… A Florida state Senator walks in to a Tallahassee bar. She sits down next to a big city newspaper reporter. They chat about the things that pols and newsies used to chat about in the 20th century, when both professions had better poll numbers than they do now.
The bar is owned by Andrew Reiss, who is entering his fifth decade on Adams Street where he serves up hearty food and sturdy adult beverages to people who make things happen and people who report on the happenings. The Senator is Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach). The reporter is Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald.
Sen. Sachs was in town for a bill-signing; Ms. Miller was on “furlough,” the unpaid “vacations” which have become a staple of Old Media’s 21st century business model.
Both women cut their professional teeth in a place where reporters got most of their news from people who were not afraid to talk to them, face-to-face, using all five senses.
That place is Sen. Sachs’ south Palm Beach County district, where Ms. Miller’s Florida journalism career began in 1983 at the Boca Raton News. The News in its heyday was owned by the late John S. and James L. Knight, whose presence continues to be felt here at The Village Square through the fortune they amassed in the newspaper business, and left to communities like Tallahassee, where they once owned The Democrat.
“Marbin,” as she’s known to friends in the journalism community, went on to earn a roomful of investigative reporting honors for The Palm Beach Post and the St. Petersburg Times. And somewhere today, the Knight Brothers are smiling about her recent multiple individual and team honors, which include being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service for a stunning expose of how Florida’s elders are “Neglected to Death” in assisted living facilities.
When Mr. Reiss opened his restaurant in 1972, the borders between politicians and the press were very porous, but everybody knew where the lines were. News people insisted upon getting information from primary sources, and primary sources were not afraid to speak for themselves.
Politicians and journos still go to Andrew’s, but like the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, they mostly stick to their own kind.
For Florida’s sake, that needs to change.