Saturday, February 21, 2009

20/20 Does its Thing

Brian Ross is the best reporter in television. I already knew that even before I met the guy. He's a true reporter. He's not into glitz. He's into getting the story and he's fearless. He did his thing on Madoff and Palm Beach last night on 20/20 and it was by far the best thing that's been done. And I know lots more was there that didn't make the cut. The program was cut down from the hour it was supposed to be. Anna Schecter was the producer in Palm Beach. She's a killer. I don't want her on my trail. Don't be misled by her looks, she's a tiger as Robert Jaffe found out.

I've had experiences with reporters before where they suck you dry, ask for your sources, and then move on leaving with you nothing for your time. Brian and Anna made sure that I was amply quoted and the reaction is incredible. Nobody believes what this one segment has done to the sale of Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach. It was already a bestseller but it's now basically the number three nonfiction hardcover on Amazon, not bad for a book published a month ago.

Anyway, you might enjoy the program if you missed it. I'm in the second part. You can find it at:

Ellen Jaffe's Revenge

I had a meeting at the Kravis Center Wednesday about my talk there on March 16. I knew that they had received all kinds of pressure to cancel the event, and I had been told that they had caved in. That wasn't true, and I left the meeting with great admiration for the administration of the Kravis Center and their commitment to intellectual liberty. It had nothing to do with me or my book, it was liberty and freedom of expression they were defending.

I assumed that the meeting was confidential and when the following day I received a phone call from Page Six at the New York Post, I figured someone at the meeting had leaked the story. It turned out, as I just learned from an email a few minutes ago, that the two events had nothing to do with one another. The person who alerted Page Six had learned the information from members of the Palm Beach Country Club. Alas, the gossip item makes it look as if I am the primary source. Nothing to be done and it's a healthy thing to have Ellen Jaffe's behavior exposed. Here's the piece:

THE wife of Bob Jaffe - the Palm Beach bon vivant in the doghouse for getting the tony island's millionaires to invest with Bernard Madoff - is fighting for her beleaguered husband's honor.
Author Laurence Leamer says Ellen Shapiro Jaffe is waging a fierce campaign to get his upcoming lecture at the Kravis Center axed because of unflattering cracks he made about her hubby in Boston magazine. "She is especially pissed and she's pressuring them," Leamer told Page Six. "You would think she'd be in social hibernation and have better things to do."
In the article, Leamer called Jaffe "a 60-something peacock in a black dinner jacket . . . [with] an aging gigolo's looks, with sleek black hair and a face that if not lifted by plastic surgery . . . looked not youthful so much as the caricature of youth."
Jaffe, originally a Boston shoe salesman, "was looking for a rich wife and Ellen was the best he could do," said one source, who describes him as a Madoff "middleman . . . steering eager clients his way and collecting easy fees in return."
Leamer - set to discuss his book, "Madness Under the Royal Palms," at the Kravis Center on March 16 - said, "The phone has been ringing off the hook for weeks asking them to cancel me - and the name behind it I keep hearing is Ellen Jaffe . . . She's not letting up. Luckily, they have the courage to stand up to it."
Jaffe's rep, Elliot Sloan, said that Ellen, a Kravis Center board member, made only two calls to officials there about Leamer's book because "all it does is open up hurtful wounds in the community." Sloan also slammed the article as "full of inaccuracies," insisting Jaffe has not had plastic surgery, noting he's been married to Ellen for 40 years and they "are very much in love."
Jaffe's name has been mud since the Madoff scandal broke. In December, he was called a "dirty bastard" and nearly pummeled at Mar-a-Lago by Nine West founder Jerome Fisher, who lost $150 million.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The sad story of the Palm Beach Daily News

When Bob Norman wrote his devastating account of the life of Society Editor Shannon Donnelly at the Palm Beach Daily News in his blog and printed edition of New Times, I was sure the investigative story would lead to an investigation on the part of Cox management. It led, instead, to top management standing firmly behind their publisher, editor and society editor without even a cursory examination. But now that I have seen the incredible comments to the article, I don't understand how they can stand back and not seek out the truth or falsehood of a myriad of serious allegations. In case you haven't seen them, here are the comments as of this evening.

