When Janet Reno was forced to fly home to Miami last week to (unsuccessfully) mediate the surrender of pint-size video star Elian Gonzalez, the AG wasn't the only one inconvenienced. Police sealed off blocks around the Miami Beach home of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, where the meeting was held. And several media trucks paid big bucks to park at nearby St. John's on the Lake Methodist church. Trapped in the mess were 56 kids from the church's day-care center. Many of their parents were steamed. "Mainly I am annoyed at the church," comments parent Carolyn Finlayson. "But I also think it's ironic that one kid is creating trouble for so many others." Last time the Gonzalez family met at Sister Jeanne's, St. John's hired a security guard and posted a letter to parents stating leaders weren't responsible for the children's safety. Pastor Annette Jones, who won't name the price she charged the media masses, is none too happy. "We were closed off from 10:00 a.m. Wednesday until 3:00 a.m. the next day, so a lot of parents had trouble picking up their kids," she says. "It was kind of like a natural disaster, or a bomb being dropped on you."

Signs of belt-tightening at the Miami Herald? Or maybe just machinations of a new guy taking control? Assistant managing editor Mike Haggerty, a Herald veteran of 34 years who has filled about every position in the newsroom from sports editor to Sunday clean-up hitter, announced last week he is jumping ship to work as an FPL spokesman. Herald executive editor Marty Baron, anointed this past December, recently told Haggerty and another staffer they would have to take pay cuts or split, sources say. (Haggerty declined comment.) Part of the reason for Baron's action, interestingly enough, is Elian. The paper has spent tens of thousands of dollars covering the famous finger-pointer, including paying for hustling reporter Frenchie Robles to spend almost eight weeks in Washington, D.C., and Cuba. (Robles proved her mettle by so offending our friendly commies to the south that they escorted her to the avión.) The newspaper, which made a measly 20 percent profit in 1999, is under a mandate to reach 22 percent this year. Baron carefully chose his words recently when he denied Haggerty and three others were being chased out. "Not all of what you say is true," he offered.

At a press conference last Wednesday, Spring Football League official Todd Sharrin ran through a list of reasons why people will flock to watch the area's newest football team, the Miami Tropics, play at the Orange Bowl: Former Dolphin Jim "Crash" Jensen will be the head coach! Chico DeBarge will provide half-time entertainment! Chaka Khan will rock the postgame! Sharrin did not mention, however, that the new XFL -- featuring football in a cage, stupid names, and a free-for-all when it comes to roughing the passer -- plans to start up here soon. The XFL, which is backed by the very big bucks of NBC and the World Wrestling Federation, is almost certain to deflate the SFL's wobbly pigskin, many observers say. In a gaffe to end all gaffes, Sharrin virtually confirmed this. "If you watch a few of our games," Sharrin said, "I think you will agree that the success of the Tropics will be incomprehensible." No one corrected him.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse