It's Money That Matters

Tropic gets axed after31 years and countless awards. Watch for the last issue: A gift guide.

Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, who worked for Tropic in the late Seventies, believes both the newspaper and its readership will suffer. "As a part of a newspaper, you take pride in having a magazine, and so it hurts when it dies," he says. "But the more important issue is always the cost to the readers. I'm not naive. Certainly I can do math. I have no reason to disbelieve the accountants when they say it was losing money. On the other hand, there are certain things you do for readers because it is right."

The magazine's loss leaves Miami a little poorer, says Hiaasen. "The reality is that they couldn't make it profitable and that's sad, but the reality is also that everyone who lives down here, including the people who used to work on it, are going to have less to look forward to on Sundays. And that's a fact."

The outrage and passion expressed by former Tropic staffers indicate that Clifton may been right in deciding not to run the reminiscences. They might have reflected poorly on the Herald. Hall understands the motivation, but it nonetheless depresses him: "That's a business decision. We don't want our readers thinking more about how good Tropic is and the fact they are losing it. What's sad about that decision is how petty it is. If you are going to censor something, censor the news. Don't censor non-news. [A memorial issue] is not even news! It's just a bunch of guys writing as well as they can about something that mattered."

Ultimately it was the magazine's close relationship with its readers that the writers and editors remembered most. Several cited the Tropic Hunt, an annual puzzle/scavenger quest, as an example of the magazine's dedication to its audience. "We were always looking for ways to make people feel more alive, to give them a chance to cry, to laugh, to get them thinking," says Hall.

Weingarten traveled from Washington, D.C., to Hollywood without pay, to help with the November 1 hunt. He has aided the effort every year since leaving the magazine. Before the ceremony, Herald president Joe Natoli asked Weingarten and Shroder to return for future hunts. Weingarten says he not only refused, but exploded. "I like Joe Natoli, but this seemed like colossal gall to me," he remembers. "The Miami Herald asking this question is like a wife beater standing there with a baseball bat over the bloody corpse of his wife, suddenly realizing what he had done, and saying: 'Sweetie can we have one last quickie?'"

jacob_bernstein@miaminewtimes.com

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