1 Herald Plaza

In our continuing efforts to provide readers with stories they're not likely to find in other local media, we introduce this new feature, devoted exclusively to the affairs of the Miami Herald and its corporate parent, Knight-Ridder, Inc. (KRI). The irony is palpable: The biggest, most influential news organization in South Florida -- the paper of record -- avoids writing about itself and remains shrouded in mystery.

Now and then over the years, New Times has seen fit to lift the veil and cast some light on events emanating from within the walls of the KRI compound. And we certainly will continue to do so. But too often we've had to forgo publishing some items because we lacked an appropriate format. That problem is now solved.

In solving it, though, we've created another: jeopardizing the job security of our Herald sources. It's not enough to simply guarantee their anonymity, although we will. We also suspect they may face retribution should they be associated with New Times in any way. For that reason "1 Herald Plaza" will appear without the bylines of New Times writers who contribute to it. An acceptable tradeoff for what we hope will be an illuminating peek inside the Beacon by the Bay.

This column will appear irregularly, as material warrants. Such as:
This anonymous note, sent to us not long ago on Miami Herald stationery: "Those of us who work at the Herald find it ironic that Dave Lawrence should receive a diversity award [from the National Association of Minority Media Executives], especially since we have had a drain of minority journalists in the past six months. Those leaving: Ralph de la Cruz, Nancy San Martin, Jay Ducassi, Ed Lopez, Derek Reveron, Marjorie Valbrun, Eleanor Ransburg, Sharony Andrews, Dan Holly, Rick Christie, and Kim Crockett....The Herald may talk a good game about diversity, but it sure doesn't play by its own rules."

The notable modesty of reporters Dexter Filkins and Joseph Tanfani. Their article headlined "Rumored Plot to Dump Avino Fails" led the July 30 "Local" section. Buried near the end of the story was this: "When rumors about a Thursday coup began circulating late Wednesday, reporters for The Miami Herald began calling commissioners. During the next day's meeting, some commissioners accused The Herald of fueling the speculation." Here's what the commissioners actually had to say after their vote of confidence in County Manager Avino:

Maurice Ferre turned to Larry Hawkins. "I'd like to ask exactly when it was that Dexter Filkins talked to you and told you that rumor," Ferre said.

"Approximately 11:00 p.m. last night," Hawkins replied.
"All right. Well, I'm going to tell you something and I'm sure Dexter is listening somewhere around here," Ferre continued, motioning toward the press box to the side of the commission dais. "At 9:30 last night Dexter Filkins called me and he said, 'I understand there is a rumor that the manager is going to be fired and you are linked to it.' And I said to him, 'Dexter, I know nothing about it, I have nothing to do with it. I have no intention of voting for the firing of the manager. I don't know what you are talking about. It's a rumor and nothing more than a rumor, and I have told the manager that. Because he asked me that three weeks ago, because this rumor has been floating around for a long time. And the manager knows exactly how I feel. And I have no involvement or intentions to do that.' I cannot believe," Ferre went on, his voice rising in anger, "that Dexter Filkins, a professional newspaper person from the Miami Herald, after hearing that statement, would use my name in telling you that I was part of that conspiracy or cabal or whatever you would want to call it."

"Well, I'm going to just put it on the table," interjected commission chairman Art Teele. "At 9:30 at the Culmer Center, after speaking to Dexter for 30 minutes in the car at 7:00, Mr. Fantani [sic] came over to the Culmer Center in Overtown. I spent a half an hour telling him not only was it not true, it was a damnable lie. I told him not only was it a damnable lie, but I resented the fact that the reference was that the four black commissioners -- that's the way it was presented to me, and that's the way it was going through Cuban radio -- and I understand the way these subtle messages get hidden.

They didn't call Commissioner Moss's name or Commissioner Burke's name or Commissioner Ferguson's name; they said 'the four black commissioners.'... And that's what upsets me so much. It is not so much the rumor, but it is the racial implications of the way this rumor was germinated."

The red-hot buzz around the newsroom recently that a married Herald executive allegedly had become romantically involved with a reporter, and that a number of other reporters (several of whom called us) were incensed because, in their opinion, such relations are banned by the paper's rules regarding sexual harassment. The executive, they felt, was flouting those rules.

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