Stalking The Herald Boards

People are finding interesting ways to abuse the Miami Herald's Wild West comment system . First, you have this comment on Evan S. Benn's sex offender sweep story in the Miami Herald Saturday:

My name is German Daniel Alvarez. I am a convicted stalker on probation for another 10 years. You can check me out on the Florida Department of Corrections website. Frankly, I live in Coral Gables and truly enjoy meeting women and men at Bars. Is there a problem with that...I do pay my taxes.

Just imagine the guy's pick-up lines. Following instructions, I checked out Alvarez on said website and found that he was actually convicted of arson and is on probation for only six more years. My first thought was that the guy was just a card, but then I began to suspect that someone planted the comment to humiliate him. Later, someone identified as "Victim of a Stalker" wrote to G.D.A.: "I think you should be thrown in the general population at Starke and let the inmates throw an orgy with you."

The guy later responded:

"To the person wishing me to be thrown into Starke prison. I am currently on probation and community control for the next few years. I am a human being and with rehabiliation and counseling I have had a couple of relationships although they ended by the other person since I don't really share my past unless forced to. I do enjoy going out on weekends and meeting women and men at clubs and attempting to make a connection. However this is quite normal in Miami and by being on probation I am probably safer than a lot of guys out there. Don't you think?"

Then he commented again, putting up the information from the FDLE web site. "I frequent the best restaurants and singles bars in Coral Gables and surrounding areas and if you see me in a suit I am sure I won't dissapoint you. So you see if lashing out and bashing people like us makes you'all feel better then so be it. As long as I stay within the guidelines of my probation there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!!!"

Then he listed his address. I don't know what the hell is going on -- except that the Herald's commenting system is out of control. Those messages are still up there and even if Alvarez is for real, the potential for mischief makers to do harm on the Herald web site is near limitless when nobody's monitoring the boards.

For instance, on the the same comment board, somebody identifying himself as "Yed Worden" smeared Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who is currently the subject of a recall effort. Eighty minutes later, a "Nacho Libre" continued the attack on the commissioner with allusions to her physical appearance and alleging she commits lewd sex acts for kickbacks. Then a "Chencho Diaz" followed three minutes later with more slurs on Seijas.

Seijas had nothing to do with Benn's article. It was just a chance to trash her name on the Miami Herald's much-trafficked website. And they were still up there at the time I published this post.

Keeping The World Safe From Originality Sentinel Editor Earl Maucker's column this Sunday on the use of slang terms included a couple of interesting revelations. First, the newspaper has a Style Committee that is chaired by a copy editor named Ken Olsen. Gee, no wonder the newspaper reads so fresh and vibrant. Maucker quotes his style czar:

"Slang can be useful -- lively, colorful, brief and fun -- but it should be handled with care," Ken said. "Context is important. While 'props' or 'phat' would be poor choices for news stories, they might work fine in a feature about hip-hop music or a column. It's a judgment call."

Olsen is probably a fine fellow, but I can only thank God he's not making "judgment calls" on my copy.

The other revelation: Half the editors at the Sentinel didn't know what "giving props" meant. Maucker explains it:

It comes from giving someone "proper respect" for a job well done and is used frequently in hip-hop music.

But even if we allow slang on occasion, why even have a style policy, some might ask.

We have rules -- for punctuation, spelling, the way we use numbers and abbreviations, and so on -- to give our writing uniformity.

You can imagine how confusing it would get if we allowed all our writers to follow whatever format they chose.

God, Earl, I'd never even considered it until now. And the sheer magnitude of all the havoc that would ensue without that Sun-Sentinel stylebook has literally knocked me to the floor. Sweat is rolling from my fevered brow. The horror ... the horror.

Quick Takes -- Congratulations to Sun-Sentinel assistant city editor and FIU journalism instructor Rafael Olmeda for his election as president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. You're going to be hard-pressed to meet a more dedicated fellow in this business.

-- The Florida Press Club is urging all journalists to send in their best work for the annual awards competition. The stuff has to be postmarked by July 15. More information here.

-- Real late with this, but Brett Sokol, former Kulchur columnist at Miami New Times, is back in print, with a monthly take on the Miami scene in the Ocean Drive mag. Should have posted his debut effort a couple weeks ago.

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