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By Ryan Pfeffer
Jose can you see yourself?
The brand-spanking-new column in the Sun-Sentinel by Jose Lambiet is yet another attempt to dumb down the paper by adding glossy amusements.
Editor Earl Maucker appears to agree. In his own Sunday promotional column he wrote, "If you think of the newspaper as a daily variety show, then its columnists are the headline acts." Now that's infotainment!
This newest sideshow, however, deserves a closer inspection than the impeccably dressed and coiffured Maucker would give it. Its first act flopped.
Jose's (pronounced Joe-say, and don't forget the accent!) resume on the paper's Web page tells us he came from the New York tabloid Daily News, and, with refreshing candor, the Sun-Sentinel identifies him as their new "gossip columnist." In this age of concern over blurring the line between news and entertainment (not to mention the recent spate of plagiarism), most daily newspapers hesitate to use the G word.
Lambiet's column, imaginatively called "The Insider," intends to deliver "the behind the scenes of the day-to-day dealings of local leaders," according to Maucker. Let us give you some real "behind the scenes" at the Sun-Sentinel and concurrently show Jose how to dish the dirt. After all, Undercurrents was here first.
In his maiden effort, Lambiet went after WSVN-TV (Channel 7)'s Rick Sanchez. Now, we think Rick is the funniest anchor on a supposed news show, but he didn't deserve the slam Jose gave him for asking a florist for a discount. Jose implied that Rick was using his lofty media position to weasel a reduced rate on flowers for some party. Hardly an expose by Jose, but it allowed a swipe at an easy and recognizable target. And after all, a reputable journalist shouldn't use his position to get discounts.
Maybe "The Insider" should have looked inside his own paper for examples of this ethical lapse in order to broaden his story. Maybe he should have told readers that Sun-Sentinel reporters and editors get discounts at a growing number of retailers, and yes, even florists. Maybe he should have pointed out that one Fort Lauderdale florist will give Jose a 10 percent discount just because he works for the Sun-Sentinel.
The problem: That discount is actually a gift and could color his judgment. What if Jose writes about one of the many gyms, ballet companies, car repair shops, or other businesses that offer him discounts?
"It's stupid," Lambiet replied when questioned about the discount. "It's a corporate thing. I'm not going to ask for it, I get paid well enough." What about other editorial employees who do get it? "That's their business." The well-paid columnist then offered to take Sanchez out to lunch (presumably at a nondiscount restaurant), where he'd pay and leave a sizable tip.
We know this discount business will be a troubling conundrum for the paper and certainly lead to a Maucker column next week. After all, in his hype of the gossip column, Maucker claimed that the supposedly high level of integrity found in the rest of the paper would apply to the new column as well.
Maybe columnists and editors who live in 11-story glass houses should occasionally peer inside.
Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.