1 Herald Plaza

Just there, near the end, the fans could tell he was getting restless. Could tell that the expanse of his prose was pushing at the margins of the columns. Shoving, really. So after four years of florid flutterings and sappy syntax, the move on to greener pastures comes as no great surprise. And yet we are saddened. Well, maybe not saddened. Relieved is more like it.

Sportswriter S.L. Price, the Herald's own inchoate F. Scott Fitzgerald, has taken a job with Sports Illustrated, where he will write enterprise stories and cover college football and professional tennis. This past Tuesday, February 22, was his last day with the paper. "I expected it to be much more of a snake pit when I came in," says 32-year-old Price, who landed in Miami from the Sacramento Bee in May 1990. "But actually, the people were quite human."

Oh sure, there were the usual catty rumors when he clambered aboard. He was, for a considerable time, nicknamed "High Price" around the office, a tribute to his $60,000-plus salary, as well as an expense account that carried him to virtually every major overseas sporting event, including the Summer Olympics and the World Cup.

His knack for rendering sports as melodrama will be missed by the paper's otherwise cleat-headed sports section. Price will, however, remain based in Miami, where his wife, Fran Brennan, works as a Herald "Neighbors" reporter. "My entire time at the Herald was a great thing," says Price, the gracious golden boy. "But Sports Illustrated is a whole different league in terms of the resources."

The memo, posted around 1 Herald Plaza and dated Friday, February 18, read as follows: "For the last several days a rumor has circulated regarding an alleged incident involving hygiene and the Herald cafeteria.

"Jacqui Marshall [of human resources], her staff, and I have investigated the rumor. We've talked to people from the Herald, El Nuevo Herald, and Total Food Service. We can find nothing whatsoever to confirm it.

"The Herald and Total Food Service insist upon a high standard of hygiene in the cafeteria and perform audits to ensure it." The note was signed by erald general manager Joe Natoli.

Though you'd never know it from Natoli's cryptic prose, the alleged "hygiene problem" involved rampant rumors that an on-duty cafeteria worker had been caught fornicating with a dead chicken. A second version of the story had the employee perfecting his own recipe for jerked chicken by masturbating over two birds.

While management has quelled the controversy (Chickengate!) by denying the tale, sources at the paper insist the accused worker has not been seen since the rumors began.

No question it was a big news event, especially for Miami: Castro's daughter defects! The Herald's December 23 coverage of Alina Fernandez Revuelta's dramatic escape was played at the top of the front page. Reporters Alfonso Chardy and Andres Oppenheimer shared the byline.

The story was a natural for Chardy, who regularly covers Cuban-exile affairs for the paper. Oppenheimer, however, is more commonly known as the Herald's roving foreign correspondent and columnist A from Venezuela to Colombia to Mexico, even to Haiti in a pinch. But Oppenheimer is also author of a book about Cuba. His 1992 portrait of the tottering island regime, optimistically titled Castro's Final Hour, included quotations from Fernandez gathered during a series of interviews Oppenheimer conducted in 1991.

Some of those quotations were repeated in the Chardy/Oppenheimer news story about Fernandez's defection, and were attributed to Castro's Final Hour. Nice plug, especially considering that it appeared in a breaking news story. But in a contributor's credit at the end of the article, Oppenheimer did even better: "Herald staff writer Andres Oppenheimer is the author of Castro's Final Hour, published by Simon & Schuster in 1992."

In one of those remarkable coincidences of excellent timing, the paperback version of Oppenheimer's book had been received by local bookstores only five weeks earlier.

Readers of Miami's Only Daily often find themselves arguing over the paper's most entertaining feature. Some love the controversial "Names in the News" column, others trill to Edwin Pope's exciting "Postcards from Wimbledon." The true aficionado, however, knows that the best read can be found buried inside the "Local" section, under the title "Setting the Record Straight."

Here the humble and conscientious staff at 1 Herald Plaza are afforded the periodic opportunity to correct their own mistakes.

This past December 30 an item ran as follows: "An article on page 4B of Wednesday's Local News section about an investigation of a small plane crash misidentified the pilot. He is attorney Stuart Goldstein, not Stuart Grossman." Whoops!

This correction, exhaustive as it sounds, left out a few choice details. First, the plane crash-landed on South Dixie Highway, hitting a tree and two cars. Second, though the erroneous article carried no byline, the reporter who wrote it spoke at length with Stuart Goldstein (the actual pilot) before misidentifying Grossman as the pilot. Third, Grossman is one of Miami's most prominent personal injury attorneys.

"Can you imagine the embarrassment?" cries Grossman, a member of the Florida Bar's Board of Governors. "My stock-in- trade is suing on behalf of people who have suffered due to others' negligence." Grossman says he was on his boat vacationing in Islamorada when his secretary called to read him the report. Midway through he dropped the phone in disbelief. He has since endured a rash of calls, mostly from friends and acquaintances. "They all want to know if I'm all right," says Grossman. "I tell them, 'Of course I'm all right! You know goddamn well I don't fly a plane.'" The calls got so out of hand that Grossman contacted Herald publisher Dave Lawrence, who made sure a brief letter to the editor by Grossman was published. Still, the calls continue. "I got one two days ago," Grossman sighs.

"1 Herald Plaza" is accepting all tips, rumors, internal memos, confidential documents, etc. Anonymity guaranteed! Call the editors or a staff writer at 372-0004. Fax: 372-3446.