By Michael E. Miller
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It's no secret that the Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post, embroiled in a nasty newspaper war for readers in Palm Beach County, share a crush on the Scripps Research Institute, the sprawling medical research facility under construction on sensitive swampland in western Palm Beach County. A Posteditorial once proclaimed that Scripps would have an impact on the Sunshine State comparable to "Henry Flagler's railroad, air conditioning, the Kennedy Space Center, and Disney World." On their websites, both newspapers offer separate sections devoted strictly to news about Scripps, which is destined to suck up $700 million in public money while degrading a prime swath of the Everglades.
So, yes, the Sun-Sentinel and the Post are both clearly in bed with Scripps. But only one is leaving money on the dresser each morning.
In an effort to raise money for research projects, Scripps recently created the Scripps Corporate Club. Members pay $5,000 per year for the opportunity to host luncheons and hobnob with the top bosses at Scripps.
"It's not really a club. It's a euphemism for business partners," says Will Ray, Scripps vice president of external affairs. "What members might get is a relationship with a Scripps scientist or manager."
Of the current 25 Scripps Corporate Club members getting special relationships with scientists and managers, the Sun-Sentinel is the only newspaper. What that means, in this battered tube's view, is that a news organization with an obligation to report aggressively on Scripps is now among the facility's boosters. Doesn't that compromise the Sun-Sentinel's objectivity or, at least, its willingness to ask tough questions? The newspaper's spokesman, Kevin Courtney, was as tightlipped about the deal as a john cruising a dark street.
"I'm going to decline participation in the article," Courtney told the 'Pipe, then repeated that exact line.
Asked about the Sun-Sentinel's new role as a Scripps fundraiser, PostPublisher Tom Giuffrida remains diplomatic: "I think the marketing opportunities offered by Scripps are very important to the Sun-Sentinel. And I'll leave it at that."
Marketing opportunities. That must be one of those newfangled courses they teach in journalism schools nowadays.
Eek! My Figleaf Is Crooked
New Times freelance art reviewer Alexia Davis recently raved about a photography exhibit titled "Paradise" at Chromatek Imaging, a tiny gallery attached to a print lab on Powerline Road in Fort Lauderdale. The photos by Suzanne Scherer and Pavel Ouperov incorporate "dramatically lit nudes and mysterious landscapes," reviewer Davis wrote in the New Times Artbeat section, and they exude an "ethereal quality."
God knows, that's a slice o' heaven Tailpipe sometimes fantasizes about. But alas, nirvana has slipped away from Chromatek. Actually, it was tossed out on its ear. The day after the opening night, the gallery's owner, Allen Evans, shrouded most of the photos with brown paper; later, he removed them from the walls. "We were shocked and surprised," says Scherer, who didn't learn of the removal until days afterward. The curator/technician at Chromatek told Scherer that Evans had referred to "family values" as he yanked the photos.
"There's nothing explicit in them," Scherer says. "The nude figures blend into the photos; they're just a small part of them." Indeed, you'd see more skin on a typical Lauderdale beach bather. Scherer and Ouperov have made numerous attempts to talk to Evans, they say, but he's refused to do so. (He didn't call back the 'Pipe either.) It's not like Evans walked into this cauldron of sin with his eyes closed. "We were invited to do that show by the lab!" Scherer says.
Create Your Own Arena
On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with a newspaper taking the initiative in bringing creative ideas to the public-service table, as New Times did recently when it proposed a combination new Marlins stadium and hurricane shelter to be named FEMArena. All right, some of our would-be arena elements were a little radical, like having fans sit on seats that double as toilets and stocking the site with flotation devices that could easily be converted to body bags.
But given recent meteorological developments, it ain't just an off-the-wall whim. In fact, Tailpipe is proud to note, allegedly serious public servants already seem to have taken up the idea. The mayor and city manager of Weston recently offered a similar scheme to the Marlins and Gov. Jeb Bush. It looked like this newspaper was finally getting the respect it deserves out there on the edge of the Everglades.
Tailpipe called Mayor Eric Hersh and tried to nudge a little recognition from him for being first with a good idea. Hersh had, of course, seen the September 15 issue of New Times, no?
Hersh: I hadn't read it.
Hersh: No. [He warms a bit.] I hadn't thought about utilizing FEMA money. I think what is very doable in the state is to provide tax relief dollars... [several minutes of technical financial jargon that left this outlet bewildered]. If there's federal money for it, all the better.
Tailpipe: Would you consider promoting any of our ideas? One of them was to make a larger bullpen and actually have a bull ready for roasting to feed the hungry people.