Letters from the Issue of September 12, 2002

How do we loathe Jilda Unruh? Let us count the ways.

If You're So Smart, Go Start Your Own School

It's more work than you'll ever imagine: New Times should be ashamed of Rebecca Wakefield's article on Florida International Academy ("Strange Days at FIA," September 5). Any effort to present a balanced treatment of this embattled charter school was negated by the inflammatory headline, insulting graphics, and irrelevant innuendo.

Ms. Sonia Cossie Mitchell, FIA's executive director, is a remarkable administrator who has ensured the survival of the school despite the most adverse circumstances. The school's students are challenging; many are getting a second chance as a result of FIA's small classes and dedicated teachers. I know from the personal experience of my wife, who teaches at FIA, that Ms. Mitchell is extremely committed, typically working weekends and late nights for the benefit of the students.

I believe Rebecca Wakefield has done a real disservice to FIA, Governor Bush's effort to expand the charter-school movement, and public-school education in Miami-Dade County. I challenge her to spend a single day in the classes in which my wife and her colleagues teach. If Ms. Mitchell's detractors think they can do a better job, they should start their own charter school. We need more good schools in this county.

Andrew Batavia

Miami Beach

Jilda: She's No Ann Bishop

But she does take the prize for biased reporting: If New Times and Rebecca Wakefield are trying to tell me that Channel 10 reporter Jilda Unruh deserves even a shred of sympathy, they need a reality check ("Is Jilda Unruh Getting Stiffed?" September 5). Ms. Unruh goes after people, implying wrongdoing, and tries to get uneducated viewers to draw their own salacious conclusions, much like the supermarket tabloids.

I watch her reports for other reasons: I've noticed that her coverage is disturbingly anti-black. Not all her stories are on the click10.com Website, so I refer to my notes. Ms. Unruh focuses more than 92 percent of her stories on the Miami-Dade County school board. Of those, she focuses 73 percent on Dr. Solomon Stinson, an African American. She then focuses the remainder of her stories on minorities such as Demetrio Perez and African Americans David Walker and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler. It is clear she favors certain board members who give her interviews. Ms. Unruh also seemed to give quite a bit of broadcast time to one particular assistant state attorney, Mark Smith, when she was investigating Demetrio Perez. And she seems to give special preference to law-enforcement agencies. Is there some kind of quid pro quo going on here? Isn't journalism supposed to be unbiased?

People are scratching their heads as to how Jilda Unruh still has her job. Ann Bishop is probably turning over in her grave, God rest her soul.

Alison James

North Bay Village

Jilda: Perversely Obsessed Media Manipulator

She makes Channel 7 look great: As I read Rebecca Wakefield's insightful article about Jilda Unruh, I initially thought it was going to be a puff piece about an over-the-hill journalist who was in need of a career boost, but then I saw it wasn't. Finally someone was beginning to tell the truth about Ms. Unruh.

Jilda Unruh's annoying in-your-face style is starting to wear thin, rice-paper thin. She has somehow forgotten it is time to stop beating a dead horse (the school district) and move on to other important stories that rarely get told, like the airport problems, lobbyist misdealings, and local government controversies. Please don't get me wrong. Our kids are very important, but her station has not one but two education-watch reporters. Shouldn't this be left to them?

Channel 10 general manager John Garwood's response to New Times and teachers' union president Pat Tornillo made me wonder if Ms. Unruh gave Rebecca Wakefield his cellular number in order to put him on the spot. Is the general manager in the habit of giving every reporter his cell number to contact him on his holiday, or is Ms. Unruh trying to manipulate the media, in print form this time, to her own ends?

If you look at this situation in its totality over the past year, perhaps you'll conclude that Ms. Unruh needs to re-evaluate her life a little. Her pursuit of the school district and its lobbyists is nothing short of obsessive. I think it would be fair to say she has a personal grudge against some of the black leaders in this community, Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler and Dr. Solomon Stinson to name just two. She has invited trouble with not one but two lawsuits. She has been all over the negative side of the media, making the news instead of reporting it. For a retired news junkie like me, it says a lot about Channel 10's lack of commitment to quality news reporting. Hell, even Channel 7 cleaned up its act after Rick Sanchez left. They're showing some real quality now.

I personally don't care about the teachers' union, but I do care about the accuracy of the reporting I am relying on to make informed decisions. When I read John Garwood's remarks tactfully telling the union "go pound sand," I had to wonder if this guy isn't to blame as well. When a child goes awry, we have to look at the parental supervision involved. If Ms. Unruh's boss isn't keeping an eye on her (or on a really short leash), then he should have his station's license challenged. Remember, it's a privilege, not a right, to be a television station. Mr. Garwood would do well to remember the words of former Dade County Commissioner Beverly Phillips: "If you don't like the way we're running things, vote us out." And we did.

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