Welcome to the latest edition of Courting Disaster, your guide to the strange, off-beat and occasionally tragic civil filings in Miami-Dade County. This week we have (alleged) tales of woe about pernicious uncles, hangry security guards, foul tax preparers and a secret plot involving the CIA and a Miami Beach library. Let’s dig in!
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At about 9 p.m. Tuesday at Barceloneta in Miami Beach, the restaurant, crowded to near capacity with people watching the latest Democratic debate in Detroit, was interrupted by a series of yelps. Instead of a commentary on the current presidential candidates, the sound had emanated from Oliver, a service-animal Beagle. Approximately 60 people attended the event sponsored by the Miami Beach Democratic Club, the sequel to the debates that took place in Miami last month.
The concept of Solutions Journalism is to focus on how an issue is being resolved rather than simply focusing on the issue itself. Much of impactful journalism is about a problem or a failure of someone (or something) in power to do the right thing. I use the word "impactful" because I want to differentiate it from more process-oriented pieces (e.g., dutifully reporting on a city council vote), entertainment news or commentary. Other synonyms might be "watchdog, "investigative" or "news analysis." The Solutions Journalism folks tend to call this type of piece "problems journalism."
I'm writing this in the Admiral's Club in the O'Hare airport in Chicago, leg two of my July journeys. I spent most of last week in the Orlando area, talking to public records experts and journalism professors.
Welcome to the first edition of my newest writing project: Courting Disaster. This is based on a column I wrote for the San Francisco Examiner back in 2001 and 2002 of the same name that looked at the odd, offbeat and just plain strange lawsuits and other recently filed cases.
When I moved to Florida from California a bit more than three years ago, I was amazed by the difference in the public record laws. The Sunshine State has some of the most open laws in the nation. Surprisingly, though, this is not something that is formally taught at many journalism schools in the state, FIU included.
For better or worse, my reading list these days has been focused on the self-help variety. The latest has been "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. Though I have not finished the book, there are a few good ideas that I've picked up. One of them is something he calls "habit stacking," which is essentially adding something you want to start doing regularly into an already established routine.
Writing on a regular basis -- even when you're not entirely sure of the direction or purpose -- is a huge aspect of being, well, a writer. One of the things I occasionally struggle with in my new career as a journalism professor is keeping that tool sharp. Without the constant deadline pressures of my old life, it is challenging to get myself to just write.
A few months ago, The New Miami posted a story about an anonymous person (or persons) that created a fantasy Metrorail map. I was very taken by the map itself -- which essentially converts Miami-Dade and Broward highways, expressways and main arterial roads into multicolored rail lines.