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A Sistrunk Shame

The Sun-Sentinel reported this morning that the Fort Lauderdale City Commission awarded a sweet little land deal on Sistrunk Boulevard to the Westside Gazette. You may not know about the Westside Gazette. Few do. It's a tiny black newspaper that has demonstrably lied about its circulation figures to pump up advertising rates with local governments. Including the City of Fort Lauderdale. In recent years, the newspaper's owner has claimed his tiny newspaper had a circulation of 70,000. That's a ridiculous figure -- he's lucky if it's a fifth of that. In the newspaper's media kit, he lowered the number to 50,000 and claimed it had been certified by an auditing company called CPVS. It was a lie. The company refused to certify the number and CPVS President Tim Bingaman said it was an impossibility.

Broward County Manager Bertha Henry

That's right -- the Westside Gazette is a fraud. But after an anonymous complaint last year, county investigators let it pass. Wonder why? Well, it might have something to do with Bobby Henry's wife. That would be Bertha Henry, the acting county manager.

It gets worse. The Westside Gazette is a "community newspaper" that coddles governments in exchange for their business. At the same time, Bobby Henry writes rambling and usually ridiculous screeds about the plight of black people that appeals more to ignorance than anything else. While he parrots government press releases and works insider land deals, he pretends to be the second-coming of MLK. It's obscene. And the Gazette has reported extensively about the controversial Sistrunk revitalization plan. After the city commission voted last week not reduce the congested road to two lanes, here's the Gazette lede on the story:

"Twelve million dollars in federal, state and local funds could be lost because Fort Lauderdale commissioners and the mayor refused to honor their previous vote to support the revitalization of Sistrunk Boulevard. Instead they re-voted to rescind their support."

Scare tactics (possible lost government funds) and loaded language ("failed to honor") abound. But the newspaper has failed to disclose its own obvious financial interest in the revitalization plan and the fact that it has lobbied for it.

Now here's the kicker, the coup de grace, that wonderful detail that confirms once and for all that Broward County is one seriously absurd and corrupt piece of sand on the Atlantic. That sweetheart land deal on Sistrunk that Henry is getting from the city? It's for a "Black Journalism Institute." Henry is going to teach the next generation of black students how to be great journalists. As Mayor Jim Naugle said last night at the meeting, "Anything we can do to get better-quality journalism is a good thing."

Administrator's Note: For Green Eyeshade Award winners go down to Blog Hijacking post below.

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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

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