The essence of the Florida Keys, as regularly conveyed in the sports pages of the Herald, consists of perpetual leisure and fun. It's all about fishermen having the times of their lives, splendid international sailboat races, and gripping offshore powerboat duels. Much of the credit for this alluring image of the Keys as a sportsman's paradise goes to freelance writer Andy Newman.
For nearly four years Newman has faithfully provided Herald readers with dispatches from Key Largo to Key West, despite having to endure a confusing variety of bylines: "Andy Newman, Special to The Herald," "Andy Newman, Herald Sports Writer," "Andy Newman, Herald Writer," and often simply "Andy Newman." But his humble status at the bottom of the Herald food chain hasn't dampened Newman's spirit A or his productivity. Since 1990 the paper has published close to 70 of his contributions.
Newman's specialty is the lean, fact-packed sports roundup, featuring winners of sporting competitions ranging from fishing tourneys to boating races. But occasionally his editors turn him loose, and the poet emerges. One memorable example: An August 28, 1992, heart-warmer about a couple who, after learning that their newborn daughter suffered from cystic fibrosis, established an Islamorada celebrity fishing tournament to raise money to fight the disease. Baseball great Ted Williams lent his good name to the debut event, and it's been a roaring success ever since.
In a series of stories this year, Newman captured the drama and adventure of transatlantic yacht racing, but with a twist: he concentrated on a boat crewed entirely by women. The skipper, who hails from Key West, is now preparing for the ultimate challenge -- he Whitbread Round the World race, which begins next week. In a July article noting the skipper's tireless efforts to finance her odyssey, Newman found room to mention this: "In June she received a $200,000 commitment from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the agency responsible for promoting the Keys."
Selfless philanthropists, talented and daring women, beneficent bureaucracies -- obviously there's more to the Keys than sloppy drunks at Sloppy Joe's. Newman's eye for compelling stories proves that. It's the sort of upbeat publicity money can't buy.
Wrong. Money has bought it. Unbeknownst to guileless readers of the Herald's sports section, Andy Newman is being paid to promote the Keys, though not by the Herald. As vice president of his father's Miami-based public relations firm, Stuart Newman Associates, he handles the $306,000 annual PR budget for none other than the aforementioned Monroe County Tourist Development Council. His job: to generate as much positive media coverage of the Keys as possible.
The firm has had the tourist council account for nearly thirteen years, long enough for Andy Newman himself to become something of a superspokesman for the Keys -- in the Herald's own pages. For example, a May 13, 1993, article describes him as the man "who beats the publicity drums for the Monroe County Tourist Development Council." The story continues with a nod and a wink: "'If Andy Newman is catching tarpon, you know they are thick as fleas,' joked a dockside old-timer."
Herald executive sports editor Paul Anger admits he discovered only this past week that Newman shills for the Keys tourist council: "I think there is a conflict and I think that since we are now aware of it, we're going to be careful about what Andy writes for us in the future, if he writes for us in the future. But what he's done isn't a heinous crime."
And as everyone knows, crime doesn't pay, at least not at the Herald. Despite his steady supply of copy, Newman has never been paid by the paper. "I'm not happy that he wasn't paid for what he's done," Anger says. "We certainly pay for everything that is freelance." Rectifying that error won't be so difficult, though. This past week Newman submitted an invoice for his entire Herald oeuvre.
Anger says he hasn't figured out how much the the paper owes Newman, but it certainly won't compare to the $179,951 the Monroe tourist council is shelling out to Stuart Newman Associates this fiscal year for spreading the good news about the Keys.
Oh, to be young and McAlternative. The thrill of objectifying yourself for aging white men. The chill of targeting new market segments. The buzz of writing long, virtually unreadable memos.
Mark Deichmiller, a 29-year-old copy editor at the Tallahassee Democrat, knows them all. In mid-August Deichmiller was one of 22 handpicked Knight-Ridder, Inc., employees who attended the first KRI "Twentysomething Think Tank" in Miami Beach. Upon his return from "four days of intense brainstorming" at the Seville Hotel on Collins Avenue, he couldn't resist the urge to compose a four-page memo to newsroom colleagues in which he presented "ways KRI can attract and maintain young-adult information consumers," as he so funkily put it.
Bursting with perceptive generalizations ("We don't like boomers") and revelatory statistics ("There are now 46 million Americans from the ages of 18 to 29"), Deichmiller's missive presents a formula for KRI's 29 dailies to lure younger readers, which might be summarized as: Quit being so stuffy. "As a general philosophical framework, the above [pointers] have the capacity for re-creating and reinvigorating newspapers to bring them to young people and bring young people to them," he eloquently writes. "How those concepts are applied, it was made apparent, would be up to the individual newspaper, but the work of gaining the conceptual parameters of the group discussed has now, with the think tank, begun."
Democrat executive editor Lou Heldman did not attend the Miami Beach conclave, but Deichmiller's memo apparently was such an inspiration that two weeks ago Heldman devoted his entire Sunday column to smooching the collective tush of Generation X. "The Democrat can become a lot more relevant. We're listening to our own younger staffers and we'd also like to hear from our Generation X readers," the former Miami Herald editor gushed.
What Heldman failed to disclose is that the Democrat is set to debut a new weekly McAlternative called Substance, a publication both conceived and planned in the fuddy-duddy Democrat newsroom and edited by wordsmith Deichmiller.
Heldman says he didn't mention Substance because the tabloid is far from being a reality. "I didn't talk about it because nothing's happened on it, really," he explains. "It's just something to think about."
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That's news to Deichmiller, the new Substance editor. He says Democrat staffers have been planning the tabloid for eighteen months -- working long hours, in fact, in the Democrat newsroom. "The prototype issue is slated for release at the end of September," he reports. "If all goes well with focus groups, we hope to be up and running in five weeks."
Deichmiller says Tallahassee was the natural choice for a McAlternative, owing to its 50,000 college students, but that other KRI dailies are sure to follow suit. "We're the first ones out of the blocks because of our own demographic peculiarities," he notes. "But I feel fairly certain that each product will be tailored to its particular market. Knight-Ridder is deeply committed to capturing a younger market. Our readership is aging, and something's got to change or we're going to bury our last subscribers in about 30 years."
And what can we expect from KRI's presumptuously titled weekly? Deichmiller doesn't want to discuss content specifically, but he promises plenty of "hard news" and "in-depth political and social commentary." He says he's been combing a stack of alternative weeklies for ideas. "We also want to try to distance ourselves as much as possible from the Democrat," he stresses, adding that he plans to hire a "totally independent staff" -- once there's "a corporate payroll structure in place.