Letters

Evelyn and the Magic Bus
I would like to thank Kirk Semple for clarifying the public transit situation for us, the users ("Token Ridership," June 20). I ride the bus on a daily basis -- to and from work, to doctors' appointments, on shopping trips. I also take the bus on Alton Road and am utterly frustrated and disappointed by the service in Miami Beach. Some buses do not meet their scheduled time requirements for specific bus stops. Riders cannot follow the timetables printed on the bus stops. The best bet is to be at the stop at least 20 to 30 minutes before the time the bus is scheduled to arrive.

The concept of Metrobus/Metro-Dade Transit system is a wonderful idea, but it is a vicious circle. Riders do not use it enough because the service is not dependable, some drivers are rude, et cetera. On the other hand, the service is not improved because the money is not coming in owing to a lack of riders.

The drivers of the buses are truly exceptional characters. The ones who are good are great, but the ones who are rude and impatient are really, really bad. Some of them need training on how to treat senior citizens, tourists, and users who don't speak English.

More people use public transit, thus fewer cars on the highways, therefore fewer accidents and less stress. Does this equal improved service and dependability? What a beautiful dream.

Evelyn R. Nieves
Miami Beach

Bardach Goes Ballistic
Elise Ackerman's story on The New Republic/Jorge Mas Canosa lawsuit ("The Mobster Mash," June 20) violates the most fundamental canons of journalistic ethics, and is riddled with errors, misstatements, and misconceptions. It reflects an egregious bias.

About four months ago, Ackerman phoned me at my home in California regarding a story she said she was writing about Jorge Mas Canosa's paternity suit. She eagerly solicited my advice, opinions, and help in obtaining depositions and research material relevant to the paternity suit. She also asked if we could have dinner when I visited Miami. With Ackerman's assurance that she was writing about the paternity suit and not The New Republic lawsuit, I agreed to meet with her.

Since the first meeting, Ackerman avidly sought my friendship A inviting me to dinner, drinks, nightclubs, not to mention soliciting my advice in her quest to secure work at another newspaper. She also confided her romantic troubles and even urged me to rent an apartment in her building. On several occasions, I specifically asked her whether she or New Times would be writing about The New Republic's lawsuit. She said no, but should she change her mind, she would tell me beforehand to ensure there would be no conflict of interest.

With craven cowardice and stunning bravado (truly worthy of Eve Harrington), Ackerman pursued her story and relationship with me under false pretenses, duplicitously garnering material for a story she claimed she wasn't writing. Less than two weeks before the June 20 story was published, Ackerman visited me at my hotel in Miami. At that time she asked for some phone numbers that she said she wanted for "another story." Later I saw her perusing papers in my room and jotting down notes. I told her that I would prefer that she ask me for what she wanted and moved my papers away. I last saw her with her friends on the evening of June 7, during which time she continued her charade that she was not writing about my case.

After sending her story to print on the evening of June 18, Ackerman called me and said, "I hope you won't feel betrayed and I hope you won't feel bad, but I just wrote a story about you that I don't think you will like. My editor told me not to tell you. I've read your stories and I think you're a great reporter and I hope you'll still be my friend."

Responding to my query as to what she thought I wouldn't like, she cited a part of my deposition which I immediately recognized as a transcription error. When I asked whether she had reviewed the "deposition errata," she said she had not and did not know it existed. "My editor told me not to call your lawyers," she explained. "We were worried that the Miami Herald would find out we were writing a story." Although Ackerman had more than a dozen conversations with me during her surreptitious preparation for this story, she repeatedly denied writing a story, chose neither to check her facts with me nor my lawyers, and never once requested a complete file record of the case. Had she complied with this elementary procedure, she would have had all the facts of the case available to her. Moreover, she informed me (incredibly) that no one at New Times checked the facts or circumstances of her reporting. Consequently New Times rushed into print a misleading, thoroughly biased, and downright inaccurate story -- all for the sake of beating out a phantom story from a competitor.

Ackerman also conceded to me that she had not read any exhibits nor any of the depositions taken in early June, without doubt the most critical ones in the case. Her only materials were incomplete and selected (by whom, one might ask) depositions without any of the accompanying amendments, errata statements, or documents. Ackerman need only to have waited till next month for a complete and accurate record of the case when the summary judgment filings will be made. Any of the lawyers involved in the case could and would have told her this. In fact, I did tell her.

From Ackerman's title to the first sentence regarding my job description (every month Vanity Fair publishes my name on its masthead as a contributing editor) through virtually every other paragraph of the story, there are numerous and inexcusable mistakes. Clearly, when a reporter of such consuming ambition is so busy lying and deceiving and is too lazy to make even obligatory phone calls, it is not surprising that the results are unnecessary and egregious errors.

It is nothing less than extraordinary that a newspaper that encourages deceit, sloppiness, and a willful disregard for the facts would take it upon itself to critique a libel lawsuit. Please be apprised that I will pursue any and all legal remedies.

