Interview With Channel 10 Reporter Michael Putney
A journalist friend of mine who travels quite a bit has a method for finding the best places to eat. “In the deep south if you want good barbecue,” he says, “ask an insurance man. In New York City if you want the best slice of pizza, ask a cop. And in Miami, if you’re looking for a good place to eat, ask a newsman.”
So who better to ask about Miami than WPLG Channel 10’s Michael Putney?
Twenty years ago the Miami Herald named Putney, “the unofficial dean of South Florida’s TV journalists,” and added, “[he] brings to his stories what no reporter can buy, manufacture or learn in school: experience. He knows this town.”
Michael Putney was born in New York City and spent his childhood in St. Louis and Berkeley, California.
After high school, he attended the University of Missouri in Columbia. While a grad student he worked as a radio reporter and then radio news director. He also found time to work as an editor at the Columbia newspaper.
In 1970, Putney moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for The National Observer as a reporter and national feature writer until the paper closed in 1977. After the Observer, he worked briefly for Time magazine. Later that year the Miami Herald hired him to write for its respected Sunday magazine, Tropic. He also wrote a popular column for the paper.
In 1981 Putney returned to broadcasting as a reporter and later an anchor for WTVJ.
In 1989, Putney jumped ship and joined WPLG Channel 10 as the station’s senior political reporter and host of the Sunday morning newsmakers/interview show, “This Week in South Florida.”
Local and national politicians visiting South Florida are regularly invited to appear on Putney’s show. A weekly paper once wrote, “It’s no use declining his invitation — Putney will tell that to his viewers, who will then wonder whether the person has something to hide.”
After almost 45 years as a journalist - 30 of those in South Florida - he shows no signs of slowing down.
Arguably the best-dressed reporter on South Florida’s airwaves, Putney has been known to trade in his pin-striped suit and high-gloss wing-tips for a rain slicker and boots to cover neighborhood flooding after a torrential downpour.
So, how does South Florida’s hardest working newsman unwind?
MiamiBeach411.com recently asked Putney about his most memorable stories and favorite haunts.
Can you tell us some of the more memorable stories you’ve covered?
Most memorable stories include the Mariel boatlift, the Liberty City riots, Elian Gonzalez, Joe Carollo stabbing Maurice Ferre in the back, moderating the debate between gubernatorial hopefuls Bill McBride (who whiffed) and Jeb Bush (who didn’t) and the 2000 election debacle.
Who are some people, in your opinion, have had the greatest impact on South Florida?
Biggest players in South Florida over the last 30 years include Fidel Castro, Jorge Mas Canosa, Bob Graham (and his wife, Adele), Jeb Bush, banker Harry Hood Bassett, Miami Herald publisher Alvah Chapman, Donna Shalala, Wayne Huizenga, Judge Gerry Wetherington, Merrett Stierheim, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. There are many more, but those names come to mind.
Is there anyone in South Florida who you’ve wanted to do a story on or interview but never had the chance?
I’d sure like to sit down with Steve Ross, new owner of the Dolphins and what’s the name of that stadium he owns?
Name some of your favorite neighborhood haunts.
Neighborhood haunts include George’s in NOBE (north Miami Beach vs. North Miami Beach), Barrio Latino in Aventura, Michy’s on Biscayne Blvd., and a delightful newcomer, Petit Rouge on Biscayne at about 124th Street.
A close friend or relative is visiting Miami for the first time. You’re going to take them on a leisurely Sunday drive. Where do you take them and what stops do you make along the way?
If the visitor was under 30, we’d cruise down Ocean Drive; over 30 we’d walk down Lincoln Road. If eco-minded, the lighthouse at Cape Florida on Key Biscayne.
An old friend who you haven’t seen in years is overnighting in Miami and you’re taking him/her to dinner. Where do you go?
If they didn’t know Cuban food, probably to Versailles, which is very consistent. Also cheap. The Peruvian fare at Adriana’s in Surfside is delicious. I also like Surfside’s Cafe Ragazzi. For a big plunge, Capital Grill or the restaurant at the Delano. For no-glitz intimacy, good food and lower prices, Petit Rouge.
What is your favorite in-town weekend getaway?
An ideal weekend might include tennis in the morning at North Shore Park (excellent public courts), a stroll on the beach (I particularly like Bal Harbour), an evening concert by the New World Symphony at the Lincoln Theater, followed by dinner at one of the many good (but not great) al fresco restaurants on Lincoln Road where people watching is the best in the world.
What are your favorite local websites?
I like this Random Pixels guy quite a bit and rely on Bob Norman’s Daily Pulp for juicy political stuff.
Favorite guilty pleasure.
Oreos out of the machine at work. Pretty lame, huh?
And finally, what newspapers do you read up there in Aventura?
I read The Miami Herald (hanging in there despite steep cuts), the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and glance through the Sun-Sentinel. Used to read the Daily Business Review but it got too expensive. And I can see Cuba from my house.
Thanks for the interview, Michael!
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