Good morning, good people of the GPP.
During the past 9 years it has been a privilege and an honor to cover FIU sports from the inaugural season of the football program in 2002 to the record-setting FIU volleyball team last year and most recently the awe-inspiring hitting streak of FIU hit machine Garrett Wittels.
The last few months at the newspaper have been interesting as the paper decided to tinker with the FIU coverage and relegate yours truly to just the GPP and an FIU game here or there.
I’ve always believed when you undertake an assignment or any kind of work that you value, you have to dedicate yourself 100 percent to it to make sure it’s done right or don’t do it at all.
By only being able to cover FIU on a part-time or less basis – as is the case now – I cannot provide you the type of coverage you have been accustomed to the last 9 years.
Unlike what sports editor Jorge Rojas told you in his GPP blog post on March 22 – the FIU beat coverage is not the same setup as this paper has with the Dolphins and Hurricanes.
While the “on-line writers” for both those beats – not only maintain their respective blogs, but also constantly are out at their teams’ practices and games – that is not the case with the FIU beat.
As you have noticed, there has been company added to the GPP. So I am not maintaining the GPP by myself like Rojas said I would.
Hell, they even took my photo and name out from the front of the blog and replaced it with some hokey logo – not even the FIU sports logo. At least, get the FIU sports logo right if you're going to do this.
And if the blog was really going to be maintained by just me like the Dolphins and Hurricanes blogs are by their sole respective on-line writers, then why change the blog slogan from Pete Pelegrin covers FIU sports to “We’ve got FIU sports covered”.
Plus, the paper’s schedule for me to go out to an FIU game or practice has been whittled down to being very limited with the new non-FIU duties I have been assigned -- as you were able to tell by me not being at the Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament in late May.
So therefore, I am leaving the paper today and getting out of the newspaper business altogether.
Yes, I realize that the past few months is a slice of corporate America in action – as the paper is restructuring itself and changing personnel. But what kind of shape can this paper be in when again this year every full-time employee will be required to take a 1-week unpaid furlough.
But this is no longer about me, instead before I go I wanted to verify what you good people have long suspected of this paper’s coverage of FIU sports.
When the change on the FIU beat was made I was taken off both the beat and the blog. However, after your letters, phone calls and e-mails helped the paper’s brass change their minds and reinstate me to the FIU blog, Rojas wrote a blog post on the GPP explaining the situation.
In part of his post, he stated: “We try to be as fair as possible in our coverage of all sports.”
Apparently, that is not always the case with FIU.
The following are some of several true accounts that I was part of during my time covering FIU.
These accounts are not about the space in the paper or coverage devoted to FIU, because it’s the paper’s choice to cover as much of whichever team it wants to cover.
These accounts instead have to do with: “We try to be as fair as possible in our coverage of all sports.”
FREDDY GOT FLUNG FROM THE FRONT
During the 2008-2009 FIU basketball season, Alex Mena, the sports assignment editor, asked me one week in advance to find the best story on the FIU team and write a feature on it, because the paper was going to display the story. [Displaying a story in paper lingo means that it is the main story on the front page with the biggest picture on the front].\
I thought freshman center Freddy Asprilla would make for an excellent display story considering he had only been playing basketball for 2 years, because he played soccer for most of his life in Colombia. As it turned out, Asprilla would go on to be the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year that season.
This paper even sent out a photographer to FIU’s basketball arena and had Asprilla stay 30 minutes after practice to take different types of photographs that would look good on the front page. Here are a couple of the photos on the right that would never run in the paper.
Six days later – the night before the story is going to run in the paper – a UM basketball player gets arrested for breaking and entering into an on-campus apartment to steal electronic equipment. There is no doubt that this story has to go on the front page, because it’s breaking news.
Now at the same time in that day’s budget [“Budget” is the schedule of stories for the next day’s paper] there is also a story on a UM reserve basketball player that just had a couple of good games. Nothing earth shattering, he scored like 10 points off the bench.
Around 6 p.m. that night I take a look at the “timers” file – which lists which editor is editing what story and what page the stories are running on – I see that Freddy’s story is still scheduled for the front page along with the story on the UM player’s breaking and entering. The UM reserve player story is slated for page 3D.
