The headlines and stories may change over time, but for the staff members who have helped create each issue of The Miami Hurricane, the sense of camaraderie and spirit never will.
That much was clearly visible at the first Miami Hurricane reunion, held November 5 part of a series of events to celebrate the School of Communication’s 25th anniversary this year.
Former and current staffers of the University of Miami newspaper gathered for a panel discussion called “The Hurricane Experience: Where It Took Them” that took place during the reunion.
The panel, moderated by Byron “Scotty” Scott, editor of The Hurricane in 1960, a veteran reporter and Missouri School of Journalism professor, consisted of Hurricane alums who have moved on to successful careers in entertainment, sports, marketing, and journalism. Panelists discussed how their Hurricane experiences and skills have contributed to their careers.
“Everything I have done since graduating has roots in what I did in school and at The Hurricane,” said Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning music producer Nat Chediak, a Hurricane staffer in 1971.
Panelists included Michelle Kaufman who was sports editor from 1986-87 and began her career in journalism by interviewing a football star during UM’s championship years. Today she is a sports writer for The Miami Herald, covering sporting events internationally; Deborah Wilker, editor of The Hurricane in 1981 and now an award-winning reporter focusing on the music business at Moving Pictures magazine; Juan Carlos Coto, The Hurricane’s entertainment editor in 1985 who is now a television writer and producer known for his work on Nikita, 24 and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; and Chediak, founder of the Miami International Film Festival.
“I do what I do today because of the Hurricane,” Coto said.
The Miami Hurricane, first published on October 15, 1929, has grown from a student newspaper to a community tabloid that circulates to 10,000 people today. It has given staffers incredible opportunities to cover major news stories in South Florida and abroad.
“The winter between 1959 and 1960 I went to Havana to cover the Cuban Youth movement for The Hurricane,” Scott added. “I sold the story to the AP wire and it was my first big break in journalism. I went to work in newspapers in five major cities after that.”
Many in the audience noted the differences between The Hurricane they were a part of and today’s publication. “We used typewriters. There was no Internet,” said Ed Goodpaster, the paper’s editor in 1950. “We were certainly connected with the student body. Students had to get their news from The Hurricane. We were big stuff.”
Susan Neuman, the first female editor of The Hurricane during the 1960s, recalled putting an end to the “Hurricane honeys” the paper’s version of calendar girls —beautiful but not popular with all readers.
“There was a time when the headline was The Hurricane,” said Gerald Schwartz, Hurricane editor in 1949 and also editor of the former Jewish Herald. “We didn’t know if there was enough funding to keep the paper going.”
Maurice Labrelle, editor in 1953, recalled his years with The Hurricane as “a great time.”
“It was my senior year; I had just gotten married. The Hurricane won an All-American rating [a prestigious award given to the best of the best in the publications world] for the 23rd year in a row. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Ritche Lucas, the editor of The Hurricane in 1980, spoke about the dynamic character and the importance of journalism in today’s world. “Journalism is changing by the minute,” said Lucas, founder of Think Factory, a marketing company who has worked for major corporations like The Miller Brewing Company and Baskin-Robbins International since graduating from UM. “But we cannot let it die.”