Letters from the Issue of March 3, 2005

Dance music, Stevie Wonder, pot-smoking teens, and Leona Helmsley

It's the Cat's Meow

Dance-music coverage was scarce as hen's teeth, but hope springs eternal when you take the bull by the horns and think outside the box -- so I'm tickled pink: Wow! Mosi Reeves managed to write an article about the dance-music scene here in Miami ("Building a Better Nightclub," February 24) without resorting to the usual clichés!

A great read overall. You need to do more articles of this nature.

Dan Vidal

Miami Beach

Unfair and Unbalanced? Not Surprising

But deceitful? That's alarming: Although I am not shocked that Forrest Norman took an unfair and unbalanced stance in his story on Lolita the killer whale ("Captives," February 17), I must admit that the rapid rate at which the journalistic integrity of New Times is shrinking is a little surprising and somewhat alarming.

When Miami Seaquarium was contacted with very little notice of the upcoming story, Mr. Norman was provided with responses to his long list of inquiries. His claim that the Seaquarium was stonewalling with regard to the health and well-being of Lolita is completely unfounded. Not only was he provided with responses to his questions, but we also provided him with information from an official report the U.S. Department of Agriculture released on the issue. (The USDA is the governing body that oversees the health and well-being of animals that reside at marine parks.)

Mr. Norman was provided with a quote taken from a recent report, issued in December 2004, by the USDA following an evaluation of Lolita's health in which the veterinarian and USDA marine mammal adviser who conducted the evaluation stated, "I would rate her teeth among the best-appearing teeth I have seen in a killer whale this age, wild or domestic. Her teeth are certainly better than some animals that are much younger than she." It would seem a reporter's ethics would dictate that this quote be a most important element in the story. However, Mr. Norman neither followed up on the USDA report nor included its findings in his story. This, which seemingly should have been the most important element, was excluded. We encourage readers to investigate this official report, which is a public record.

Instead Mr. Norman decided to use the "expert" opinion of someone who has never examined Lolita and who is not a veterinarian. In fact Mr. Norman took much of her response out of context to fit his story. For the record, Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for more than three decades and is in excellent medical condition. She continues to pass her regular health exams with flying colors. Miami Seaquarium takes great pride in our 50 years on the leading edge of marine animal care and husbandry. We give the highest-quality care possible to all our animals, and Lolita's continued longevity is a testament to that quality.

It is unfortunate New Times has allowed its quest for sensationalism to cloud its pursuit of journalistic integrity and credibility. Not only was Mr. Norman's story sloppily researched, but it was a clear sign of the publication's bias against reporting the truth to its readers.

Andrew Hertz, general manager

Miami Seaquarium

Forrest Norman replies: Mr. Hertz is simply wrong in asserting that I ignored a USDA report on Lolita's dental health; I quoted from it in the story. New Times's Freedom of Information Act request for that report is pending. Seaquarium, however, had a copy of the full USDA report. Select quotations from the report, along with partial answers to eight of ten simple questions, were provided by Seaquarium just 30 minutes before my deadline. Following publication, Seaquarium forwarded to New Times a copy of the full report.

Eloquent Young Journalist Lashes Out

Free weekly rebuked for reporting on pot-smoking teens: I am writing in response to two articles by Forrest Norman, "Captives" and "Messing with the Man" (February 17). I feel that the articles were of poor choice. Frankly in a metropolis like South Florida I would think you would be able to find a better cover story.

I don't think many readers care about if Lolita has a cavity or not. Also in relation to the article "Messing with the Man," I think you should stop wasting our time talking about some useless information. I know kids get high and do dumb things -- you don't need to tell me that. Yes, report a little story about the incident but don't go off into some investigation of where the local teenagers go to make out and smoke pot.

I think you should stop chasing kids and start reporting real news. As a journalism student at Miami-Dade College, I feel I could not only write a better story but actually making it interesting. I am happy for your sake that Street went out of press 'cause now your allowed to put whatever garbage you want and you know that the readers have to smell it.

Justin Azpiazu

Miami

Fabulous Publicist Earns Her Fee

Contrary to free weekly's report, Tony Kelly is Mr. Modest: I just read Mosi Reeves's story on reggae producer Tony Kelly ("Lord of the Dancehall," February 10) and there are a few clarifications that need to be made. Let me begin by saying this is not being done in anger, but rather to correct assumptions made about Tony, which are so far off.

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