I don’t know Nancy Meyer. Don’t know Julie Anderson. Never met‘em. Never had a conversation with either Meyer, the Sun-Sentinel publisher, or Anderson, the editor-in-chief.
Nor have we exchanged emails.
We’re just not cozy. Which is to say, despite the frequent, fervent, sometimes frothing-at-the-mouth accusations that flood my inbox, I don’t “get my marching orders” from the bosses.
They’d cringe, I suspect, at the notion my (choosing from among my critics’ characterizations) idiot, misleading, laughable, dishonest, commie, ill-informed, indiscernible or (new this week) juvenile columns reflect the dictates of the Sun Sentinel hierarchy.
As for the honchos at corporate headquarters, I have no idea who’s running the Tribune Company at the moment. But I doubt that in a time of hellish newspaper economics, bigwigs in Chicago — whoever they are — obsess over the musings of a low-rent columnist 1,400 miles down the road.
My thoughts on toxic green algae fouling the Indian River Lagoon or Sheriff Gregory Tony’s youthful misadventures or sewage spills in Fort Lauderdale or the local consequences of global warming won’t affect the company’s estimation on Wall Street. The Tribune Company’s harried executives have bigger fish — the size of Escalades — to fry.
The overworked editorial page editors tasked with wrestling a West Virginian’s copy into coherency have more prosaic concerns than my political inclinations — like deciphering the letter jumbles of a phonetic speller who mumbles. [Ed. Note: Fact check — True.3/8
A few readers harbor rather more conspiratorial theories about my shadowy overseers. But, no, guidance has not been forthcoming from the likes of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Sadly for my retirement account, George Soros and Bill Gates aren’t sending checks my way. Back when I was a reporter for the Miami Herald, suspicious Cuban refugees occasionally suggested that I was on Fidel Castro’s payroll. I’d point to my battered VW and say, oh yeah, I’m rolling in pesos.
I’ve worked as a reporter or columnist for six newspapers in 52 years. Not once has a compromising decree come from up high.
Some readers seem to imagine that newsrooms operate as tightly controlled top-down enterprises. It’s more like an anarchic frenzy: reporters in perpetual tussle with their editors over how to arrange who-what-when-where-why into a succinct narrative, without mutilating the pretty prose, and with no time for politics.
Nor is local investigative journalism governed by political leanings. It’s all about who’s stealing the silverware. Reporters or columnists would hardly ignore a juicy government scandal because of some crooked pol’s lefty political leanings. (Ask former Broward Sheriff and convicted felon Ken Jenne, once the most powerful liberal Democrat in Florida, if the press minimalized his misdeeds.)
Some readers have more specific suspicions. They think a subversive entity has ordered me to disparage the president. I promise: Reacting to the cascading outrages of Donald Trump does not require outside prompting. Not amid the consequences of his bungled response to this pandemic. Concluding that Trump lies, resorts to elementary school insults, demeans American heroes, uses divisive language, can’t abide criticism, offends our allies, wallows in conflicts of interest, exacerbates the climate crisis, exploits racial divisions and rejects science does not require outside assistance.
Oddly, none of these Trump-can-do-no-wrong zealots accused me of subversion back in 2011, when I wrote about the mendacious sales tactics that lured investors to a condo-hotel project on Fort Lauderdale Beach, thinking they were buying units in an actual Trump property. The sales brochure quoted Trump in all-capital letters, “THERE IS LUXURY... AND THEN THERE IS THE TRUMP EXPERIENCE.”
After the scheme went belly up, would-be condo owners discovered that instead of Trump, they had trusted their money to a felonious Russian émigré whose record included a guilty plea in a $40 million fraudulent stock scheme and an arrest for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a broken margarita glass.
No Trump acolytes fired off outraged emails after I wrote the story. No conspiracy theorists claimed my bosses or maybe George Soros had directed me to invent a fictitious scandal. Of course, it would have been difficult to deny the existence of a forlorn 24-story empty shell looming over A1A.
Times sure have changed. The sleazy barker who promised hapless condo buyers, “the finest and most luxurious experience I have created,” became president. His branding con, like his fraudulent Trump University, was relegated to obscurity.
Our local Trumpsters (easy to spot: angry, no masks, seething for a fight) are now convinced I’m just another media marionette, waiting for one of my puppet masters — Nancy? Julie? Fidel? George? Barack? Hillary? Bill? — to yank my strings.
Hopefully, I’ll get my marching orders before deadline.
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