A Fitting Farewell To The Herald's Fallen

I don't have much to say about this, other than it's a beautiful tribute to those who are leaving the Miami Herald today in the latest round of layoffs. It actually feels like a eulogy -- not for the very-much-alive people in it, but for a time and place in journalism that is bigger than all of them and is gone. Irretrievably gone. The recent deaths of Doug Delp and Fred Pettijohn puncuate that loss in a way that only those that knew them (and I did not) can truly understand.

Herald editor Manny Garcia says a lot about those leaving his newspaper, but he also says a lot about himself in the telling. And in that sense it's also a tribute to him.

------------------------------- From: Garcia, Manny - Miami Sent: Friday, October 03, 2008 3:27 PM To: .MIA Newsroom; .MIA El Nuevo Newsroom Subject: re: let's recognize today our colleagues who are leaving


We have a lot of talented colleagues leaving us today who have so enriched our newsroom and community with their time, talent, humor and passion. It's impossible to do justice to all their accomplishments, but let it be said they made Mother Herald a special place. They often reported while the rest of us were comfortably at home asleep, making that extra call to Cleve Jones who said some cops had apparently barged into his boat yard and drowned three dopers during a drug rip-off. That became the River Cops saga.

Our journalists worked in a shack-like office in the year after Hurricane Andrew (by then most media outlets had split) because Homestead needed us, and so what if our reward was to chug beers in the office while our stories got edited?

Despite threats, our journalists reported the truth, persuading reluctant sources to go on the record - stories that helped send crooked folks to prison.

And you made us laugh. Remember this hedline:

Injured penis worth $1.5 million to jury.

Finally, you shifted with the years from print to web to video to keep us the leading and most trusted voice in the community. Among those we recognize:

- Lisa Arthur, 14 years, our multimedia consligieri, a fixer. She worked in Homestead after Andrew, keeping public officials honest on the post-hurricane deals. She once snuck into an airbase with a Thai food delivery driver. She traveled to

Memphis on the Rilya Wilson case, stunning homicide detectives that she, too, was trying to find the missing child. And she sat - by accident - in the same stool as 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta during a profile of the dead terrorist. Lisa also worked as Saturday dayslot -- an unpredictable shift: It's either a comatose news day or you end up with a child shot, plane crash or a big construction accident. "Boss, we have a problem but I'm all over it. We had a building collapse. We got it online, we got photo and a reporter enroute." Last year, she and Amy Driscoll won the Darrell Sifford Memorial Prize in Journalism for their reports "Displaced By The Boom."

-- Michael Babin, Assistant Presentation Editor, 7 years, a graduate of Northwestern University. No fill-in Sunday Night Editor can claim Michael did not save him or her with his calm, polite voice and his equally strong news sense. "You may want to consider this story for your front," says Michael, ever the diplomat. "A guardian angel against the setrec," one editor called him. Michael began as a Sports designer and quickly became a go-to guy, cranking out eye-popping covers, wraps and special sections with flair and finesse. "Michael leaves a legacy of unparalleled work ethic, integrity, humility and professionalism," said his boss Eddie Alvarez.

-- Erika Beras, 2 years, is always on the move - morning, noon and night --as one of The Miami Herald's first reporters on the Continuous News Desk. She covered - even videotaped - crashes, homicides, fires, press conferences - seemingly every news event that broke in the early morning hours in Miami. And when she had a spare moment, she wrote about a teenage bombmaker and, most recently, a fine art bandit.

-- Jane Bussey, 17 years, freelanced for The Herald six years from Mexico City before joining us. Since then she has dominated international economic coverage, leveraging her 15-year residency in Latin America to consistently provide a valuable global perspective to business coverage. She covered several natural disasters for the World Desk, risked her safety at the violence-racked WTO meeting in Seattle and filed several meaningful Business packages, including the demise of Hamilton Bank and jailing of its executives. She is now covering her 12th Americas Conference. Jane is perhaps the most decorated business reporter. She headlined two Overseas Press Club awards, was honored by the Inter American Press Association. The first was in 2001 for the Argentine recession and the second in 2006 for explaining how China's economic growth affected South Florida.

