Friday, December 01, 2006

Prior security breach at Herald building deemed not newsworthy

ENH freelance cartoonist Jose Varela's November 24th storming of the ENH newsroom, with what was later determined to be a toy gun, is only the latest on the list of incidents that raise serious questions about security in the Herald building and how the TMH covers itself.

Herald Watch has learned of an October incident in which a vagrant made it past security up to the second floor, threatened to do harm, and became involved in an altercation with several Herald employees, some of whom needed medical attention.

The man, whose name is Gary Gin, was arrested by Miami police on October 23rd and charged with 1st degree battery. According to FDLE records Mr. Gin is 34 years old, white, 6 feet tall, weighing 150 lbs with brown eyes and black hair. No address is listed for Mr. Gin.

Information on the Clerk of Courts web site affirms that Mr. Gin was given 1 year of probation on November 21st as part of a pre-trial diversion and that a "Stay Away" order was given to Mr. Gin vis-a-vis Robert Risechi and 1 Herald Plaza. Court records also indicate that Mr. Gin is "indigent."

In addition to the security questions there are journalistic ones as well. The Herald has, to date, not reported the incident in its own pages. An online search of the Herald's archives returned no results for Gary Gin or any description of such an incident.

For his part, TMH executive editor Tom Fiedler claims to be unaware of the incident. He told Herald Watch in an email on November 28th that "If it occurred, it wasn't of sufficient magnitude to be brought to my attention or to attract the interest of the newsroom."

But Herald Watch believes that Herald photographers captured the arrest and that MHMC management responded coolly to employees that expressed concern with building security.

In response to an email inquiry on the matter MHMC publisher David Landsberg directed Herald Watch to MHMC Human Resources V.P. Elissa Vanaver. In a telephone call on Friday evening Ms. Vanaver described the incident as one in which a vagrant jumped the turnstile in the lobby and made it to the 2nd floor where security and two Herald employees subdued him. In the process, one of the employees received a "scratch" on the face.

When asked why the Herald did not report on the story, Ms. Vanaver echoed Tom Fiedler's remark about it not being newsworthy. "It's a big city," said Ms. Vanaver explaining that on any given day there are many more newsworthy stories to report on and that a similar incident at another company would not have been covered by the Herald.

A search of just one day's coverage (Thursday) on the TMH web site produces police report summaries from throughout the county including such things as the theft of handicap placard, the theft of cosmetics from a retail store, and a case in which a burglar defecated in a swimming pool.

In July of 2005 former Miami City Commissioner Art Teele walked into the lobby of the Herald Building, pulled a gun out and shot himself. He died a short while later. Given that fact, how can a man walk into the building, batter at least one person, be arrested, the whole incident photographed by Herald employees, without it coming to the attention of the newspaper's executive editor or being considered newsworthy by the newsroom staff?

If the Gary Gin incident was not newsworthy when it happened, it certainly was in the aftermath of the Varela stand-off. Using Ms. Vanaver's standard one would think that a Herald report about the Varela incident, had it happened at another business, would have included a mention of a related security breach scarcely a month before, but the Herald's coverage includes no such reference.

The lack of reporting and alleged handling of employee concerns by Herald execs again raises questions about how TMH covers itself. Clark Hoyt, the consultant hired by MHMC to review of the article that sparked the Martí Moonlighters scandal, characterized the job of reporting and editing stories about one's own employer as an "immense challenge." Hoyt added in that report "Management got involved in a way that probably wouldn't have happened had the story been about another company."

Herald Watch agrees with Hoyt, but it does not appear that TMH has taken any steps to address the perception that it can't cover itself, its sister paper or its parent companies.

Another example of incomplete/late reporting by TMH, when the subject was its parent company, concerns the sale of the land surrounding the Herald building. The developer that was seeking to purchase the land "was before a city agency seeking a $200 million subsidy to close the deal," according to Miami Today. The problem is that the Herald did not report this fact until two weeks after Miami Today made it public. Are we expected to believe that it wasn't newsworthy?

1 comment:

tony said...

Kudos, Henry. The Herald has also failed to investigate or report the information that appeared on your blog on Nov. 27, indicating that one of the members of their editorial board of contributors, Marifeli Perez-Stable, was controlled and financed by Cuban intelligence.