How do they do it?

Editor's note: The following landed in Slug's inbox recently. While we cannot vouch for its veracity, we decided to print it anyway because we liked it.

Date: 10/2/03
From: Tim Franklin, Orlando Sentinel vice president and editor
To: Elaine Kramer, managing editor
Re: Kudos


Kudos to you and your staff on the Pearlman piece in the Oct. 5 paper. Front page, above the fold, a full page and a jump on the inside, photos, graphics, the whole package. Wow. That was no shot across the bow, and I think it will silence the critics who say we're too soft on the man. And the headline was perfect: "Scouting network's history troubles Pearlman." In just five words we paint him as conscientious entrepreneur beset by difficulties beyond his control, which is right where we need to be. We raised the question of Pearlman's lack of due diligence in acquiring his model scouting business, but we didn't answer it. I think those kinds of things are best left up to the reader to decide. Critics (Jim Clark, anyone?) have said we were too slow to get on the Pearlman story and too easy on him once we did. This should shut them (him) up.

Speaking of Pearlman, that piece we wrote about the lack of progress on Church Street? Fantastic. Great concept. I'm glad to see you've got idea people working for you down there in the newsroom. A lot of papers these days fill their ranks with inexperienced (and yes, cheaper) reporters without the seasoning to ask the tough questions. Not the Sentinel.

I've noticed a few other home runs in our pages lately that I wanted to call to your attention. That piece by Boedeker on Channel 9 general manager Bill Hoffman copping on tape to going easy on Pearlman and Trans Continental Talent in exchange for 140 large? Grand slam, outta the park. How does Boedeker do it? Where does he come up with stuff like that? No matter. That story had journalists all over this town buzzing like flies around a molasses keg, and it was right there in the Sentinel. Dog-ear that page for award time.

I also liked the stories about Commis-sioner Vicki Vargo and her petition declaring Exodus International Day in Orlando. I take our role as watchdog very seriously, Elaine, and perhaps the most sacred trust we hold is to keep Orlandoans informed about the doings of their city officials. The stories also showed that nothing, I mean nothing, of importance happens in this city without the Sentinel knowing about it. How many reporters did we have at the Exodus International convention when Vargo gave her proclamation? I bet we blanketed the place. And when one of our sharp young scribes saw that the story wasn't the convention itself but the fact that a city official tacitly supported an anti-gay group, we got it in the paper. Huzzah.

Need another example of us being everywhere lately? I've got one. That cop who got caught sending a racial slur to another cop over his pager. The Tribune Co. officially dislikes bigotry, and the Sentinel can't let it stand. We didn't, and I for one am proud.

I'm on a roll here, and I'm feeling the love. I think I'll be cc'ing this letter to Chicago -- you know, a little update on what we're doing down here. So indulge me for a few more graphs.

Loved the piece about Florida Hometown Democracy, the folks who want to put development in the hands of voters. Development is a hot-button topic, and when we write about it, we move product. Not to mention that coverage of this sort goes a long way toward fulfilling our watchdog role. There's that word again, but dang it, that's how I see the Sentinel: a snarling, snapping watchdog. With a good food section. (Did you try the recipe for hominy succotash? To die for.) And a healthy bottom line, of course. The watchdog has to be fed. I don't think I need to tell you that.

You know, I've been thinking lately about how we take a lot of flak for being a monopoly daily owned by a large corporation that some say values profits more than journalism. Some have even called us fat and lazy. Judging by the examples above, I don't see it. You and your staff are consistently finding and reporting stories that matter to Orlando, that make a difference in people's lives. I don't know how you do it, I don't know what your sources are, I don't know where your ideas come from. But I do know that the results are stellar. Keep it up and we'll all have something to be excited about around bonus time this year.

All right, enough already. It's past 4:30 p.m. and I've got a golf date, so I'm going to wrap this up. A long-winded way of saying keep up the good work. I just wanted you to know that I've noticed, and Chicago has too.