Riptide

Who got burned in the recent program reshuffling at WLRN-FM (91.3) radio?
Try Ed Bell, who once hosted seven hours of jazz shows every week and now produces/hosts just one day per week. Or Juan Carlos Villamil, former Rhythm Box emcee who resigned his part-time slot after the Latin-music show was canceled. Or maybe alternative-music guru Bob Slade, whose Off the Beaten Path was axed after years on the air.

Naaah. They didn't lose as much as you and I. See, in an effort to appeal more to National Public Radio's core audience (read: people who are likely to shell out cash), station managers torched diversity.

Some shows that are no more after the January 4 change: Drums of Steel, AfroPop Worldwide, Music from the Hearts of Space, Thistle and Shamrock, Latino USA. Even the Creole-language news has been cut back. Anything weird is off the air. Jazz is in. So is daytime talk.

Some WLRN staffers are griping. "It's all about money," one says. And the Miami Times, a black-oriented weekly newspaper, recently published a story that quoted several African Americans criticizing the change, including a charge the station was "curtailing the black voice from the mass media."

Radio manager Ted Eldredge acknowledges money was a consideration, but he denies whacking mostly ethnic programming. Fringe stuff, yes. But he notes there are Caribbean shows. C'mon Ted. Those air mostly between 1:00 and 5:00 a.m.

Riptide is riled. Miami isn't Omaha, after all. This town is unique in America, and WLRN -- especially because it's a public station -- should treat it that way.

Then there's some good news: The historic 76-year-old Lemon City pumphouse on NE Fourth Court, which had a near brush with demolition a few years ago, has been saved.

The savior: Salvatore Patronaggio, an apartment manager who is rebuilding. The savior's savior: News Cafe owner Mark Soyka, who will soon open 55th Street Station, a chi-chi retail complex a few blocks south on NE Fourth Court.

Both buildings are located in a neighborhood where you wouldn't want your granny to go. Hookers start work there at 9:00 a.m. Needles litter the gutter. Crackheads abound.

Soyka is spending more than two million dollars on a project that will include a cafe, shops, and maybe a full-service gas station, according to his spokesman Ryan York. Patronaggio bought the pumphouse at 5808 NE Fourth Ct. for quite a bit less and plans to turn it into a residence or office. Deceased Mayor-for-Life Steve Clark saved the building from demolition back in 1995 after a community outcry.

Patronaggio is counting on an urban renaissance, though his workforce isn't optimistic: "He's insane," a worker at the site declares as a hooker struts by. "It just gets stranger and stranger," another says.

Back in 1989 there were Super Bowl riots to divert the attention of visiting journalists. This time around it was the Herald. In early editions of Sunday's paper that appear Saturday, a headline paired the wrong team, the Minnesota Vikings, with Denver. Then after Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was arrested on Biscayne Boulevard at 9:00 p.m. Saturday night for soliciting prostitution, the paper missed the story in many Sunday editions. Robinson became the goat of the game.

In the Department of Brilliant Ideas: Gov. Jeb Bush wants to give you and 6,999,999 other Floridians $50 off your electric bill. Little noted in the coverage: Deceased (you note a trend here?) Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed a similar measure in May, calling it a joke.

-- as told to Chuck Strouse

Send tips to riptide@miaminewtimes.com

 
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