Life & Art Editor
This is a follow-up article to the November 21 L&A Quality Smack column entitled, “The Miami Hurricane Needs to Declare Independence.” That column re-appears in this edition for your convenience. – Ed.
“HEY. WAIT. I’VE GOT A NEW COMPLAINT.”
It is a sealed deal. Is the dicey fate of The Miami Hurricane sealed along with it? We shall read. The reelection (as in re-reelection) votes were cast on Wednesday morning: Brian Poliakoff is still out. Leigha Taber is in again as editor-in-chief as of next semester. What results from this decision is not as important in the long run as to how this “new” decision was made – for a refresher on this topic, refer to the issue before last (November 21). Let’s move on.
In case this is the last hurrah for Life & Art, I am going to take one last opportunity to explain why the section is presented as is – again, this was a major factor in Mr. Poliakoff’s dismissal and re-dismissal. If this proves not to be our final “cheers,” let it be known that the section will never again directly regurgitate itself into the news and opinion content within it.
Essentially a student publication, our targeted reader is the UM student, who typically ranges in age from 18-23 – meaning children, most parents, and much of the faculty falls outside of it. Life & Art serves as an outlet for culture – that’s all that was in the instruction manual that does not exist when it changed from Accent in 2002. As the section’s editors, Omar Sommereyns and I decide each week exactly what is culturally significant enough to be included in the three to six pages we are allotted per issue.
One of the major criticisms of Life & Art is that it does not cover enough on-campus events, or as oft-noted by members of UM’s Student Government it does not reflect the interests of the average UM student: our answer to the former criticism?
We feel that reviewing previously released movies being shown at the Bill Cosford Cinema like Bad Boys 2 (please note: we occasionally review select foreign films playing there) and focusing on activities at the Rathskellar should not necessarily supercede the plethora of colorful, provoking and progressive events and ideas occurring just outside the gates of campus; especially when we can cover a Hilton sisters party at Opium, interview Ghostface Killah at The Source Awards, and review the latest exhibit at the Dorsch – I mean, c’mon.
Exploring Miami affords The Miami Hurricane a bit of hip gusto to separate us from let’s say, the “Detours” section of The Alligator at UF. Need a sample article to compare? “Facts You Never Knew About the First Thanksgiving.” How about a sample first sentence? “Has anyone noticed that all of our holidays are bullshit…?”
Sweet. So, that is what the students of UM want to ingest? Doubtful. Is that what the six out of ten Board members who chose not to reelect Mr. Poliakoff want? Well, subtract that naughty curse word, make this section a little afterthought on their “To Check Up On” list, throw some limp student and faculty quotes in there and that same article could probably run times infinity for all they care, right next to a pixilated JPEG of a turkey lifted off Google.
Fact is, no matter what The Hurricane’s “entertainment” section has been called in the past [six to ten years](Re: Come look at our office archives) it has rarely focused on “campus living.” Just two years ago it was all bland “Top 10” lists for Top 10 albums, reviews of endless Dave Matthews’ CDs and rather lame first-person narratives like “How to Get to Key West: Part Eight.” Imagine Entertainment Weekly written by hack ghostwriters, except, instead of featuring a great, young band like The Rapture or The Stills five months after we did, they simply never got around to it. Instead of representing a college located in a fast-paced, tropical city, this paper’s section of culture read like a broadsheet of blah stuck in TV-land.
Again, this might be fine if UM was a small community college in Iowa, but feature journalists move to cities like Miami and New York to study and work because they want (and by moving) need to be on top of the latest trends, art et cetera. If members on the Board of Publications, certain journalism professors, students who are perfectly fine l-i-v-i-n-g in a one-mile radius, and clueless PR dummies do not agree or are experiencing a spinning-head sensation, again, do not hate the players, hate the game.
Which leads me into the latter complaint psst psst’d to us coming from Student Government, or specifically the one Board member belonging to SG who substituted for News editor Jorge Arauz (after he gave up his Board position and rightfully admitted a conflict of interest) on reelection day. Why Student Government should have any say (since the paper reports on this organization) in the editorial positions here is, once again, beyond us.
But, alright SG: Who exactly is the average UM student? Do you have a secret survey that proves students here have a problem with Life & Art? My guess is, similar to many regular newspapers’ readerships, the average UM student does not read The Miami Hurricane, but after considering the flow of online hits, the total student feedback we have received and a general observation of the pick-up rate on campus, readership seems to have increased dramatically this semester.
Furthermore, all of “these” complaints about Life & Art are never sent via Letter to the Editor or to our email accounts, which are usually listed in each issue. Regarding Justin Diamond’s recent letters to the Opinion section (see this issue and last), Life & Art has a film critic, Shawn Wines, who has reviewed over 50 films during his two semesters with the section. We also cover concerts, except, instead of simply reviewing them, we aspire to do a photo shoot with the talent, interview them before sound-check and then shoot photos of their performance – something The Miami Herald, New Times, and Street rarely if ever take the time to arrange – and to that they will most likely say “budget restraints” – our ass.
