South Florida media-watchers puzzled over this question last week: Why would a large, prosperous daily newspaper crave attention so badly as to shame itself with blatant self-promotion, especially when that promotion was about something the paper didn't actually win?

Despite its best efforts, the Sun-Sentinel can't seem to bring home the famed Pulitzer Prize, which daily papers and their news executives covet. This year the Sentinel's never-ending series on plastic surgery made the first cut in the investigative-reporting category but ultimately was beaten by the Miami Herald's excellent job on voter fraud. But that didn't stop the also-rans at the Sentinel from promoting themselves as finalists. The Sentinel management decided to inform its readers and anyone else who would listen that the paper didn't really win, but almost. This attempt to cash in on the recognition that the winners really deserve is degrading. It's also one indication of that paper's inferiority complex after years of comparisons to the Miami Herald, which has actually won 16 Pulitzer Prizes.

The Sun-Sentinel not only produced its own story about coming close to winning but also ran a full-page ad that had obviously been previously produced in the hope of winning. And then they went still further by pushing announcements to other media about being a finalist. We heard the Miami Herald, which had actually won the prize, didn't send out press releases on the day of the announcement, but those publicity seekers at the Sentinel did. So we called Rich Pollack, the Sun-Sentinel's PR flack, to check on this, and he claimed no formal announcement was sent out. Funny, that's not what the people at Business Wire say. They got a release from the Sentinel, and Pollack's name was on it. Too bad there's no Pulitzer for hype.

This overemphasis on self-promotion may be an indication of where too much of the paper's efforts lie.

Our blatant self-promotion is, um, more important... and not just to us but to freedom-loving Americans everywhere.

Just when our mean-spirited journalistic hearts were spoiling for a fight to lead us into summer, the Fort Lauderdale police backed down and returned our news rack to its place of prominence in front of cop headquarters.

Yes, we beat the Man.
A couple of weeks ago a police department employee had the temerity to demand we remove our news rack from its law-abiding space on public property. Worse yet, the employee decided to leave in place the racks of paid daily papers. When we brought up nagging concerns, such as protection under the First Amendment and the city's own laws, we were told there was no use trying to argue with police department employees who had a job to do. Despite our verbal protests, the employees took our rack into custody; we called it outright theft and reported it as such.

It seems our theft report caused some concern, but the tongue-lashing applied in this column took the matter to new levels. Maj. Joe Donisi, one of the head cops, informed us that as soon as he read Undercurrents, it took about a minute for the rack to return to its rightful place.

Hey, constant vigilance is the price of freedom.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh