UPDATED at 7:00 pm, March 29: Two other Herald staffers — sports columnist Linda Robertson and movie critic Rene Rodriguez — were also slated to lose their jobs. But several sources tell me that Robertson will remain at the paper and write some sort of metro column. Rodriguez, I'm told, will become a writer for the business section. [Scroll to the end of this post for updated details on Robertson and Rodriguez.]
But the Herald's problems are not just on the news gathering side. After writing this post, I heard from no fewer than three friends who still subscribe to the paper. One is a retired Herald staffer. All three tell me that getting the paper delivered is a hit and miss proposition. Says one: "Of course I haven't had my paper delivered since March 7th.. I've had a range of 'managers' email me and take calls.. I'm about to give up and cancel it... shouldn't be this difficult to drop a paper on a doorstep."
In October 1998, after the Miami Herald decided to kill off Tropic, the paper's popular Sunday magazine, the New York Times began a story on the magazine's demise with this sentence: "In the most painful of a series of recent belt-tightening moves, The Miami Herald's top editors said yesterday that the newspaper's Sunday feature magazine, Tropic, would close before year's end."
In 2006, the Herald's parent company Knight Ridder, "after years of struggling to grow its readership, profits, and stock price...threw in the towel...[and] accepted an offer of $4.5 billion cash and stock from McClatchy (MNI), a newspaper publisher less than half Knight Ridder's size."
Almost 19 years after the death of Tropic, and 11 years after the sale of the Herald, they're no longer tightening the belt. Now they're chopping off body parts....something that's been going on for quite some time.
Miami New Times, April 9, 2008: Miami Herald Cutting Staff via Buyouts
Miami New Times, March 11, 2009: Miami Herald Cuts 175 Jobs, About 50 in Newsroom
This morning, in an email to the newsroom, Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch announced the paper was letting go two more long-time staffers: "In the next few days, we'll be saying goodbye to two important contributors to the Miami Herald, both gifted storytellers: [dance critic] Jordan Levin and [columnist] Ana Veciana Suarez."
After reading Hirsch's email, one veteran Herald staffer commented, "Of course, it’s what they didn’t say that’s most interesting."
For instance, the one thing Hirsch didn't mention in his email is that almost no managers or bosses are ever affected by these staff cuts.
But not all of those leaving the Herald, do so involuntarily. In January, Herald bosses announced that Audra Burch, one of the paper's most talented writers was leaving to join the New York Times.
And last December, Herald investigative reporter Michael Sallah left the paper to become an investigative reporter at Gannett in Washington DC. At the Herald, Sallah was part of a team that looked into irregularities at the Bal Harbour Police Department and government corruption in Opa Locka. Sallah and a team of Herald staffers were finalists for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for their work on the Bal Harbour series.
There are daily indications of the deep trouble now facing the Herald. The paper which once employed a staff of more than 30 photographers statewide, now has just 5 or 6. A quick check of this morning's "A" section of the paper shows zero staff-produced photographs.
But I did find this full-page ad.
The irony here of course is, that on the same day the Herald publishes a full page ad asking its readers to #SupportRealNews, the managing editor sends out an email announcing the layoffs of two more staffers.
From: Hirsch, Rick
Date: Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:07 PM
Subject: Linda Robertson taking on Miami Aggravations
To: MIA Newsroom
Linda Robertson, who has distinguished herself as a reporter and narrative writer in our Sports department for many years, is taking on a new beat.
We're calling it Miami Aggravations, a fast-moving daily beat that designed to demystify, explain and shine light on the aspects of South Florida life that perplex and puzzle all of us who live here. It can range from why DOT closes I-95 lanes when the big game is letting out from Dolphin Stadium to the backstory on expensive valet parking cannibalizing the best places you'd normally want to park.
We think this work will strike a nerve with our South Florida audience, driving interest and discussion about what we love and love to hate about living here. We think that Linda, who grew up in South Florida and has spent her journalism career reporting here, is especially well-suited to find the stories this beat demands.
But to do this well, Linda will need your help. She'll be soliciting ideas from the staff as well as from South Floridians at large as she digs in.
Linda will begin this new assignment on April 3, reporting to Jay Ducassi.
Rick and Mindy
Note to Linda Robertson: Here's an idea for your first column: Why can't the Miami Herald get papers delivered on time, AND ON A DAILY BASIS to its loyal subscribers???
From: Hirsch, Rick
Date: Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:08 PM
Subject: Rene Rodriguez to cover real estate
To: MIA Newsroom
Starting April 3, Rene Rodriguez will become our full-time real estate reporter on the business desk, filling the position that opened when Nick Nehamas moved to the investigative team.
Rene's a good match for this task, with a reporting background that began on the City Desk (writing obits and covering breaking police news), and has included, in addition to film, covering arts and the business of entertainment for the Business Desk. He's a smooth writer and a fast study.
In looking to fill this job, we wanted someone who reported aggressively and could deliver exclusive, news-breaking reporting on a beat that affects us all, from renter to homeowner to high-end condo gawker. We think Rene will give us the combination of enterprise and quick-hit coverage that enlightens readers and keeps them coming back for more.
The change in Rene's assignment obviously means that he will no longer be working as a film critic. That decision is one of several coverage shifts we've made to reflect what our audience is telling us about the news they value most. Rene has had a remarkable run as a critic, and there may be times when we'll call on his expertise and sourcing to inform our coverage of the movie and entertainment industry in South Florida.
Rene will be closing out some film related work next week before starting his new beat a week from Monday. He will report to Jane Wooldridge.
Rick and Mindy