I didn’t bother to think twice that anything would change.
When I pick up the paper the next day I see on the front page, the UM breaking and entering story and right next to it the story of the UM reserve player. On the front page, there was no Freddy – who was scheduled to be the “display story”.
I made a call to Mena and asked him what happened? I thought Freddy was displaying? His response: “The decision came from above” to move Freddy to page 3 and the UM reserve player to the front page. On page 3, none of the photos taken of Freddy were used, instead just a school mug shot with the story.
So when you looked at the front page of the paper that day, there was a positive UM story next to a negative UM story. Kind of weird to see 2 UM basketball stories on the front page. Guess a positive FIU story next to a negative UM story would not have looked good? The paper’s sports front page that day looked like the “Miami Hurricane Herald” or whatever the Coral Gables school newspaper is named.
RICH, YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SECRETARY
Last December, FIU media relations maven Rich Kelch retired after 32 years on the job. If you ever met someone who had a bad word to say about Rich, then you probably ran into the devil.
Rich helped everyone as best he could including whenever this paper needed something from FIU. Hell, at one point Rich helped this paper by covering high school football games in Broward County. For more on Rich and his accomplishments: click HERE .
About a month prior to his retirement, I pitched to have a story done on Rich. It didn’t have to take up half the paper and it didn’t even have to go on the front page. Just a 400-500 word piece on his career and some of his experiences to honor the man.
I got the go ahead from Mena and was ready to write it when five days prior to the story’s run date it was handed to an intern to write.
No problem. I mentioned to the intern if he needed any help feel free to call me and I even gave him Rich’s cell and home phone numbers to help him get in touch with Rich.
The night before the story is set to run in the paper, I get a call from Mena and he says the story is only going to run on-line and not in the paper. My response was: “Space issues?”
Mena says no, there is plenty of space and then I asked what’s the reason? Mena tells me “try to figure it out”. Now, I’m not Sherlock Holmes here so I simply asked what’s the deal?
Mena tells me that if the paper runs a retirement story on one media relations person then they would have to run one each time a local media relations person retired.
My response was how many local media relations directors have been at their school for at least 32 years and been a model citizen in the community? Mena tells me it’s not his call. We hang up.
Rich’s story ran on-line and the intern did a nice job.
I think to myself there’s something wrong with this picture, because just a year earlier this paper ran a front page story on a UM football secretary with a big photo of her on the front page.
Last month, I asked Rojas why didn’t the paper run Rich’s story and his response was when media relations directors retire they should get two paragraphs and that’s it. They are not involved with the action on the field.
Yet, a secretary -- who like the media relations director has nothing to do with the results on the field – gets front page coverage.
Rich, you should have made coffee and filed papers.
FIU secretaries get ready for your front page stories or maybe not?
AND HOW IS THIS NEWS?
Not to make this last post any longer, but the final account to tell you about I had nothing to do with. Probably, because I would not have written the story like this paper did.
The FIU athletic fees story.
First of all, this story was not assigned by the sports department as Rojas told me. Instead, Rojas told me it was El Nuevo Herald editor Manny Garcia and Adam Beasley, who were the brains behind this one.
Garcia, an FIU grad, apparently thought there was news here.
In 1998, FIU students voted for an increase in athletic fees when the university asked the students if they wanted a football team. The students voted yes. Again this happened more than 10 years ago.
Of course, there are a zillion different ways to write this story. You good people read this paper’s version. Speaking of a zillion different ways, I found it amusing how this paper changed the headline to this story at least 3 times on-line the day the story was published. Going from a negative headline to a positive to a middle of the road headline.
Going through some of your comments to this story on the GPP, I found one comment from FIU Fanatic very interesting on how this story skipped some important issues. Here is FIU Fanatic’s comment and thorough research on the matter:
One reason I'm bringing overall tuition and fees into this discussion is because it really makes it a fair comparison as to what students pay versus what they get in the overall college experience...including access to athletic events. To ignore this fact, in my opinion, is just using other true facts (athletic fees) in isolation, slanted in order to sway opinion.
