Best Palm Beach Post Writer 2003 | Bill Rose | Subtropical | South Florida
OK, so Bill Rose is a deputy managing editor at the Post. He´s not working a beat, day in and day out, not out shaking the bushes, not crunching big stuff (that would fill a book if they´d give ya´ the time and space) into bite-size portions. That´s a tough biz. Still, in the course of three days in October, this former editor of the Miami Herald´s literate and legendary Tropic magazine showed how it´s done, how daily journalism can be layered and leavened with tragedy, humanity, humor, and grace. Rose covered the arrival of Hurricane Lili to southern Louisiana, an area he called a ¨wind-swept world of salt water, mosquitoes, and hurricanes¨ inhabited by people who ¨tend to wink at pending calamity and shrug off storm warnings with the practiced air of those who have seen this many times before.¨ That first sentence of his October 3 story was a mouthful, so he threw in a short sentence afterward that gave the whole thing dramatic punch: ¨But this time, they´re running,¨ Rose wrote. And then, when the storm didn´t cause the anticipated Hurricane Andrew-like devastation, Rose burrowed into his own urge to dismiss its effects. By following the inner voice that told him this storm was nothing, Rose discovered the heart of the tale when he found himself moved by ¨one small shred of Lili´s detritus.¨ He described a broken child´s plate inscribed with a boy´s birth date and a mother holding it in her hands while tears made her shoulders shake. The family´s trailer had been blown 25 yards and sat upside down in the mud. Everyone in that family survived Lili, but Rose showed in that moment how tragedy is individual and specific, and he made the reader feel it too. He also showed the wisdom of trusting one´s self and following the thread where it leads. It was some nice work.
OK, so they both write too much. Sometimes two stories per day. He's all over the place -- libraries, cloning, astronauts. And all she can really do is cops. But his prose is straight-ahead. No bullshit. None of that Carl Hiaasen sarcasm. More of a Gene Miller type, really. And, when it comes to cultivating cop sources, she's in the Edna Buchanan mold. These soldiers of South Florida's biggest, um, best, um, most perspicacious newspaper do a hell of a job of nursing reality into a tale. It was he who recently described the case of a baby sitter who forced a 3-year-old to drink so much water that she died. She´s followed cell-phone bans, anthrax scares, and more. But the pair´s most important contribution to local journalism came in December, when they reported that 38 murder confessions elicited by Broward County Sheriff´s storm troopers had been thrown out by judges, juries, and prosecutors since 1990. Just a few months later, at least partially in response to the bad press, BSO agreed to start taping interrogations. Justice, indeed, was served.
That´s right, we´ve actually chosen an employee of chief media evildoer Rupert Murdoch. And it surprises us more than anyone. But perhaps it´s the company Craig Stevens keeps that makes him look so good -- kind of like the one dog at the pound that doesn´t have mange. Stevens, after all, is a successor to Rick Sanchez, who will be remembered as the Jerry Lawler of television anchors -- big, loud, and never mistaken as bright. (Sanchez recently -- and mercifully -- was booted from his MSNBC morning anchor chair.) Stevens is kind of the anti-Sanchez. He´s an understated nerd with a microphone. His little wire-rimmed glasses give him the proper bookish look; the guy is a dead ringer for Jeffrey Toobin, only without all the smarm. All in all, Stevens doesn´t really seem like a Fox personality; he actually seems like a human being.
Before you rip us for placing Johnson ahead of her more seasoned competition solely on the basis of her appearance, ask yourself this: What other local weather wonk could have so distracted professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller that he agreed to hit practice shots on a course after his round was over? This is what Jackie did at the Royal Caribbean Classic in February. The result: Zoeller was disqualified from the tournament. OK, maybe Brian Norcross could have done it, but only on a good day.
Since the 2000 presidential ¨election¨ was stolen from Al Gore and our current administration has waged a holy war on ¨Terra,¨ the schism between the left and the right has gotten wider and wider. What´s worse, the so-called ¨liberal¨ media, including TV news programs and talk radio shows, have become all-too-eager cheerleaders for the right wing, uncritically gobbling up whatever morsels of misinformation Karl Rove dishes out. And talk radio? (Sigh.) Yes, it´s entertainment, and most of its listeners are people who don´t have anything better to do with their time during the day, and talk-radio hosts take on extremist viewpoints merely to keep the phones lighted up. But frankly, it´s disconcerting that so damn many of our countrymen find bilious hatemongers like Limbaugh, Savage, and Schlesinger to be ¨entertaining.¨ Luckily for left-leaning types, there is hope: Neil Rogers, the self-proclaimed ¨fat fag,¨ is the most effective liberal voice on the radio (not that there´s much competition), despite a brand of humor that many critics decry as racist. Case in point: Last October, after singer/activist Harry Belafonte slammed Secretary of State Colin Powell, likening his fellow Jamaican-American to a ¨house slave,¨ Neil launched an attack on National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, calling her the ¨resident house Negro,¨ and played a song parody containing lines like, ¨Is you their black-haired answer-mammy who be smart?¨ and ¨Does they like how you shine their shoes, Condoleezza? Or the way you wash and park the whiteys´ cars?¨ Whew! Brutal stuff -- so harsh that the station decided to apologize after some right-wing media types (NewsMax, Fox News) applied pressure. And yet the NAACP was silent on the issue. Hmm. How could that be? Perhaps because this cranky old nonobservant Jew was giving voice to what many black people are thinking about that woman, Ms. Rice? Thanks, Uncle Neil.
Long-time Miami Herald news research editor Elisabeth Donovan maintains this meticulous blog on current events. Called ¨Infomaniac¨ for an award Donovan won several years ago, it´s chock-full of useful links. Most of the recent postings have been about the war in Iraq, but in more peaceful times, the site focuses on South Florida, Cuba, and other parts of Latin America. Make no mistake, though; this is Donovan´s personal site, and she doesn´t hesitate to post her opinions. For example, on March 20, 2003, she posed the question: ¨How big was the headline on your front page today? I was embarrassed by ours. It was huge and unseemly (I thought), WAR BEGINS. I´d have made it about a third the size and called it US ATTACKS. Project for today: I´ll be going to the Newseum to compare headlines.¨ Great links to fellow bloggers too.
On March 30, 2003, the Miami Herald ran a story that chronicled the adaptation of the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy into a Broadway play. In a lengthy feature filling most of the front part of the Sunday arts section, theater critic Christine Dolen described the difficulties with the production before and after its pre-Broadway run at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. What that article didn´t say, likely because the lifestyle section is printed several days before it is distributed, is that the play had opened its preview run at the Broadhurst Theatre in Manhattan, where it received negative reviews from New York critics. Though Dolen´s piece in the lifestyle section helpfully included information on where and how to buy tickets, her other story on page 4A that same day told readers there was no need to bother: The producers closed the musical on March 29.
¨An article published Friday on page 1A concerning bacteria in the ocean water off South Florida misstated the cause of various gastrointestinal diseases. Enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria are indicators of the presence of human or animal waste, which contains pathogens that can cause salmonella, cholera, shigellosis and hepatitis A.¨ Whew, that makes me feel better.
Q: Do you watch reality-TV shows?

