Go ahead, make my day: The good, bad and ugly of local journalism

It's a good day to look at the "Good, the Bad and the Ugly" of our journalism competition.

The good goes to the weekly Observer for a touching story on a local man who lit up Christmas spirits for many years. The bad goes to NSBshadow.com for its bad to the bone story on Clay Henderson and his telephone conversations with City Commissioner Randy Richenberg and the ugly to the Daytona Beach News-Journal for its two days-late, 75 cents too-much story on an elderly woman rescued by deputies.

First to the Observer and its editor, Robert Burns, for the lead story this week, "NSB Christmas icon comes to an end." Burns informed local readers of the illness that has befallen Herb Bossie, a New Smyrnan, who for the past 18 years has turned his home at 118 Park Blvd., into a Christmas oasis and played Santa Claus.

Burns' second sentence summarized the essence of a sad story: "After nearly two decades of thrilling New Smyrna's holiday crowds, the Bossie Christmas House will be dark this season."

Herb Bossie had a massive heart attack and stroke in August and his prognosis is not good, his wife said.

Another great line in Burns' story: "Mrs. (Peggy) said the only thing she wants for Christmas this year is prayers from the community for her husband's recovery. 'Herb loves so many people. All those little kids who sat on his lap. All those children he hugged. Many of them are parents themselves now.' "
Burns also noted, "Each autumn for the past 18 years, toward the end of September, hardworking Herb would start cleaning up the house located at 118 Park Boulevard in New Smyrna Beach. He'd string lights and arrange statues. Herb would climb ladders and hang garland. Just like clockwork, he'd get to work and fans of the Christmas season would get excited."

As Burns reported, the Bossie family is holding an estate sale at the home for all kinds of neat holiday items through 3 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Mementos will also be returned to families who want to come and retrieve them.

As for The Shadow, the reporting is much more hardcore, but just as important. His cover story on Clay Henderson hit some raw nerves, though it's supposition that attorney Clay Henderson tells city commissioners what to do. The Shadow, whose real name is Nahum Litt, published the cell phone records of the city commissioners. An overwhelming number of calls took place in the last couple of months between Henderson and City Commissioner Randy Richenberg.

It was Richenberg who implored his colleagues last month to vote in favor of bypassing formal county oversight over talks between New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater over the regional impacts such as traffic and utilities associated with the big Restoration residential and commercial development in Edgewater. Henderson, an attorney with Holland and Knight, who specializes in environmental law, represents the interests of Restoration's developers. And just a couple of weeks ago, Richenberg, along with City Commissioner Lynne Plaskett, led a failed effort to try and have City Attorney Frank Gummey fired for his legal interpretation of the roles of the City of New Smyrna Beach and the Utilities Commission of New Smyrna Beach. Henderson is also the attorney of record for the Utilities Commission.

You can see Henderson's concerns about the Utilities Commission's legal standing in a video we shot at the last City Commission meeting in our Local News Now section and in our Cover Story archives.

The Shadow never asked Richenberg or Henderson if there was any influence or coaching. Richenberg is ripped on a weekly basis by the Shadow, who portrays him as a surfer dude who benefits from his retired firefighter-wife's hefty pension. Said Richenberg who spoke with Henderson dozens of times, according to the cell phone records, "I respect Clay Henderson as a past president of The Audubon Society who understands development. Clay is a very intelligent person I have a lot of respect for. In all honesty I speak to a lot of different attorneys. The people in the Shadow may not understand or appreciate that."

And now for the ugly. The Mighty Metro that is the Daytona Beach News-Journal raised its daily newsstand price from 50 to 75 cents, less than five months after closing all of its bureaus, including the New Smyrna Beach office on Canal Street. The paper also fired more than 100 people in response to losing a $129 million judgment to its minority shareholder, Cox Enterprises, over wasteful spending involving the building of the News-Journal Lively Arts Center, which is now owned by Daytona State College. With that history is a preface, it's not surprising the management of the newspaper would drop the ball on an 84-year-old woman rescued from her feces-infested Glencoe Road home by deputies earlier that day.

The Mighty Metro got around to publishing that story today -- Saturday. And with no shame, it was made the lead local story. The story was spoon-fed to local media, including NSBNEWS.net that Thursday. And you wonder why daily newspapers like the News-Journal have become so irrelevant. Of course, the Mighty Metro had no problem charging $1.50 for Thursday's Thanksgiving edition for the "Black-Friday" advertising circulars, along with two-day-old news about New Smyrna Beach.

There you have it: The good, the bad and the ugly of competitive journalism.

About the Blogger

Henry Frederick's picture

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com, launched April 7, 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with scores of regional, state & national journalism-industry awards for nearly 100 breaking news & investigative reporting stories in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut.
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