Second, Mr. Beasley himself brought it up in the article:
"Still, for the foreseeable future, the athletic department will remain a considerable expense for students, like tuition, books and parking".
If paying $350 for athletic fees is as "considerable" as paying say...$3,400 in tuition at FIU, then you have to compare it with other universities, private or public, including tuition costs.
Of course, if you compare FIU with other local private universities like St. Thomas, Barry, Nova, and yes...UM...then FIU students are not paying that much considering the low tuition. He also mentions that "Especially when FIU must compete for students with UF, FSU and the University of Miami, all schools with stellar athletics".
FAU, one of the universities who most closely resembles FIU in terms of Sun Belt affiliation, SUS university, and longevity, charges currently $14.30 per credit versus our $14.51. That is $0.21 cents difference per credit, which amounts to an FIU student paying $6.30 more than FAU students in a year, if such student earned 30 credits ($5.04 a year difference for 24 credits a year!)...wow! The article only looks at this very superficially without offering these facts.
Fayetville State University just passed a resolution charging an athletic fee of $450 per student per year, University of New Hampshire also changed their system to charge each student now over $300 per student per year...
Finally, Florida Gulf Coast University, the SUS youngest university charges a whopping $15.54 athletic fee per credit hour. $1.03 more than FIU per hour, representing almost $31 dollars more...and they don't have football yet.http://www.fgcu.edu/Cashiers/95.asp
So, to say FIU pays the state's highest athletics fee is just not true.
You see, it only took me 20-30 minutes to look this up real quickly, and I'm sure if I wanted to make a more balanced story, I could find a number of other schools that charge more "athletic" fees than FIU. Point is, you can make look good or bad any institution with the selective use of statistics and the wording used. As it's evident by this piece, the wording (including the original headline which was mysteriously later switched) was meant to make a point against the athletic fees at FIU....
As Beasley put it on the blog: “It's just a taste of what's to come.”
Like the APR story that Beasley wrote where he states that the baseball team was “the hardest hit” by the NCAA.
How is having the highest (975) APR score in the program’s history, not losing any scholarships and breaking even in practice time – make the baseball team the hardest hit?
FIU baseball lost 2 hours of practice time, but also gained 2 hours back, because of their 975 APR score and they were NOT banned from the postseason. Hell, FIU baseball even decided to win the Sun Belt title while they were at it to cap off a fantastic year in and out of the classroom.
And then of course to include UM in the story brought the article to a new low. Beasley’s explanation: “because of constraints of space in the newspaper”.
The next day, June 11, on page 3D of the paper’s sports section there is an article on UM’s APR report. I guess space opened up in the paper overnight.
This last blog post is not intended to paint everyone at this paper as part of what you have read above. There are a lot of good people at this paper that do tremendous work.
I just thought it was important for you loyal FIU readers to know that FIU doesn’t always get a fair shake with this paper.
Maybe the green and orange Miami Herald sign (photo, left) on the right field wall of UM’s Mark Light Field has something to do with it. Who knows? I sure don’t see any Miami Herald signage on any FIU Stadium, ballpark or arena.
In the future, if you read where FIU is getting handed the short end of the stick by this paper here are the people to contact:
David Landsberg, President and Publisher (305) 376-2515, DLandsberg@miamiherald.com
Anders Gyllenhaal, Senior Vice President/Executive Editor (305) 376-3790, AndersG@MiamiHerald.com
Aminda "Mindy" Marques, Managing Editor (305) 376-3429 AMarques@MiamiHerald.com
Jorge Rojas, Sports Editor (305) 376-3213, firstname.lastname@example.org
And if any of these people are no longer at the paper just look in the bottom left hand corner of page 3B in the Local section to see who is in charge and their respective phone numbers and e-mails are listed there.
Or save your 50 cents and go to miamiherald.com and scroll down to the bottom right hand corner of the home page and click on “Contact Us”.
Once again, it has been an honor and a pleasure bringing you coverage of FIU for nearly the last decade. I’m headed off to the west coast of Florida.
Best of luck to the FIU Panthers teams and take care,
Read more: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/fiusport ... z0uDt8XCpu