A: I live with someone who really likes them. We share the remote, so I've seen Survivor for a few seasons. I've seen some of Big Brother and Joe Millionaire. Then there's the reality-game show hybrids, like Blind Date. That's pretty funny. The one I can't stand is Fear Factor. It's not even a game of skill but of who can be the biggest moron -- like, I'll give you 100 bucks if you stick your hand in a hive of bees. Just a lowlife endurance contest. The smartest contestants are the ones who walk off and say, "You people are a bunch of idiots."

Q: Is there one that you especially like?

A: Amazing Race, where the contestants actually go around the world looking for clues. These people actually have to use some ingenuity. Part of it is staying under control and doing the best you can. I like seeing where they go. They're always on a train or something, and then, in American tourist fashion, they run up and grab their clue and they're off again. It's the only reality show I'd even entertain the idea of going on.

Q: Do you think reality TV is a good thing?

A: I guess it's a lot cheaper to produce. You don't have to pay actors or writers. Just film the stuff and pay editors. I'm not sure how real it is, though, when they shoot 90 hours of footage and cut it down to 22 or 23 minutes.

Q: Are there things in the shows that relate to your own world?

A: Well, most politicians aren't the types that would like that sort of attention. Then there's the handful that don't know the difference between good press and bad press. They'd eat slugs as long as Channel 4 was there to film it.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of