Nice Guy, Wrong Job

Made sense then, makes sense now. Needless to say, Vargas Llosa must feel vindicated seeing his plan adopted and implemented by Alberto IbargYen. Big changes are already under way: El Nuevo is now sold separately from the Herald at newsstands and via subscriptions, which began in April of last year and are already approaching 80,000; the widely respected Carlos Castaneda has been hired as publisher/editor; mundane Cuba news has moved off the front page and been balanced by more reports from elsewhere in Latin America; a fresh crop of writers and editors is being hired; an investigative team has been created.

It will take time to determine the success of the El Nuevo experiment, but at least something new is being attempted. At least someone is taking a few risks -- and not just at El Nuevo. Even as the Herald absorbs blow upon ignominious blow, staff shakeups there hold promise, especially the inspired decision to put former foreign editor Mark Seibel back in the newsroom as a top editor.

Watching the Miami Herald shrivel under Dave Lawrence's inept stewardship has given me no pleasure. Admittedly its decline has provided us grist for a few good stories. And it's true that a diminished, demoralized Herald staff allows us a short-term competitive edge. But in the long term, a moribund daily paper inflicts collateral damage on all publications around it. And of course, an enfeebled newspaper is a bad thing for any city.

Those of us who remain devoted to journalism will continue trying to strengthen it as an institution vital to the health of this community. Now that Dave Lawrence has left the field, perhaps he'll find even more time to devote himself to strengthening Miami's social institutions. He's good at it. And God knows they could use the help.

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