-- Oscar Corral, 7 years, arrived here just as the 9/11 attacks happened and his former colleagues at Newsday laughed at him for leaving before the biggest story ever. But Oscar ended up scooping them on several hijacker stories. He scored another major coup soon after when he interviewed Anthrax survivor Ernesto Blanco - leaving the national press corps to credit The Herald. Oscar also covered Miami City Hall where from day one he asked to look into a community redevelopment agency run by Commissioner Art Teele. His tireless digging and writing - week after week -documented a pattern of fraud, including a city-paid stripper named Cat whose job was to count cars leaving her own strip joint. His stories led to a federal indictment of Teele, who sadly killed himself in our lobby through no fault of Oscar's. He also reported on USAID's funding of exile groups and journalists - reports that led to threats against his life. Subsequent federal audits upheld the caliber of his reports.

-- Lissette Elguezabal, 24 years, started here as the Photography Department secretary. A quick study with a passion for photojournalism, Lissette became the photo sales rep, a position she held for several years. Two years ago, she became a photo assignment editor, earning the respect of editors and photographers alike. She is a problem solver with a big heart, whether it's a birthday to be remembered, a cake to be ordered, or a collection for a departing colleague or the annual Guardian Ad Litem toy drive or the United Way.

-- Bob Emanuel, 11 years, "Bullet'' Bob has been a key player in our coverage of Broward high school sports for nearly a decade. He has been our preps reporter there for the past two years. A couple of prominent Broward coaches called recently to comment on Bob's professionalism and how he would be missed. Bob has been a big contributor in multi-media, and a steady fill-in to help cover the Dolphins. He also carved a niche writing about mixed martial arts on the website.

-- Joan Fleischman, 30 years, Talk of Our Town Columnist. Joan has forgotten more about reporting than most of us know. Joan is the journalistic equivalent of ipecac - she keeps her sources vomiting their darkest secrets. Witness this Jan. 13, 2008 story: "Walk-away groom: Jim Ferraro, multimillionaire trial lawyer. Ferraro, set to marry prominent real estate broker Patricia Delinois on Friday in a formal ceremony at Fisher Island's Vanderbilt Mansion, jilted her - at the altar - as they were about to exchange vows before 75 to 80 guests." Her accuracy is legendary. Said Rick Hirsch: "You can take it to the paint if Joanie writes it." Joan owned the River Cops case - one of the largest police corruption scandals in South Florida - and got Mr. Jones, the boatyard owner to talk. And Joan has never hesitated sharing her knowledge, whether it's teaching our younger scribes the art of the interview or passing along a phone number. Joan also wrote about Jimmy who blew off his scrotum, lied about it and got busted cause the shell casing ended up in his drawers. She wrote about Drano the Drag Queen - the Navy vet who rode a tricycle around Coconut Grove and died of lung cancer.

-- Ronna Gradus, 3 years. She called her hiring: "one of the happiest days of my life!'' Ronna, who had been freelancing for us almost that long, had always shown an extraordinary knack for capturing "decisive moments'' with her camera and has become a trusted "go-to'' when you need the money shot. You'll often hear editors say "Ronna will get us the 1A photo." Ronna's first big assignment came with Hurricane Katrina and the disaster that followed. Armed with a satellite phone she had only received a crash-course about just hours before, Ronna began transmitting photos within hours of landing in New Orleans. She made contacts with various rescue teams there, and proved her mettle by adapting to the harsh post-hurricane conditions; at times, she even slept in her rental car for a while until some frat boys let her crash in their place in Baton Rouge. Her incredible Fathers Day photo essay on Winston Townsend, whose sudden and unexpected role as a father figure to four young girl who lost their real father, resulted in a groundswell of emotional response from readers and Herald staffers alike.

-- Carolyn Guniss, 3 years, a Neighbors editor, who arrived just as our community news sections doubled in size. She also volunteered to work on City Desk and during storms. Carolyn also wrote Quick Bites columns. She most recently oversaw the Northeast and Grove/Brickell books. Her ability to develop young talent was fantastic.

-- Desonta Holder, 11 years, has served The Herald in both Business and Features and in recent years has been instrumental in the success of our Tuesday Health section. She did more than write about health and help edit the section - she could put some of us couch potatoes to shame when it came to personal fitness.

-- Natalie McNeal, 8 years, Three words: The Frugalista Files. Natalie's blog has drawn thousands of eyeballs to MiamiHerald.com. She's generated plenty of buzz with this personal finance column, even appearing on CNN and NPR to talk about it. She also spent a career in Broward reporting and writing on the many demographic changes of one of Florida's largest counties.

