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

Letters from the Issue of September 12, 2002

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.

Jilda Unruh's reputation is scarred in Miami. She needs to move on and start over in a new venue, a place where people haven't become annoyed with the obsessive perversity she calls "news-ertainment journalism." Thanks to Rebecca Wakefield for putting a revealing light on a bad seed in her own profession.

Dr. Thaddeus Washington

Miami Beach

Jilda: I'll Tell You Who's Getting Stiffed

It sure ain't that pitbull in pumps: When I saw the cartoon accompanying Rebecca Wakefield's article (a rabid-looking puppy dog in high heels), I just had to think back to what we did with 'em on the farm after they done chewed up Daddy's trouser leg. We put 'em out of our misery, of course.

How about some real corruption stories? Try chasing down some of the government bureaucrats who affect an entire farming industry down here, not a bunch a hypocritical school board members who don't give a rat's you-know-what about students who don't know how to read or write so they might get out of the fields and find a better job.

Someone ought to take these reporters out of their cushy, air-conditioned offices and come on down to the real world. It's Jilda Unruh who is stiffing the people.

Billy Joe Guthrie


Jilda: Routine Surgical Procedure Recommended

After which she'll be good tabloid fodder: It's about time someone neutered this bitch! Jilda Unruh has gotten away with her little self-righteous campaign that seems to besmirch her station's reputation while damaging our children's future in her quest for ratings. We have long enjoyed watching Dwight and Kristie, but lately we turn to another station for something other than the yellow journalism Channel 10 has become known for.

Other periodicals have referred to Ms. Unruh as the "Geraldo Rivera of the school district." We all know what happened to him! Who? Where is he? Exactly!

Hey, Channel 10, take a hint and cut your losses! Perhaps Ms. Unruh will consider a stint on National Enquirer television. I hear they're hiring.

Name Withheld by Request


Jilda: She's Just the Messenger

Excuse me, but she does deserve our support: Jilda Unruh should be encouraged to do what she is doing. If it weren't for reporters like her, the public wouldn't have a clue as to the extent of the corruption within the United Teachers of Dade and the Miami-Dade County school board.

Orin Opperman

Key West

Arty Party

The art exhibit as circus is fun, but don't be fooled by what you see: Regarding Anne Tschida's article "Artburst" (August 29), what Robert Chambers does is needed, unfortunately. Art can be difficult to appreciate, but everyone understands entertainment and parties. Chambers's talent as a curator is to throw big, entertaining parties with art in them. So when something like "globe>miami>island" happens, people don't have much to say about the work in it but everyone is thrilled about the attendance at the opening reception. There is an energy and excitement in the air that wasn't there before. This is better than lethargy and boredom, so one has to conclude that the scene is improving.

The party approach to exhibitions benefits art that most resembles entertainment -- art with simple messages, in-your-face attitude, bright colors, motors, movement, flashing lights, noisemakers, quirky styling, shock value, enigmatic posturing, and ambitions limited to amusement or titillation. Thus it tends to be lightweight, if not downright inane. The problem is that art at its best is not mere entertainment, just as it is not mere decoration for the bare patch of wall over your sofa.

Eventually the buzzing atmosphere that Chambers helps to generate will also benefit good, lasting art. If Miami's art world is like a balloon, that atmosphere is the hot air that will lift it. But for the time being, a lot of what art lovers are seeing in this town is hot air.

Franklin Einspruch


Music is Our Cultural Cuisinart

And Celeste needs to be part of the mix: I normally read New Times on Friday prior to my weekend activities, so when I saw Celeste Fraser Delgado's recent "Shake" column ("How Well Have You Learned the Universal Language?" August 29), I was intrigued and a little disturbed by the tone of her writing regarding the musicians and performers at Music Fest Miami. She made light of the concept of bringing together musicians who were not familiar with the music and history of their stagemates for this event.

True musicians of all forms appreciate the opportunity to see, hear, and perform with others they may not be familiar with. It is the lifeblood of music as a whole. But maybe Ms. Delgado doesn't know anything about music. The evolution of music includes the merging of different styles and genres; it's what keeps music fresh and new. Did you hear Al Jarreau perform a South African-inspired tune during his set at Bayfront Park? Did you notice Zin, the Haitian group, perform soca-like material? Music is what it's about, not musicians' specific knowledge.

Ms. Delgado should spend time appreciating the music and recognize that Music Fest Miami is something this community benefits from and desperately needs. The crossing of cultures in Miami is what can and will make this a special place.

New Times should have a more broad-minded writer cover next year's Music Fest Miami and the Community Experience Tours, which are mini-cultural fairs throughout Miami-Dade County. Next year cover the public schools that Music Fest Miami artists visit on Thursday and Friday prior to the concerts. Next year let the public know that for an affordable and unbeatable $40 they can attend both the "Mayor's Ball" (inappropriately named) and the festival's outdoor concert.

Maybe Ms. Delgado's "Shake" refers to the drink, not the rattle and the roll!

Oscar J. Braynon

North Miami-Dade

Fear & Loathing in Modern America

We were rebels once, and young: John Lombardi's "Smiling Through the Apocalypse" piece was a gem ("High Anxiety," August 22). I worked for Rolling Stone in the early Seventies, specifically with Hunter Thompson and briefly for Jann Wenner until I ended up a victim of John Walsh's housecleaning.

I recently started rereading Todd Gitlin's The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage for the sole purpose of trying to recapture the feeling we all had then, the feeling of connecting with others of like mind, that it was actually possible to effect change. In today's world such a possibility seems not to exist at all. As horrible as all the "news" fodder is these days, more despairing still is the realization that most people simply don't give a flying fuck, on any front, and certainly have no interest in taking a stance grounded in any kind of personal action or effort. Those few who do speak out (in print) are rendered essentially ineffective by virtue of the enormity of the machine in conjunction with a population of Stepford citizens.

I feel abysmal sadness over what Lombardi has written but acknowledge a tiny smile of hope that he writes as he does. Thanks for the reconnect.

Chris Hoffman

Hamilton, New York

Fear & Loathing at the Literary Table

Hunter Thompson, novelist? John Lombardi's article on Hunter Thompson brought back a few memories. I'll share one. I wrote Where the Buffalo Roam and hung out with Hunter for a year or so. Some bizarre shit went down -- amid some rather poignant moments: Hunter, spaced on booze and coke (on an airplane flying down to San Diego to give a "lecture"), reciting whole paragraphs of prose from the novel The Sergeant by Dennis Murphy -- a real crazy motherfucker and brother of new-age guru Michael Murphy -- and a friend of Hunter's from Big Sur.

I saw then how important writing fiction was to Hunter. I think he really wanted to be a novelist and sit at the big table with Hemingway, et cetera.

John Kaye

Los Angeles

Fear & Loathing Right Here and Now

Lombardi? He's no DeFede: This guy Lombardi. He's replacing DeFede? Geez, is he full of himself or what? Makes no sense, talks about nonsense. He writes awkward, "ain't I hot shit" stuff that is utterly meaningless to anyone other than his war-story good buddy Harris Meyer and him. Real tripe. Keep it up. You'll drive all your readers to the Herald.

The only Lombardi I thought worth a damn coached the Packers.

Jason Mobridge

West Palm Beach


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