A newspaper is more than bricks and mortar

ADIOS & FAREWELL: The last bit of structure of the old Miami Herald building in downtown Miami came down this week.
ADIOS & FAREWELL: The last bit of structure of the old Miami Herald building in downtown Miami came down this week.

For much of its history, the Miami Herald resided at One Herald Plaza, an imposing Miami Modern structure on Biscayne Bay. The building became one of the most recognized in Miami and stood proud for several decades. With its blue neon letters glowing out toward the water, it became, literally and figuratively, a beacon of journalism.

Nearly two years ago, those blue neon lights dimmed, and soon after a wrecking ball pummeled the face of an icon. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Malaysian gambling behemoth Genting, which lost its initial legislative battle to bring gambling to Miami, dragged its feet on demolishing the property, likely as a way to restrategize and decide what to do with their pricey, waterfront site.

Many have waxed nostalgic about One Herald Plaza, including the Herald itself, which just ran a lengthy feature on the building's history once the last standing walls were torn down.

There’s certainly enough justification for many to linger on this building, most important that the Herald has won all but one of its 20 Pulitzer Prizes from that storied former headquarters.

But that nostalgia took a distressing turn during the prolonged leveling of the newspaper’s former home. I was frequently reminded of the ruins by friends on social media, who posted photos of the site expressing their sadness and mourning its loss. On more than one occasion, they proclaimed the death of journalism.

It cannot be denied that the Herald, like most dailies now, is a different paper. Changes in how readers consume news and how companies spend their advertising dollars have caused seismic shifts in newsrooms throughout the country. Gone are the days when newspapers produced profit margins higher than many Fortune 500 companies, as the New York Times reported Knight-Ridder did before it was sold to McClatchy Newspapers.

But to say that journalism in Miami died when the Herald left One Herald Plaza is pure hyperbole.

The Herald isn’t the only property to move from its storied home. Papers across the country, from Detroit to San Jose, have sold off their former headquarters as they downsize while owners made a few bucks off their valuable property holdings. Even glossy magazine conglomerates like Condé Nast and Time Inc. decamped for cheaper rents as a way to minimize costs as subscribers and ad pages decline.

The Herald’s move was by all means a smart decision. Its bayfront property sold for $263 million, an astounding figure by any measure. While it’s nearly impossible for anyone to argue that Doral is a better location than its former bayside home, its new headquarters is far more suitable for the paper.

I began writing regularly for the Herald two years ago, just as it was beginning to pack up its bags and head out to the suburbs. While many were reminiscing over the good ol’ days of One Herald Plaza, I began working with the Herald editors to churn out stories.

One thing I learned quickly was that there was little time to be nostalgic when there is a paper that needs to be published. Despite staff cuts, the Herald has yet to break its stride and has continued to be a vital resource to this community by reporting the news everyday.

Nearly everything I’ve ever written for public consumption has appeared in the Herald, which also means that nearly everything I’ve written has been on newsprint, something that few young journalists can say. Many have decried the death of print media, but I’ve found there’s still a deep connection to it as many small businesses proudly showcase news clippings on the walls of their establishments and subjects often rush out to buy copies of their paper for keepsakes.

Many media pundits are curious to see what direction the newspaper industry will take in the coming years. But the Herald’s future looks promising as the city continues to grow rapidly in every imaginable way, with stories that need to be told and a public that is deeply invested in its reporting to keep it informed.

One Herald Plaza may be gone for good, but the Herald is here to stay.

Ricardo Mor is operations and programs coordinator for the Miami Center for Architecture & Design.