Badpuppy Gay Today

Thursday 14 August, 1997

THE MIAMI HERALD NURTURES FLORIDA'S HOMOPHOBIA

Fires Gay Columnist, Eugene Patron, Ignores Current Police Turmoil
Houseboat Caretaker Carreira Gets Reward Thanks Only to Gay Pressure

By Warren D. Adkins

 

The Miami Herald, which boasts that it is the "Foremost Daily Newspaper of Florida" has suddenly fired its gay issues columnist, Eugene Patron, while, simultaneously, avoiding news commentary about houseboat caretaker Fernando Carreira's reward ceremony (except for a single photograph).

Such commentary, in all fairness, would have required mention of the Herald's gay activist nemesis, Bob Kunst, who collected over 6,000 signatures to prevent Miami Beach's police from reneging on a promised reward for information leading to Cunanan's whereabouts. News wire services and newspapers such as The New York Times published--in contrast to the Herald --written accounts of Carreira's belated reward.

The Herald--on the August 13 page (2-B) following Carreira's photo--did, however, print a full news article about the arrest by plainclothesmen of a 35-year old construction worker in a bathroom stall. Police claimed that the man was masturbating and that they had heard "a moan of pleasure." The Herald carefully explained to its readers that the arrestee was only one of 8 arrested in that particular bathroom during a single day.

While papers such as The Washington Post and Gannett's Florida Today put proper focus on continuing police and FBI mismanagement in the Cunanan/Versace case, the Herald does not. Washington, D.C., over thirty years ago, ended police entrapments in restrooms. The Miami Herald appears supportive of such enticements and entrapments.

The Herald's editorial department has long suffered a reputation as homophobic, although its news columns have, on occasion, shown some promise of fairness about gay and lesbian issues. Bob Kunst complains that while the Pentagon was accused of spending on $7,000 toilets, Miami area police hang out in toilets all day at much greater taxpayer expense. He reflects sadly on the fact that the Herald celebrates such arrests.

Activist Kunst, who battled Anita Bryant in 1977, recalls how in that year the paper pulled all stops to support the orange juice lady's vapid hate-mongering. Nine years later, in 1986, The Herald shamelessly supported the U.S. Supreme Court's anti-gay Hardwick vs. Bowers decision which allowed a Georgia policeman to invade a private bedroom, initially charging a man with sodomy. Like other newspapers across the nation the Herald has made several attempts recently to keep up with the times on same-sex issues.

Its entrenched bias goes back as far as 1953, however, when it reported on police roundups of large numbers of "perverts" charged with nothing more serious than being together in groups on Miami Beach. Thus, it comes as no surprise to those who have followed the Herald's behavior, that the newspaper now resorts to censorship on gay issues.

Eugene Patron, a Herald columnist who had been covering gay issues for over a year and a half has been removed, without warning, from his station. He has told GayToday:

"I returned from a lovely two week vacation in Spain to find that the new editor overseeing the Neighbor's sections of The Miami Herald, Ronnie Ramos, had decided that he did not want me writing the column I launched in the paper in January, 1996. The column, he explained to me on the phone, would now be written by a rotation of staff writers and focused more on hard news items."

Patron says he's not surprised that this happened. The editor immediately responsible for the column at Miami Beach and North Neighbors (the two local editions of the paper where the column appeared), had been warning him that "people downtown are not happy with the column's focus."

The initial structure of Patron's column gave focus to short news items. January of this year, he started adding more of his own "voice" to the column; which his editor initially encouraged. He also changed from multiple items in each column, to focusing on one subject. His reasoning, he says, was to devote more space to exploring each week's subject.

As to the notion that some nebulous collective of editors was unhappy with what he was writing, he replied that virtually everyone he had spoken to in the gay community - as well as a number of straight readers - thought his choice of subject matter was right on the mark.

Such gay readers may not have always agreed with Patrons opinions, he points out, "but people liked that I was putting a wide variety of issues in the gay community on the table for discussion. I even suggested the Herald sample the community on their reaction to my column, he said, "Indeed, after my editor attended a community feedback session, I was given a bit of a pat on the back with my photo-sig added to my byline."

And yet again Patron was warned that "the boys at One Herald Plaza" were not happy with the column. When he replied that he personally gauged the column's success on the community's response to what he was writing and not the never named "they" downtown at the Herald's main office, Patron was told by his editor, "Don't be so naive. Your writing as much for editors who have been in journalism for years as for the readers."

This is why Patron fears, he says, for the column's future under whoever writes it. "There are very talented staff writers at the Herald and many of them could do a great job with this column: IF THEY WERE ALLOWED TO."

The very fact that the column is being taken in-house and being re-focused on news, says to Patron that something of the insightful dialogue he tried to foster between himself and the individuals who were the subject of each column, will be lost.

That is, however, for readers to judge, he admits. Patron says he is not calling for any sort of action against the Herald. Personally, while he is disappointed and does feel used (having never been offered a contract and paid a paltry sum per column), he does have, he points out, a variety of other projects to work on for other outlets.

"But each of us as readers of The Miami Herald," Patron says, " has to decide if the paper is serving our community - straight and gay - as effectively as possible. If not, then I suggest you speak up."

By mail: Readers Forum, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fl 33132-1693 fax: (305) 376-8950 email: heraldEd@aol.com (also cc: to Executive editor, Douglas Clifton at dclifton@herald.com)

1997 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
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