Ann Louise Bardach
Los Angeles, California

Elise Ackerman replies: Ann Louise Bardach's letter suffers from the same type of distortion and lack of precision as does her New Republic article about Jorge Mas Canosa, which prompted him to sue her and the magazine for libel. Among other distortions, she deliberately mischaracterizes and misrepresents the nature of our relationship. What is most disturbing, however, is her willingness to denounce a critical examination of her work as the byproduct of bias and ambition.

I met Bardach three times during the past three months, the first in mid-April after I contacted her regarding a story I was writing about a paternity lawsuit filed against Mas Canosa. Bardach never lost an opportunity to pitch her own lawsuit as a separate story, repeatedly emphasizing the alleged explosiveness of the material she claimed she was gathering during the discovery phase. She informed me that she was eager to make all of the material available as a "public service" to other journalists and that already she had been in touch with reporters at the Miami Herald and several nationally prominent newspapers.

I initially told Bardach I did not think New Times would publish an article. If the documents being produced were as incriminating as she described, the story would be picked up by daily newspapers. A weekly like New Times would be unable to compete.

Bardach's remarks provoked my curiosity, however, and following publication of my paternity story on May 23 I examined the extensive court files pertaining to her case. The documents revealed a conflict of unusual contentiousness, fraught with hyperbolic rhetoric and paranoia. I related these impressions to my editor, who suggested that we pursue a story about the lawsuit itself. The story is not, and was never meant to be, a personal attack on either Jorge Mas or Bardach.

Bardach subsequently visited Miami, prior to my starting work on the story. She invited me to join her, Ricardo Mas (Jorge Mas's estranged brother), and a team from 60 Minutes at the Grand Bay Hotel. She told me she had contacted other television journalists as well because she believed that the revelations arising from her case merited national news coverage. In addition, she informed me that the Miami Herald was planning to publish its own story within weeks.

Earlier Bardach had asked me for the telephone numbers of some sources, which I had given her. Later, at the Grand Bay, she invited me to her room and offered me a copy of her own phone list. At no time did I rifle through her papers or try to obtain information from her in a surreptitious manner. And I never misled her about my interest in the Mas lawsuit, despite her claims to the contrary.

I based my story on exhaustive research of court documents and did not use any information Bardach imparted to me during our personal conversations. My dealings with her were friendly and professional, but because of her readiness to openly discuss what other journalists were working on, I did not confide my editor's decision to report on the lawsuit.

As a courtesy I called Bardach the day before the story was due to be published. She became extremely upset and criticized me for not seeking her side of the story, despite the fact that I told her the article derived from documents and sworn testimony, not from personal interviews.

Although Bardach claims the story contained "numerous and inexcusable mistakes," neither she nor her attorneys have been able to identify a single verifiable error. Regarding her job title, Bardach is in fact a free-lance writer, as she testified at her deposition. She also happens to be a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, though that is irrelevant to her lawsuit, which concerns an article she published in The New Republic. The more recent depositions in her case were not germane to my story, which addressed the ironies of the lawsuit: her arrogance and Mas's hubris. And contrary to Bardach's assertion, my article underwent rigorous editing and fact-checking, which is standard practice at New Times.

Bardach regrettably misunderstood the professional basis of our relationship, otherwise she would not have expected me to place loyalty to her point of view above an objective journalistic account. I was obliged to point out the weaknesses in her reporting, just as I was compelled to include Mas's disingenuous denials and the apparent outrageous behavior of his attorney.

In a country that provides constitutional protection to the press, citizens should expect and demand that all reportage, especially that which is highly critical of other people, be based on solid research. Journalists should be prepared to have their work scrutinized with the same intensity they bring to their story subjects. Ann Bardach and I are no exceptions.

Rosemary's Baby
As a weekly reader of New Times, I wish to commend you on your publication. The June 13 issue, with Jim DeFede's column about Radio Marti and Jorge Mas Canosa (boo!) and Robert Andrew Powell's cover story "From Knight Manor to Nightmare" about Miller Dawkins (boo!), was an excellent example of the fairness and thoroughness of your writers.

Another good feature, and one I wish the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and other big-city newspapers would emulate, is the reader-friendly practice of continuing articles on consecutive pages rather than scattered throughout.

Keep up the good work! With only one major paper in Miami, we need the input of New Times.

Rosemary B. Rappoport
Hialeah

Errata
In last week's issue, an article titled "Hour Town" contained two errors. Owing to conflicting information provided by the Miami Beach Police Department, three of four victims of a June 8 shooting incident were inaccurately reported to have been standing outside the Cameo Theatre in Miami Beach. The incident actually took place near the intersection of Fourteenth Street and Washington Avenue, about a block south of the Cameo. The age of the suspected shooter was also incorrect. He will turn 21 in October. New Times regrets the errors.

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