'Miami Herald' VP Puts Digital First
BY JARED SHAPIRO
In the dawn of the digital age and following a relocation to Doral, the Miami Herald's Mindy Marqués Gonzalez looks to the future while preserving the legacy of the historic newspaper.
Mindy Marqués Gonzalez at the Miami Herald’s printing press building, which also prints for 22 clients, including The Wall Street Journal and New York Post. “Our parent company invested $50 million in this move, taking apart the presses, putting them back together,” she says.
In the world of breaking news, there’s nothing like being in the right place at the right time. On the day I visited the Miami Herald, that was no more evident than when veteran Herald photographer Al Diaz was stuck in traffic on the Dolphin Expressway.
In seconds, Diaz went from just another inconvenienced driver to hero photographer when a woman caring for an infant came running through stopped traffic screaming that the baby in her arms wasn’t breathing. Diaz sprung into action and summoned help from within the jam in the form of an off-duty police officer. More help arrived, CPR was given, the baby started breathing, and Diaz’s photos of the entire ordeal made not only the front page of the State & Local section of the Herald but went viral around the world.
For Executive Editor and Vice President of the Miami Herald Mindy Marqués Gonzalez, it was just another day for the 110-year-old paper. The Herald has been calling Doral home since last May, after its downtown Miami location sold for $236 million. Marqués Gonzalez says, “It was a great business move,” and in a world where consumers expect their news immediately—and digital—a “great business move” is more important now than ever. Here she talks with Ocean Drive about the move out to Doral, the future, and her first job at the paper.
Executive Editor Martin Baron and Managing Editor/News Mark Seibel when the paper won a Pullitzer in 2001 for its coverage of Elián González.
How has the transition from your old and original location gone?
The transition has gone really well. There was a lot of emotional attachment to the old building. But this has given us an opportunity to build a state-of-the-art, modern newsroom that really points to the future, and that’s a big difference compared to the old space, built many decades ago completely around a print product only.
You’re in the old US Southern Command building. What’s significant about it?
The US Southern Command is the center that controls military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America. This building is hurricane proof, built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Also, those windows are ballistic proof, which we love to say. We have generators that can not only run the printing presses but also run the building. We have enough generators to run the whole operation in case of a hurricane. We’ve never not published in our 110 years.
How was staffing affected by the move?
We went through some downsizing—like a lot of companies—a few years back, but we’ve stabilized. We’re probably about half the size we were 10 years ago. Technology is impacting all media companies, and almost every business has to adapt.
That can be a good thing for you because of online and mobile.
The digital space has been an amplifier for us. Our average traffic now to the Miami Herald website is 6.3 million monthly unique visitors. People want to immediately know what’s going on, and we do that through online, or Twitter or Facebook. We are on so many different platforms [more than 55 digital outlets, including social media and mobile], dishing out the news. We’re really pushing towards a digital-first philosophy. A big percentage of our revenue now is digital; I think we’re at 20 percent.
Marqués Gonzalez with Herald reporter Steve Rothaus during a morning meeting.
You started out as an intern here in 1986. What was it like back then?
When I started working, we weren’t even on the modern PC. It was like the first iteration of a PC. It looked like those old, big televisions. You had your notebook, your pen, and the phone with a cord on it. I remember the first cell phones; they weighed like 10 pounds, and you only got them for breaking news. You’d take this big boulder with you in case of breaking news, and everybody didn’t have one. Then there were beepers. Deadlines were simple: You were writing for the daily the next day. Now, we’re continually publishing online. We have all these ways to tell stories that we didn’t have before.
What is the daily circulation of the paper in terms of sales?
The circulation daily for the Miami Herald is 155,113 (207,007 on Sundays), but you can’t measure our reach just by circulation anymore because we’re not just a newspaper alone anymore. It’s such a small part of the story now. We actually grew our Sunday circulation by 3 percent last year.
What would you say are the biggest problems facing South Florida right now?
I would say on a statewide level, we continue to look very seriously at the issues of children, child deaths under the watch of the Department of Children and Families
Is that neglect? Lack of funding?
There’s been a shift in policy that really tilted heavily toward family reunification, and so it was almost family reunification at any cost. Children were left in very dangerous situations in an attempt to keep the family together, and that resulted in their death. The other thing is this resurgence of corruption on the [part] of government officials in City Hall. We saw three mayors indicted last year. Public accountability is a key part of what we have to do. We had a Pulitzer Prize finalist for public service in 2010. We’ve won 20 Pulitzers in our history. We don’t do what we do to win prizes, but it is a recognition that the work you’re doing is important, and in the last seven years, we have either won or been a finalist for five Pulitzer Prizes.
What is next for the Herald in the future?
I can’t tell you exactly how you’ll be getting your news, but I know we’ll be delivering that news. We’ll be here.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY gary james; jared lazarus/herald staff (baron)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.