I worked at The Miami Herald in the mid 1970s, the newspaper my introduction to big-time journalism, Miami my first foray into big-city life. The Herald then was fat with pages and news and ambition.  Besides several metro-Miami editions, there were a half-dozen aimed at different sections of the state, plus two for Latin America that were flown each night to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Caracas.

New York City journalism had recently experienced a major upheaval with many of the dailies closing, sending dozens of staffers heading south for jobs in Florida. Many landed at the Herald, adding to what was already a diverse group of wily veterans, including a refugee or two from pre-Castro Havana.

There was Gene Miller, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for investigative work. When he was present, his loud and dogged phone interviews dominated the newsroom.

At the other end of the spectrum was demure Edna Buchanan, her appearance belying her skill with grisly stories from the police beat; and Jay Maeder, whose laconic demeanor masked a rapier wit which eventually found fruition in a column.

Jack Dance, a talented and eccentric editorial writer, was a fellow native of southern Appalachia. He was from Middlesboro, Kentucky.

Then there was Ben Hunt, a Brit who had been declared persona non grata in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia for refusing to vote, a requirement for all white residents. He had worked for papers in London, Johannesburg, and Toronto.

Two-time Pulizer Prize winner Gene Miller.

It was an interesting mix, making for an interesting publication.

At that time, South Beach wasn’t exactly seedy, but it was years removed from today’s glitz. The atmosphere was traditional beach-boardwalk. A Coney Island habitué would have felt at home – and many of them did.

The south end of the beach gave way to a greyhound-racing track. Many of its patrons were regulars at a bar/restaurant a half block away. The Turf was dark and smoky, an escape from the sun, sand and surf just across Collins Avenue. It was close enough to the Herald via MacArthur Causeway that it became one of our regular dinner-break spots. Our usual waitress was a Brooklyn escapee with an accent that was thicker than the burgers.

Another favorite, within walking distance of the Herald on Biscayne Boulevard, was the Lobo Lounge, a place that could have been a mainstay of many Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Most often after work, we headed to the North Dade Athletic Club, where the only athletic equipment was a pool table. The hours were the main attraction – as a private club ($5 to join), it stayed open until 3 a.m.

The Herald building was on Biscayne Bay, which meant spectacular views from the east-facing windows. We could watch the seaplanes of Chalk Airlines as they landed on the water. Or the Goodyear blimp, tethered next door to the Chalk facility on Watson Island.  A bit farther south, there were usually several cruise ships tied up at the Port of Miami pier.

I’ll be boarding one of the successors to those ships soon, but not before checking out the old Herald neighborhood. I’m sure my favorite views have changed, my old haunts have disappeared, the tropical funk replaced by sparkle and glamour. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing Miami again.

Chris Wohlwend tours Miami.

Chris Wohlwend

Chris Wohlwend

Chris Wohlwend is working on a memoir titled "Ridge Running: Encounters in Appalachia." He lives in Knoxville.

  1. Eleanor Ringel Cater

    Gosh, it’s so good to read Chris again.

  2. When The Miami Herald dropped “Tropic Magazine,” opting instead for the milquetoast, generic and cheap nothingness of the Sunday insert “Parade,” I despaired of the newspaper business. With Gene Weingarten, Tom Shroder, Madeleine Blais, photos by Carol Guzy, the original Miami Herald home for Dave Barry, and so many other talented, smart journalists, Tropic was local, international, eye-opening, award winning, heart-wrenching, fabulous, entertaining and informative.

    If newspaper owners wonder why readership is down, they might consider that without actual journalism, there is no paper to read (either in one’s hands or on a screen).

  3. Bill Montgomery

    Growing up in Fort Myers, and getting my first reporting job in the hometown News Press, I too remember the Herald, in its journalism prime, with fine writing and reporting from the likes of Edna Buchanan and Gene Miller. And it was at the Herald building on Biscayne Bay in the late ’60s that I saw a unique gesture of respect and affection by its staff for for one of their owns. So good, in fact, I think its the gold standard for tributes, short of Arlington National Cementary. And he wasn’t even retired yet, let alone dead.
    I worked briefly at the time for UPI, which had its office in the Herald, and Gene Miller, the paper’s legendary GA reporter, had won his first Pulitzer, for reporting that a couple folks convicted of murder were innocent of the crime. I didn’t know Miller, but at the time, he was noted — his trademark I guess you would call it — was that he always wore a bow tie.
    The day his Pulitzer was announced everybody on the Herald , including the women, wore a bow tie. Clip-on ties, most of them, I’m sure. But, still a class act.

  4. So. Didn’t a kid named Ray Holliman write sports for the Heraldat one point?

  5. I worked at the Orlando Sentinel for five years in the early to mid-70s, and while the Sentinel was never the paper the Herald was, it was a far better paper then than it is now. It’s been depressing and demoralizing to see journalism slowly and inexorably decline over the past forty years. When I was in J-School in the 1960s, every student was an activist who believed that his or her reporting could change the world: end The War (indeed, war itself), save the environment, right racial injustice and promote equality. Now journalism, by and large and with a few exceptions, is reduced to gossip-mongerers and paparazzi, and the public accepts glitter-laced pablum as news. I’m sure there already have been several books written about the decline and fall of the Fourth Estate, but it is indeed a sad and complex story, at the core of which is most likely greed and laziness.

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