-- Javier Ruiz joined the copy desk at the beginning of the year from the Sun Sentinel. He brought an insider's knowledge of South Florida and an eagle eye for flawed copy. One night, he was the only editor who noticed a discrepancy in the name of a woman trying out to be a Dolphins cheerleader. Her name on the photo, on the newspaper page and on the Dolphins' website all had it one way. But Javier noticed a fan in the background holding a sign cheering on the woman - with her name spelled differently. Not content, Javier combed through the databases. Turned out the sign was right and everyone else was wrong. For every setrec in the paper, think of how many are avoided by editors like Javier. Javier grew up in Miami-Dade, went to Southwest Miami High, then on to FIU, where he was opinion editor and the copy chief of the campus newspaper. At The Herald, he was Mr. Versatility, working sports copy one night, Neighbors copy another, daily news another.

-- Rafael Sangiovanni - ‘Rafi' to those on the CND - leaves us on Sunday after working as a part-time multimedia producer since last spring (he also does radio freelance). Rafi will be missed by his colleagues for his wit, his attention to detail and his speed. He's a University of Miami grad who took time off from his video games and his band (he's a really great drummer) to spend his weekends on the CND.

-- Fiorella Sarmiento, 11 years, has done a wonderful job of assisting senior editors and occasionally writing and photographing a social events item called Been There for Neighbors. "Fio'' has made a virtual army of friends since she joined The Miami Herald as a sales assistant in advertising. She joined the newsroom in 2003, working as an executive assistant to Liza Gross and Rick Hirsch, handling details large and small relating to space budgets and expenses and interns and more. All the while, she's worked on getting her degree from FIU (one class to go!).

-- Sidonie Sawyer, 6 years, has brought a passion for the world to her job in Travel. Her sharp organizational skills, endless attention to accuracy and incredible patience with the ultra-detailed cruise calendars will be missed. So will her compassion for fellow workers.

-- Albert Siegel, 2 years, has been a solid contributor in the in the photo department. The arrival of the digital age has introduced many changes and challenges to the department, not the least of which is the deluge of emailed images that rain down on the photo desk every day. Photos come in from all directions; handouts, submissions from readers and outside images garnered by reporters and editors, just to name a few. Setting these images up to conform to Herald style and standards is a monumental task that must satisfy the needs of every department. Alber has shouldered this task, not only with acute attention to detail, but with a sense of humor and congenial approach towards tons of folks making constant demands. His talent and affable demeanor will be sorely missed.

-- Alan Skolnick, 8 years. By his estimate, Alan has written 14,560 cop blotter items, starting them with either "A burglar, someone, a bandit, someone, thieves, a thief, someone . . . stole, grabbed, lifted ... a Kate Spade purse, a Nissan forklift, beer (usually Heineken), teacup Chihuahua (unnamed), Benelli Nova pump shotgun, meat (purloined sirloin), a "BSO Mom'' badge, lots of lingerie from Victoria's Secret, lots of Hondas, and condoms, different brands. Retired from the Miami Beach Police Department as head of dispatchers, Alan has a comic's writers' side with a public service heart - Scoop Skolnick told readers how to avoid the latest scam: don't give anyone $5,000 to share in a Lotto reward.

-- Eddie Valle, 18 years, former Eastern Airlines flight attendant, boater, Mako-Wish, perennial newsroom tennis champion, has always looked for ways to help the Wireroom better serve the newsroom, whether maintaining three months of back issues or putting out more than one pen that was not red (kidding). On his own time and with his own material, Eddie built newspaper carts and shelves. He often saved the Herald money by picking up or dropping off material on his way to and from work. He saved many a reporter's and editor's bacon by driving a Fed Ex package to their office downtown after the sender missed the 5:30 p.m. pick up. If you worked Thanksgiving Day, Eddie carved your turkey. He shepherded 16 Thanksgiving Day dinners for the newsroom over the past 18 years. Many who sampled some of his homemade treats can attest to his culinary talents. His bean dips are legendary. Eddie will continue to work part-time - as he has for much of his Herald career - on the City of Coral Gable's tennis courts.

And there are other dear colleagues, but not everyone wants to be included in our farewell post. Nevertheless, give them a big smile, a hearty hug and just say 'Thank you.'

Please join us this evening at The Coconut Grove Sailing Club, 2990 South Bayshore Drive, for the Life Goes On Party starting at 7 p.m. ---------------------------------- To read the names of most of those who didn't want to be on this list, click here.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman