Changing Times

For more than 80 years the Miami Times has been the voice of the black community, but fewer and fewer people are listening

That's certainly true, but there are other reasons. Anthony Georges-Pierre, a Haitian-American attorney with a downtown practice, says he used to pick up the paper regularly when he worked for City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, but now, in the private sector, he finds he does not. "I'll be honest, I don't really read it unless something big happens," he admits. "Six months ago was the last time I picked it up. I went to the convenience store in the Grove where they always had it, and they had only back issues, no current ones." Georges-Pierre asked the store owner why and was told the Times had stopped buying back unsold copies, thus the store would have to eat the cost if the issues didn't move. "So he stopped getting it," he continues. "My firm looked into advertising with them because a lot of our clients are blue collar with labor issues. But then when I talked to the guy where I get it, I thought, Well, if people aren't buying it, why advertise? I need the most bang for my buck."

Another explanation comes from Walter White, age 67, an ad sales rep with more than 30 years of experience. He currently works for the Coral Gables Gazette. In late 2003 he began working for the Miami Times, he says, because he thought he could do some good there. He lasted about six months. One of the problems he immediately ran into was Rachel Reeves meddling with his clients. He would sell an ad, and then Reeves, he claims, would ask him to call back the customer and raise the price. "She sent me back three and four times to raise the price of an ad I'd already sold," he recalls. "I was able to do it, but the client didn't come back."

Another problem: She would sometimes bypass White and go directly to his clients. "She called up one of my customers who'd followed me through three papers, and asked them why they weren't in the paper," he grouses. "'Did they not want to deal with black people?' [she complained.] You can't threaten people to make them advertise. My customer called me and said, 'Who is this lady?'"

The racial tension just under the glittery surface of 
paradise became 
evident during the 1980 riots sparked by the acquittal 
of Miami police in 
the beating death of black motorist Arthur McDuffie
MIAMI HERALD
The racial tension just under the glittery surface of paradise became evident during the 1980 riots sparked by the acquittal of Miami police in the beating death of black motorist Arthur McDuffie
MIAMI HERALD

Ultimately what drove White away from the paper, he says, was Reeves's alleged refusal to pay him his commission and her plans to cut his salary in half. This resulted in a standoff between the two in which White would dress for work, come in for five minutes, and then go home, judging he'd put in the amount of time for which she was paying him. "I came there because I felt I could help," he says. "The Miami Times is the oldest black paper in the South. I bet you her grandfather is spinning in his grave."

A number of ex-employees repeat similar stories of being cheated out of money when Reeves would arbitrarily change the rules by which she paid them. Candace Holloway was hired as a receptionist in August 2004. Within two months she was the front office coordinator. Shortly thereafter she began selling ads for the paper. At first things were okay, although she said customers would sometimes note the high turnover and complain about sloppy handling of their ads. Then, she claims, Reeves began taking money out of her paycheck, which wasn't terribly large to begin with because she was making about nine dollars per hour. ("And I was one of the highest-paid there," she notes). The reason, she was told, was if her customers were unhappy with the look of their ads, money would be subtracted from her pay. "If the customers dislike what they see, we have to pay it out of our own pocket," Holloway recites. "They took it right out of my check [even though] it's not my fault there's a problem."

Still Holloway kept working and outdid herself by selling $9000 worth of ads for a special insert for Black History Month. Before she could collect her commission, she got into an argument with a co-worker and was fired this past April. "[Reeves] said she was going to give me a bonus," she alleges. "It was supposed to be seven percent of [the sales]. I never got paid. I think that's why she fired me, so she wouldn't have to."

In 2000 Carmen Morris, a public relations executive who operates her own firm, sued the newspaper, claiming Rachel Reeves had refused to pay her more than $18,000 in fees when she promoted its 75th anniversary in 1998. Reeves fired her ten days before the contract expired, saying she'd failed to perform. "I did the work," Morris says now. "They didn't want to pay." Interestingly, Morris, who worked for the paper as a high school student, is still a supporter of the institution, if not the woman behind it. "It has such a potential," she says. "I respect Garth Reeves. I pray the Miami Times will find its way back to its original purpose."

Other complaints voiced by former employees include a period when Rachel Reeves demanded that everyone, including reporters, wear uniforms. The reporters in particular found this humiliating. If this seems like a crazy way to run a business, some speculate the root of it lies in Reeves's relationship with her father. It's almost as if she never grew beyond the hurt she felt at always being second to her brother in her father's eyes. By many accounts she is not an easygoing woman. People who know her have used the word mercurial when speaking of her; also the word bitch comes up often. She became a mother in 1989, to Garth Basil Reeves. In the early Nineties she suffered two mild strokes.

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