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Issues' Issues

Local PBS politicial show host Helen Ferre has apparently survived a very tough spell. First the Issues maven was found to have been paid propaganda money by the U.S. government for her work on the anti-Fidel Radio Marti. Then it was reported that she was on the short list to become Charlie Crist's running mate.

The first scandal destroyed her credibility as a serious journalist. The second revelation -- the press in South Florida isn't astute or clear-sighted enough to have seen that her chumminess and political unity with Crist was a journalistic scandal -- destroyed her credibility as a serious journalist. Again.

I've made my position clear on this: WPBT-Channel 2, the PBS affiliate, should hire a new host for the show, which is suppose to be an independent look at local politics, not the meanderings of a paid Republican hack. In some ways, it's a moot point, though; Ferre's show is so mind-numbingly dull that very few people watch it. But then again, since this tripe wouldn't exist without the help of tax dollars, that's a bit of a public scandal unto itself.

I interrupt my vitriol, however, to report that this weekend's show was good. Now back to the vitriol: In spite of Ferre, not because of her.

Michael Putney, the TV guy, and Anthony Man, of newspaper guy, and Jim DeFede, the radio, TV, and newspaper guy, made

sure of that. When Ferre would start on one of her tortured little debate points -- like why did Florida Republicans 'buck the trend' in the mid-term elections and do so darn well -- DeFede, who knows more about Florida politics than damn well anyone, called out her false premise, noting that two GOP seats in Congress and several more in the state legislature were lost. Ferre would bring up some weirdly obscure talking point and DeFede would deftly say, "Yes, but what's really interesting is ..." and then get the show running on all cylinders.

And Putney, well he's better on this show than he is on his own Channel 10 venue. Why? Because on Channel 10, he has to pretend to be objective and measured and all that other mainstream hoo-ha. Don't get me wrong, his show is valuable in South Florida, an oasis of smart local political programming. But Putney is a smart dude with a lot of ideas that he just can't express on WPLG. Anyway, at one point, DeFede steered the show toward Crist and said something to the effect of, "Who the hell is this guy anyway?" Putney tee'd off on the governor-elect. He talked about how Crist only seems to want to be liked, how he's essentially an empty vessel, and said, basically, that if he doesn't grow a pair then his governship will be shit.

Anthony Man, the Sun-Sentinel political writer and Buddy Nevins' heir, said that Crist's lack of a spine might actually work for him by bringing more viewpoints into Tallahassee, rather than the strict ultra-conservative program installed in the capitol by alpha dog Jeb Bush for the past eight years. (Understand, this is all very impressionistic on my part; I didn't take notes).

During the Crist discussion, Ferre looked a little shell-shocked (she always seems a little light on the frontal lobe, doesn't she?) just sort of mumbled incoherently in the governor-elect's defense. Remember, Crist is Ferre's man. But she couldn't stop these guys from rolling. And I'm sitting there thinking, "This is damn good." DeFede was the heart and soul of it and I thought about how much better a host he would be on Issues. Putney, too. But both those guys have their own show, so I settled on the astute Man, who certainly has the smooth TV voice down, as the, uh, man to take over the show. I'll fire off my memo to WBPT Monday morning to get the ball rolling.

Ah, the thought of what could be.

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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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