The Miami Herald lost its greatest treasure today, with the death of long-time reporter and editor Gene Miller. I wrote about Miller on my news research blog today. Here's part of it:
Miami Herald obituary
He may have been my favorite journalist of all time. I met Gene not long after coming to The Miami Herald in 1981. He'd been there for 25 years or so already, and had won two Pulitzers. Not only that, but they were Pulitzers for getting innocent people out of jail. Not often anyone gets to do that.
Gene was irreverent, funny, had a huge laugh you could hear across the newsroom. He had friends all over journalism and was constantly writing letters to them pointing out stories they'd missed, errors, or making suggestions. He'd often bring those letters around to be read, because he enjoyed them so much. He wrote the best ledes ever.
When he was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, he wrote his own irreverent biography. The Herald obit, mostly written by Gene himself, is a rewrite of the Hall of Fame bio, but adds some commentary by Martin Merzer, who gets the essence:
"His philosophy: Put everything in the newspaper, unvarnished. Just ask questions, write down the answers and put them in the newspaper. Pretty simple.
Gene's first byline appeared in The Herald on Nov. 9, 1957, the day after he came to work. In that story, a BBC executive said, ''There is no substitute for news.'' It became Gene's creed.
'Publish! Journalistic cowardliness and/or soft-headedness is as evil as censorship and is just as harmful to a free society,' Gene wrote in 1984 when a Herald editor made the mistake of sending him a questionnaire about dicey journalistic situations."
posted by liz at 6:46 PM
Gene died on the anniversary of the Watergate break-in, probably the biggest thing to happen to journalism in his lifetime. I hope he got to enjoy the Deep Throat stories in the last few weeks....I noticed recently that among the files in the Bernstein/Woodward Watergate collection at UT, is one correspondence from someone at The Miami Herald: Gene Miller. Another of Gene's letters.
One thing keeps coming back to mind from the last few months Miller was still working in the Herald building: my desk was near the elevators, and nearly every night as Gene left, I'd hear him telling someone as they went into the elevators: "Puusha da button". I imagined that most of the people he encountered didn't know what he was talking about. But Gene taught me to pay attention to Miami's history, a passion of his, and 'puusha da button' was the thing that Guissepe Zangara was reported to have said just before he was executed for the attempted assassination of FDR and murder of Chicago mayor Anton Cermak in Miami's Bayfront Park in 1933. A crude mockery of Zangara's Italian accent, but part of Miami's amazing history. He loved Miami and its stories, and his enthusiasm infected everyone around him.
Among former Herald reporters writing about Miller: Joel Achenbach at his WashingtonPost.com blog. There will be more. I'll link later.