Radio Free Herald

Miami's Only Daily has taken delight in exposing the school board's foibles, and now the two could be business partners in WLRN-FM

That kind of thing made Wyatt a bit nervous. "NPR is known for its independent voice," she argues. "You have to wonder, with the Herald doing it all, it kind of narrows the viewpoint. This consolidating of all your media sources into one is a bad idea." On the other hand, WLRN doesn't have a real news department, and takes a good portion of its local fodder from the Herald anyway. "We don't really have resources to implement an independent news department that would cost a lot more than people here are willing to pony up," admits Malagodi. Wyatt maintains that she and fellow news reader Tracy Fields asked for more resources to produce independent local newscasts but were told there was no money for that. (Fields, an on-air jazz host, declined comment for this story.)

But veteran Miami journalist Ed Wasserman, a frequent critic of media consolidation, doesn't see an obvious downside in this case. The public-radio station would gain a local news team it couldn't otherwise afford while the Herald would get a platform to promote its news operation. "It's hard to find a lot of fault with that," he observes. "Where there's concern is when you have two perfectly good companies combining, and you end up reducing the number of reporters on the street and the number of voices. The only concern I'd have is: It would be nice to see more than just the journalism of the Herald represented. There are other local outfits out there." (Wasserman regularly contributes opinion pieces to the Herald.)

Richard Krinzman, immediate past chairman and current treasurer of Friends of WLRN, the fundraising arm of the station, says a Herald partnership could only improve the professionalism of the station's news department. While LaBonia won't discuss the details of his talks with the paper, he disputes Wyatt's assertion that she was fired in order to make room for the new partnership. "The reason she was let go is because her on-air performance was not up to what we feel are our quality standards," he explains. "I got a stack of complaints and I let it go too long. It didn't work out and we're going to the next level."

WLRN general manager John LaBonia won't discuss his negotiations with the Miami Herald
Steve Satterwhite
WLRN general manager John LaBonia won't discuss his negotiations with the Miami Herald

Why would the Miami Herald, already a corporate underwriter of WLRN, want to invest in a partnership with the station? Since publisher Ibargüen did not return repeated calls to his office, the Sun-Sentinel's Kevin Courtney will have to provide a possible rationale. Communications manager Courtney says what his paper gets out of its partnership with public-radio station WXEL is mainly brand identity, having its name put in front of people who might not normally read the paper. "But if they're interested in a story," he notes, "they may refer back to the newspaper, Website, or one of our other publishing products."

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