Mr. Diamond is correct in one observation however: writing about the publication we work for is cheap and comes off as severely egotistical. And man, I really wish I didn’t have to write this stuff personally, it’s just that, see the journalism professors at UM have not made an effort in the past to point out the grave foundation this publication rests upon i.e. the Board of Publications, and thus the consequences of such incompetence have finally boiled over into our newsroom, resulting in a senior staff being ripped apart, typos, failure of communication and the general feeling that this paper is about to wisp away into nothingness, or worse, make such an embarrassment of this university’s reputation for journalism until our degrees are worth zilch.
This is why Life & Art is speaking out. This is what we are taught in the journalism classes we occasionally attend with petty hangovers. Doing so (speaking out via our section) makes us sick to our stomachs, but this is essentially the last and final resort. After three years at this paper, we are so busy playing constant bouts of ethical catch-up with a bunch of elders that we are able to think about nothing but.
The truth will set us free: First, the line between Public Relations and Journalism must be astoundingly clear in The Hurricane office, in classes in the School of Com, and in the heads of News editors – they are totally separate professions that interact by necessity. A college newspaper cannot report objectively on campus organizations and administration when members belonging to each decide the most important position at this newspaper, or as is also the case, own the publication and/or are student employees on the newspaper staff (Jorge Arauz).
The solution: More journalism professors need to be on the UM Board of Publications. Student Government should not have a vote in the election for editor-in-chief, nor should editors at the newspaper be directly involved in SG. Under normal circumstances, an editor-in-chief should obtain his/her position without contention for a two-semester term as this guarantees a smooth and fair transition/benefit of the doubt. Any and all candidates for editor-in-chief should be pursuing a major in journalism at the time of candidacy. And at all times, a managing editor should be on the staff.
Lastly, within the next decade, The Miami Hurricane needs to declare independence.
With only one major newspaper in this city, there is room for a college paper, even at a private university, to cover stories on and off campus. Moreover, when journalism students are offered further opportunities to play against the big boys and girls, the quality of applicants will improve and interest, among local and national readers, advertisers and applicants will increase. The School of Communication, which, as with the entire university, is making leaps and bounds under President Shalala, will then establish a reputation of even greater integrity.
Remember, taste is and will always be a matter of opinion; and since many of L&A’s staff members are developing defined cultural tastes for-a-living, its editors included, and considering that few members on the Board of Publications or the normals in Student Government seem to know a damn thing about journalism, newspapers or severe ethical conflicts – ones as obvious as crazed-monkeys-with-Ebola – calling for evidence to justify “all of these” wishes to “revamp” our section like a Hotmail account is not so much to ask.
“HERE WE ARE NOW, ENTERTAIN US.”
In other news, Paris Hilton’s cell # is 310.990.7444. Servus, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And for the nerds, Tony Hawk’s is 760.481.8088.
“HE’S THE ONE WHO LIKES ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS. AND HE LIKES TO SING ALONG. BUT HE KNOWS NOT WHAT IT MEANS.”
That local faux alternative-weekly, STREET, is chomping on our style – lifting from a bunch of broke, stressed, hung-over college journalists during finals. Their latest cover, entitled, “Art Chomp,” uses the same Pac Man theme as seen in the 10-07-03 issue we mailed them (article: “All We Do is Stack Loot. Run Around and Chomp Fruit.”), and the subhead, “STREET Takes a Bite Out of Basel,” (they would too) is a little too similar to our 11-07-03 cover feature’s subhead, “L&A Takes Another Bite Out of the Big Apple.” STREET should go ahead and change their nameplate to CUBICLE, bloody wankstas.
“WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT?”
We love how Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave., has the raddest shows with less-than-zero promotion – punker than the S. Pistols, whom if memory servus, owner Dave Daniels said sucked live. NYC’s Japanther (not Panthers but equally as panther-cool) is playing on December 9 and (!) 10. Hol-eee shit, the first show is free. The next night, they’re playing with, get this, AC Cobra, Panda Bite and the Bikes (!!!) – no dude, that’s just punctuation. That show is $3. We’ll see you and your double there.
In other Churchill’s Pub news, you probably heard that the place was robbed at gun-point recently (the third time’s an anti-charm), but manager Mike Toms reassures us over the tele that everything’s cool – Miami PD’s [finally]on it like blaxploitation badasses (re: letting the patrons be). Sir Toms adds a big “Cheers” in caps to boot.
Hunter Stephenson can be reached at Huntlaed@hotmail.com.