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Last month I wrote a long post about the Herald’s Gossip Maven Extraordinaire; The Queen of Drivel and Snivel, Joan Fleischman and her unhealthy obsession with Miami’s TV judges. Seems like anytime any of them inhale or exhale it’s fodder for Joan’s increasingly ponderous column.

What a lot of people don’t know about Joan is that a good number of the people she writes about are her personal friends. And in journalism, that’s supposed to be a no-no!

This morning was no exception.

Joanie penned a 342 word item about her friend and former Herald executive Pat San Pedro who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is no picnic; my sister was diagnosed with it years ago and today is doing just fine.

The problem is that outside of the Herald no one in Miami really knows who Pat San Pedro is. If Joan wanted to let people know about Pat’s plight she could have just sent an e-mail to everyone in the newsroom.

Why Joan saw this as compelling reading for the Herald’s 300,000+ Sunday readers is beyond me. I’m guessing that there are hundreds if not thousands of South Florida women battling breast cancer. But they don’t get in Joan’s column because they’re not her friends.

I’m also guessing if you stopped 10 people on the street and asked them who Pat San Pedro is, about 10 of them would say “no.”

The real problem here is that Joan uses her column to write about her friends ad nauseam.

Actually Pat does have one other claim to fame.

In 2005, she and five of her female friends who called themselves the “Miami Bombshells,” wrote a book called “Dish & Tell: Life, Love, and Secrets.” The book was so bad it sold less than 5,000 copies.

New Times printed an excellent piece about the book and how the Herald shamelessly promoted and serialized it under the leadership of “Teflon Tom” Fiedler.

Pat and another of the book’s author’s were former Herald execs.

Newsroom staffers were incensed at the time at what they saw as preferential treatment given the book written by “The Bombshells.” So incensed that they stormed Tom’s office demanding an explanation as to why the Herald was promoting a book that bore a stronger resemblance to garbage than it did literature.

Tom later admitted to New Times that the book was “pretty lousy.”

But that didn’t stop Joan from mentioning the book twice in her piece this morning. That’s two mentions of a book that was a flop and that has an Amazon.com sales rank of about 754,000!

Memo to Joan: Can we have a moratorium on items about your friends? I’d say that it starts now and continues until you retire!

Actually Joan, if the “Bombshell” authors are really your friends you’d probably be doing them a big favor if you never mentioned this book again!

Disclaimer: title of this post inspired by the popular TheStreet.com online feature.

An American military supercomputer, assembled from components originally designed for video game machines, has reached a long-sought-after computing milestone by processing more than 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

To put the performance of the machine in perspective, Thomas P. D’Agostino, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said that if all six billion people on earth used hand calculators and performed calculations 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner can in one day.


UPDATED Sunday morning
This weekend, while tens of thousands of South Floridians are out enjoying the beautiful weather, there’s a group of people who are slowly coming to grips with the depressing reality that by this time next week they might be unemployed.

Rumors of impending layoffs at the Miami Herald have been circulating for weeks producing much the same effect on the psyche of those who work there as an approaching category 5 storm in the Caribbean; anxiety, fear, apprehension and in some cases panic.

Those in the know say that the word of firings could come as early as the first part of the week.

Chuck Strouse of Miami New Times wrote yesterday that McClatchy wants a reduction of 10 to 15% of the Herald’s workforce. How many newsroom employees will be affected remains to be seen.

My sources tell me that McClatchy is seeking a 10 to 15% reduction at all of their papers.

As I’ve written before, this is the stark reality for the foreseeable future of newspapers.

Shrinking revenues and declining circulation bases are just two of the reasons for newspapers’ woes.

How long will the Herald, and newspapers in general, be able to survive under these conditions? Experts disagree.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer gives all print media 10 years.

Russ Stanton, editor of the LA Times is more optimistic and says the print edition of his paper will be around for another 35 years.

As far as the Herald’s concerned, I’m no expert, but with their circulation declining in the range of 10% every six months, I’d be very surprised if the print edition will still be viable in five years.

Other papers are losing circulation but not nearly as drastic as those numbers. Yet.

Who’s to blame for the predicament that newspapers are in?

The Internet is one reason. It’s just quicker and more practical to get news online these days.

And news consumers’ needs and tastes have changed. However, except for updated graphics and snappier layouts, the content newspapers offer today is essentially the same as it was almost 45 years ago when this copy of the Herald was printed.
The Internet is also partly responsible for newspapers’ loss of advertising revenue.

Want to place a classified ad in the paper? It’ll cost you. Want to place an ad on a site like Craigslist? No problem and no charge!

Veteran Miami journalist Michael Putney tried to wrap his brain around the problem this week in his Herald column.

Michael’s main point was that we can’t afford to lose newspapers; we need newspapers to keep an eye on politicians and report on government waste and misdeeds.

(This morning’s report on waste and mismangement within Miami-Dade’s Transit System is an example of what happens when the Herald gets it right.)

He also pointed out that newspapers have shot themselves in the foot by giving away content online which he says is “one reason why Herald and Sun-Sentinel circulation are down. Why pay for something you can get free?”

Excellent points to be sure, but he didn’t address why the Herald in particular is losing subscribers in numbers far higher than other newspapers. I have my own thoughts on this that I’ll share at another time.

In an e-mail to me Michael expanded a bit on some of his points:

“Hey [Bill]- Yes, you’re right that newspapers have largely done themselves in by failing to understand the zeitgeist of the digital revolution. They made so much money for so long doing it the same way they just couldn’t shake themselves out of their old habits. Now, the marketplace and the Internet have done it for them. Okay, dawg, that’s it. MP”

So perhaps with the news that’s sure to come next week, many at the Herald will finally begin to “shake themselves out of their old habits.”

But for others, sadly, it’s going to be too late.

Happy snaps!

Just a few pics that I found surfing the web or that made their way to my inbox and made me smile.

Dustin Hoffman gets cozy with the paparazzi in Cannes during a photo op. The winner here is the guy who didn’t get in the picture but instead opted to take the picture! All those other guys? They’re not doing their job!
Found this impressive picture on Time.com: Sunday, May 18, 2008, Nearly 75,000 spectators jam into Waterfront Park to see Barack Obama speak at a campaign rally in Portland, Oregon.A friend sent this to me with the following note: This is called “stealing off the grid.” It’s in India and it’s also where you call for tech support when you have a computer problem.

Hard times

The hardest ones are the old ladies.

ALBERT FERNANDEZ –
Miami-Dade police officer who carries out evictions in the county as quoted in a story in today’s NY Times.

-from TIME.com

If you read the Miami Herald online you know that there’s one perk you don’t get in the print edition. That’s the comment section.

Many times the comments left by readers are more informative and certainly more entertaining than the actual story.

A story this morning about a robbery at dollar store in NW Miami contained a description of the perp. Here’s a screen capture of the comment that starts out by quoting that description.Click to enlarge