Help Team Bores Us To Tears (Or Is It Our Contacts?)
No sense in wasting time to get to the heart of media news in South Florida today: The Sun-Sentinel had one of the worst front pages in modern recorded history.
In its terribly regrettable three-story format -- with assorted, miscellaneous garbage cluttering a third of the page -- the editors made the heinous choice to include a story headlined: "How well do you care for your contact lenses?"
Then reporter Bob Lamendola did a yeoman's job of trying to make this dull, dull subject (and I'm one of the 15 percent or so that actually wear the damn things) seem pertinent, citing "new" studies and a small "outbreak" of eye fungus among wearers and such. This wasn't LaMendola's fault; it was yet another "Help Team" fiasco, right up there with breaking front-page report about killer pool drains.
The story that led the page may have been even worse. It was another one of those "Your Doom Is Still Imminent" stories about the hurricane season. Headlined "Don't lower your guard," Josh Frank's story was absolutely news-free. The lede:
"Don't be deceived.
This year's hurricane season may seem slow, but it's decidedly average."
Do tell! Nothing like an average weather story to anchor an entire newspaper. How absolutely pathetic -- and again, it's not the reporter's fault. Frank was clearly doing what he was told. I have worked at newspapers for many years and have yet to hear a reporter pitch a weather story.
Then there was David Fleshler's story about the hopes of cleaning up a tire reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. It's an interesting tale of stupidity and a good read. Thousands of boaters threw tires into the water back in the 1970s with hopes of building a fishing paradise. Instead, well, they built a tire dump on the ocean floor. The things moved with the surf and tore up whatever vegetation was already there. Now we're talking about a massive and costly effort to remove those tires.
It's good stuff. But it was supposed to be there to break up harder, more pressing news. You know, like maybe an article about the start of the involuntary call-up of Marines for active duty in Iraq (Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post) or something on the Crist-Gallagher debate (Post). Instead Fleshler's story was the hardest thing on the page.
-- Speaking of the Crist-Gallagher debate, the coverage from the Big Three was pretty much the same. The lede on the Miami Herald story, however, was suspect:
"TAMPA - If name-dropping determined who won Tuesday's debate between the Republican candidates for governor, Tom Gallagher and Charlie Crist battled to a draw."
Okay, so both candidates were dropping names? No. Crist dropped names like Connie Mack, Ronald Reagan, and Mel Martinez. Gallagher called names like "liberal." I see what reporters Beth Reinhard and Gary Fineout were going for, but it's just not right. Editors shouldn't have let it get through. They could have easily changed it to something like, "In a battle of name-calling versus name-dropping, Tom Gallagher and Charlie Crist fought to a draw in the Repubican debate for governor last night."
Okay, that's not so great, but neither is the original. And the original is fatally flawed.
What struck me about last night's debate wasn't so much what was said -- that was predictable. It was Gallagher's face. At times, he would smile nervously and, as God as my witness, he turned into The Joker. He's got that big loose mouth that turns up at the edges and it can just be eerie. I looked for a photograph on the Web that illustrated it and the photo above was the closest thing I could find. Doesn't do it justice though.
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