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Miami Herald Bids Biscayne Bay Adieu

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MIAMI ( TheStreet) - Of all the terrible sad stories about the decline of the American newspaper industry, the saddest for me was last week's report that The Miami Herald staff gathered to drink champagne and prepare to vacate the Herald's historic Biscayne Bay building.

The building will be sold to developers who will tear it down to build a luxury hotel adjoined by high-end condominiums. The Herald will move to a suburban location near an expressway. Good-bye to a newspaper's one-of-a-kind home near the heart of the city. Hello to more unneeded waterfront property for rich people.

I worked at The Herald for eight years, the high point of my nearly 40 years as a reporter. Our newsroom hummed with energy because Miami is a news factory, a city engaged in the production of news. As a deadline approached, the energy level would surge. I was always inspired by returning from some airline industry event at around 4:30 p.m., when people in nearly every other line of work were starting to go home, in order to write a story with a 6 p.m. deadline in a newsroom where dozens of other writers were doing the same thing.. I have rarely been so convinced in my work life that I was doing what I ought to be doing.

My desk at The Miami Herald was the best desk any newspaper reporter ever occupied. I was in the back row of the business section. If I looked straight ahead, the entire newsroom stretched out ahead of me. In my memory it is about the length of half a football field, although I imagine it was actually shorter. I could observe the bustle of activity around the metro desk as reporters would approach, confer and then drift away to write. Invariably, two factors influenced these discussions: the story's importance and the reporter's identity. The bigger the story, of course, the greater the number of people who were involved in discussing it. Additionally, as in every newsroom, some reporters were in favor while others were out of favor. The office melodramas would unfold before my eyes.

To my left, all along the newsroom's outer wall, were those magnificent soaring windows that overlooked Biscayne Bay. To my immediate left, directly across the bay, was Miami Beach. Sometimes, I would watch storms or hurricanes roll in. I never thought about hurricanes until I arrived in Miami, but there they were a way of life, one more source of great stories for The Herald. I have always felt that if you were a good reporter from somewhere else and you arrived at The Miami Herald, you could become a great reporter, because you covered great stories. We even had reporters who specialized in hurricanes. We won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for covering Andrew the previous year. One of our headlines was "We Need Help," all in caps, because at first, nobody outside Miami had any idea of the extent of the devastation or, it seemed to us, any interest in mitigating it. We spoke for Miami then.