, let it be “Eye on Miami.” The two anonymous [see comment] bloggers—Gimleteye and Geniusofdespair (love the names!)—delve into local politics and environmental issues with an intensity and depth and tenacity rarely if ever shown by any traditional media source.  They go to godawful commission and committee meetings, read and dissect the reports, and connect the dots.  Best of all, they follow the money, which is usually what it’s all about.  Their archived posts are easily searchable and can provide an amazing depth of background on almost any issue.  I think these guys are awesome!

If you want to know why South Florida traffic is so terrible and want to know what local authorities are or are not planning to do about it, check out “Transit Miami”.  About all I can say is:  Read it and weep.

Finally, I really like “Bark Bark Woof Woof.” I know, he mostly blogs about national issues rather than local ones, but when he does, the posts are rapier sharp.  I like his style, and the way the material is organized, and I love the whimsy of the “little night music” videos he posts every day.  And, of course, I almost always agree with what he has to say.

Okay, I’m sure I’m neglecting others, but it’s getting late.  To repeat:  All of the blogs in the roll are worth your time and attention.

So now no one has any excuses for staying blissfully ignorant of the chicanery swirling around them.  Salud!

5 Comments
  1. Thank you for the mention. Eye on Miami has only one anonymous blogger. Gimleteye is out: Alan Farago, one of the State of Florida’s top environmental activist. He has been awarded just about everything there is to earn from the environmental communty. Alan is well respected by his peers.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. I can see why he would have won such accolades. Out, or not, both make an outstanding contribution.

  3. Thanks for including my blog on your blogroll. I’ve reciprocated.

    Also, when you have a minute, check out my blog devoted to Miami history. I think you’ll find it interesting. http://miamiarchives.blogspot.com/

    • Thank you for adding my blog to your list. I really love your Archives blog as well. Of course, I don’t have the nostalgic memories of Miami back in the day, but it does give a sense of what’s been lost and gained over the years. Great job putting that together.

  4. mustangbobby permalink

    Thank you very much for your kind words, and I will return the favor of adding you to my blogroll.

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