Nobody's ever accused former Miami Herald reporter and columnist Ron Ishoy of being a particularly hard-hitting journalist. His Sunday column, "Ron Ishoy's People," provided weekly evidence that he was much more a cheerleader than an impact player. His move this past week to become the chief flack at the Broward County State Attorney's Office will suit him well.
A recent Ishoy letter to county commissioner Ilene Lieberman -- written when Ishoy was still a "reporter" -- shows how much of an unethical journalist Ishoy had become.
The verification began on October 12, when the Herald ran Ishoy's story about child drownings. In it Ishoy quoted Lieberman concerning the need for a county program to make sure every kid can get swimming lessons. Ishoy followed up on December 21 with a story about a county vote on Lieberman's proposal to spend $82,000 in public funds to start the program, which would include the forming of a private, nonprofit organization called SWIMS. The story also mentions the formation of a program called "Swim Central," which would cost the county $140,000.
Lieberman's proposal was passed unanimously. On December 29, Ishoy rattled off a maudlin letter to the commissioner.
"Just sent a thank-you note to other six commissioners for their support of your swim proposal," he began. "They did good, as we used to say in Ohio."
You sent a what? To whom?
Ishoy was supposed to cover these politicians objectively. Instead he wrote thank-you notes to them for supporting his pet issue. In a reporter's world, that's a high crime or misdemeanor. But the Ohio thing makes us want to forgive him. He's such a down-homey kind of guy, we wonder if he should be in politics. Further reading of his letter shows us, however, that he was in politics. While wearing his reporter's hat, he played the role of Broward County's own Swim Czar.
Take this paragraph: "We need to organize SWIMS board, Tripp Scott going to do pro bono legal part of that; Debbie WS hoping that might help us get GOP support in the legislature for schools survey as well as pool fencing."
Let's break that down. Ishoy was using state senator Jim Scott's powerful Fort Lauderdale law firm not only to do free legal work for the program but also to gain sway with Republicans in the state legislature. Helping him orchestrate this little feat was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a state representative.
Next Ishoy writes that he's waiting to hear from Sam Freas, the CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, who "is in town and knows all the swimming contributors we could hit up. He can be big ally."
No wonder nobody takes the Herald seriously anymore. In the paper's January 31 obit on Ishoy's career, the Herald proudly wrote that Ishoy "played a key role" in developing Swim Central, showing that his editors are also culpable in Ishoy's drowning in conflict of interest.
The close of the letter -- which he quaintly signs "Ish" -- is truly precious.
"Without getting mushy here pal, you did an absolutely great job of getting this through, a real display from beginning to end of intelligence and finese [sic], especially during the commission meeting," he writes the commissioner. "Thanks. We have a lot to do, but this is a good start."
Ish, Ish, Ish. As we say in Florida, you done bad.
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.
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