John deGroot says:
Bob, your premise is flawed.Calling the "Shiney Sheet" a newspaper is like calling the Booby Trap a gentlemen's club.Truth is, whatever the so-called "Shiney Sheet" does to make a buck, it ain't no kind of journalism -- anymore than the Show-for-Dough whore's game played by the likes of City and Shore, and the many South Florida slick society mags that cater to readers with a surplus of money and a shortage of taste.PSCheck out Larry Leamer's interview on You Tube.The guy's a world class Snoot Hoot who clearly had a ball intimidating the snot out of the Flash-N-Cash Trash like The Donald that pass for High Society on Palm Beach these days.Posted On:
Listen up, has-been says:
John, Obviously, you don't read the Shiny Sheet (note there's no "e" in Shiny). There's more to it than pics of people at a party. It IS a newspaper with a strong staff of journalists (including yours truly) who could give the hacks at any major metro a run for their money any day. At least the staff members at the Shiny Sheet don't have to live in fear they're going to be laid off. Maybe that's because they know how to put out a successfull newspaper. Posted On:
Hack writer says:
Where was Leamer -- who for some reason calls himself a journalist -- when he talks about Donnelly at the head table?In his impossible to read, opportunistic and intensely boring book it's clear he was there too. Donnelly is probably the force that keep that paper afloat, and a more ethical journalist than you'll find at that or any other paper these days. Leamer on the other hand is an unemployed hack with a chip on his shoulder.Posted On:
Lived Long Enough says:
This story isn't new. It was originally broadcast some time ago with gusto by a hired gun of some of Palm Beach's grandest dames who, while claiming to be a dear friend of Ms. Donnelly's, was simultaneously mouthing off to anyone who would listen about his file of canceled checks made out to Ms. Donnelly that he claimed to have in his possession- a file that he threatened would destroy both his clients and said society editor- one that he was holding for "judgment day." Whether it exists or not- it's all toxic- and indicative of the double standards, special exceptions, petty vendettas, blatant cover ups,indifferent management and corruption that define the Palm Beach Daily News- with or without Leamer's flaccid book. Any other Cox newspaper- any other newspaper of record for that matter- would have taken swift action to protect its "journalistic integrity."
What is truly disturbing, however, is that Ms. Donnelly habitually is the first in the Palm Beach Daily News newsroom to cry "impropriety" to management regarding her co-workers in a feeble attempt to draw attention away from her own misdeeds. Ask anyone who works for Palm Beach Newspapers Inc. If they weren't afraid of losing their jobs, they would sing like canaries- if they already haven't. Problem is, management has made it clear that "going there" is treacherous ground since "The Shiny Sheet" still turns a profit in the face of declining newspaper revenues, mainly due to its fawning society coverage. Therefore, Ms. Donnelly's gifted designer duds will remain Teflon-coated as long as her bosses choose to look the other way. Wonder why? It's called "bottom line." Or, are they also getting a piece of the pie?
Posted On:
John deeGroot says:
Senile has-been that I am, I stand corrected regarding my opinion of the Shiny Sheet.By the way, did you know some doddering Old Money WASPS on the Beach call it the "Sheeny Sheet."Anyhow..I am sure that, altho driven to serve the interests of whatever passes for High Society on Palm Beach these days, the Daily News does boast several hard-working and decent newspaper folks....Just ss I'm sure there are some gentlemen who view the likes of the all-nude, all-action Booby Trap as their club. Posted On:
Former Floridian says:
Sorry miffed PBDN minion, I gotta back de Groot on this one.
The PBDN has always been an inconsequential chronicler of municipal press releases and feel-good local features, with the occasional traffic accident to provide some actual news.
What it always did best, even when I worked in PBC 20 years ago, was to drop names of well-heeled townies like pellets behind a deer. Yawn.
That's not to demean the work of the "strong staff of journalists" -- deer work exceptionally hard at what they do, and will also thrive in most environments. Posted On:
Journalista says:
As someone who had to edit the Shiny Sheet "news" stories on occasion, let me assure you it isn't a high-quality newspaper by any means.The reporting is spotty and the writing is mediocre at best.However, it does serve its community to the degree of letting the upper crust get their names and mugs in the paper at regular intervals and connects clubs, charities and various organizations via print.I have always been surprised at how the newspaper keeps churning a profit, but then again I have to balance my checkbook once a week.Posted On:
give me a break says:
Former Floridian, the Shiny Sheet is a community newspaper. It's not a big metro paper. Do you understand that? For what it is, the Palm Beach Daily News is a damn good product. It's Palm Beach, so of course, society coverage is huge. Bottom line: It sells and keeps people employed, including yours truly. I have no problem paying my bills and don't think I have to worry about it working here. You'd be hard-pressed to find too many other journalists in South Florida sharing that sentiment. Posted On:
Lived Long Enough says:
The point that everyone seems to be missing is that regardless of the reality, the Palm Beach Daily News maintains that it is the newspaper of record for Palm Beach and a member in good standing of the fourth estate. Yes, it serves the community. But it also makes its own little rules and breaks its own little rules ala Marie Antoinette. And we all know how things ended for THAT queen.
It's said that the free press is one of the pillars of democracy, yet it's painfully clear that nothing about the Shiny Sheet is free. It's all for sale to the highest bidder courtesy of a gentleman's agreement on the part of management to look the other way while questionable practices run rampant, at least from one particular desk.
Search the archives of the New York Post's Page Six. This is not the first time that this messy little business reared its ugly head. And it's certainly not the last. Posted On:
jennifer mckenna says:
Try to remember who was the publisher of PBDN for many years. The Cox style has been to do whatever they want to do and to whomever in their path. That includes employees (no matter how loyal, productive or amount of tenure). They let all know that them with the gold makes the rules even though those rules change sometimes as often as the tides. It is evident in how many management positions change at all Cox properties and the keepers of the keys end up without a desk to put them in. I have to really concentrate to remember how may bosses I have had with Cox. Some were gone before their business cards arrived.Posted On:
islandqueenbizness says:
Bob - Wow. Finally, a little light on this.
As a follow-up to the post at Wednesday, Feb. 4 2009 @ 1:19AM: That person is right, this all isn't new, but Cox Newspapers --- if it has any interest in keeping any fleck of respect in Palm Beach County --- will get all over this quickly now, since the Shiny Sheet can't be trusted to police themselves from within. Here are the Cox newspapers in Palm Beach County taking all kinds of credit for being the reason so many Palm Beach County elected officials are going off to jail on a myriad of indictments, yet their own staffers can't behave well.
The "file" being referred to must be that of Kyle Zimmer's who has long threatened that it would destroy both his clients and Shannon. If it lands on Joyce's desk or Pat's desk, will they fire Shannon or burn it to keep their jobs? Have they never seen anything that gave them pause with Shannon? Beyond difficult to believe. Pat has a significant other who works at the Palm Beach Post across the bridge, and Joyce, as it is stated, is longtime personal friends with Shannon. The Post Publisher or Cox executives need to get into the Daily News quickly to restore respect and leadership. The "bottom line" will not last forever, and eventually the Shiny Sheet readers will realize they don't have to subscribe and advertisers don't have to spend obscene money on an ad no one pays attention to. These events now will just accelerate that unless stopped and corrected.Posted On:
Former Floridian says:
Give me a break said:"For what it is, the Palm Beach Daily News is a damn good product."
OK. Seconded. But now there's a tricky question of figuring out exactly what it is -- which speaks to the broader points mentioned in both the article and subsequent comments.
As an inconsequential chronicler of municipal press releases and toothless features, it does a first-rate job and can -- and should -- skirt some of the touchier ethical questions at play here. If it's just pretending to be a news outlet, then its reps can merely pretend to follow journalistic standards.
That's likely why a society hack taking gifts isn't as big a deal at the PBDN as it was at the New York Post.Posted On:
Lived Long Enough says:
Is everyone drinking stupid juice? Okay kids, it's time to play "Connect The Dots" Palm Beach style.
Kyle Zimmer-Lois Pope (doesn't live in Palm Beach)-Shannon Donnelly.Kyle Zimmer-Celia Lipton Farris-Shannon Donnelly.Kyle Zimmer-Patrick Park (doesn't live in Palm Beach)-Shannon Donnelly.
Now add to the recipe Kraft, Kessler, Jaffe, Bleznak, Stark, Cornacchio and poor departed Barry and Beverly Crown. That should be enough to make a nice big batch of kickback soup.
Bon appetit!
Posted On:
whatabunchoftwits says:
And this so-called piece of journalism, Pulp, reminds me of a quote from Romenesko the other day: this is a "fact-free blind slam." You should be ashamed of yourself.Posted On:
Pulp says:
Here are a few for you.
Fact: Bestselling author Laurence Leamer, who has spent years researching his book, discovered that Shannon Donnelly took gifts from a source and someone she was writing about (Barbara Wainscott Berger).
Fact: Leamer and numerous other sources Shannon Donnelly accepted expensive gifts from the people she covers at her wedding.
Fact: Three reporters took concerns that Donnelly was taking gifts to the publisher.
Fact: When Leamer asked about that meeting, he was banned from the Shiny Sheet's newsroom and morgue.
Fact: When asked about a specific $1000 loan or gift, socialite Donna Shalek became evasive, said she didn't recall, and then hung up the phone. Posted On:
Honest Abe says:
Fact: Publisher Reingolg is a personal friend of the accused
Has anyone read this book?
Posted On:
Anonymous says:
Journalists and ethics; Ha. Ha. Ha.
Write what you know, clearly and plainly, the rest will follow. Posted On:
still pissed says:
Listen up, you are an asshole...loser.Posted On:
Inky Gal says:
Miss Donnelly has made a complete mockery of not only The Shiny Sheet as an institution, but also her employers. She has them held hostage and she knows it. For management to admit that they have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear for too long from what too many people have continuously brought to their attention would only reveal them as more corrupt and inept than they already are. That's why they are reading from the "journalistic integrity" script, which only amplifies their desperation to sweep this matter under the rug ASAP.
Is Mr. Zimmer as psychopathic as Miss Donnelly? Has he actually played the Robert Jaffe to her Bernie Madoff for all of these years- facilitating her "voracious appetite" for payola- if not also getting a piece of the action? Is Ms. Reingold starring as the SEC at this performance? Who will be playing Eliot Spitzer?
Unfortunately, the real losers in this drama are the readers, whose confidence in the free press has been shaken. Miss Donnelly, Mr.Zimmer and Ms. Reingold, and God knows who else, are probably laughing all the way to the bank courtesy of the spoils from the many who took the socialite's advice of "just write her a check like we all do!" Posted On:
Jeff says:
Aren't the contretempts of the mega-rich amusing? Can you imagine a life so shallow the presence or lack of presence on a rag distributed to a mere 7k people makes any difference whatsoever? In a better world Ms. Donnelly and her ego would be inconsequential.Posted On:
Inky Gal says:
Not everyone in Palm Beach is mega-rich. Many of us actually live modest lives in modest apartments on fixed incomes. Why don't we deserve a hometown newspaper of record as accountable as any other self-proclaimed newspaper of record?
We spend summers in a small town up north. Even our dinky little newspaper there prides itself on being accurate, unbiased and free of untoward influence. It takes its role as a real newspaper very seriously. Then again, most of us are too busy weeding and keeping the deer from eating our tomatoes to worry about how many times we get our names and faces in the paper, let alone willing to pay for it.Posted On:
Anonymous says:
I think everybody here is missing the point.
I am not so familiar with all the names here, but can smell a rat.
This so called society editor, obviously, is on the take and Leamer seems to state that clearly, so something else is afoot at the Post and the Shiny Sheet, and they seem to think it is okay for her to do this.
Or they don't want to face the facts that they have a problem.
Or they don't want to believe that their star reporter is a greed-driven gal.
Must have something to do with adverts, right?
It does notseem like so many ads will be coming their way from charities right now, does it?
What gives?
If she's guilty, let her go the way of Jason Blair.
Should the reputation of a newspaper be summed up in one bad apple?
Posted On:
Brenda says:
Everyone knows that this gossip columnist is The She Devil and has fooled everyone including her bosses. I'm surprised that her co-workers haven't demanded her dismissal, since she makes the entire staff appear guilty by association. Then again, maybe that's part of her "scorched earth" master plan, to take the entire company and her feeders down with her? If so, she's doing a very good job. Posted On:
Freda Enterprise says:
What's wrong with allowing underpaid, overworked gals to make a little on the side? Eva Peron did it.
"When the money keeps rolling in, what's a girl to do? Skim a little off the top for expenses, wouldn't you?"Posted On:
Outsider says:
Pulp: What is the net net of all this?
Where does the Shiny Sheet go from here?
How does it get its cred back?
If cred is the right word.
Is Mr. Leamer for real?
Does he have a legitimate case?
You seem to think so. Or do you?
Do society papers have to live up to the same standards as other media?
Just askingPosted On:
Insider says:
Please assist Outsider in understanding the real issue at hand.
IF the Palm Beach Daily News didn't cry crocodile tears about "journalistic ethics" and, instead, fessed up to the fact that it ISN'T a real newspaper, but a close cousin to the Enquirer, the Examiner and other pieces of... paper, maybe this would go away.
IF the management of the Palm Beach Daily News didn't hold the majority of its writers to one ethical standard and its society editor to another, maybe this would never have come up.
But it did come up and it's not going to go away.Posted On:
Former Floridian says:
We have a winner!
"Insider" has it exactly right -- the PBDN is either a real newspaper or not, and how it handles this ethical quandary speaks volumes about the answer to that question. Posted On:
Glenn C says:
I don't know why this stort is dragged through the mud as much as it had. With so many rumors of various residents and their Ponzi King "Mr. Madoff" financial secrets, along with murders and other scandels, why get so angry at a such a small scale issue as this? Most of these replies are of little value.Posted On:
Newbie says:
Glenn, stop being such a Pollyanna! The reality is that this is much more than rumors or a small scale issue. I'm not saying that it's a vast right wing conspiracy, but it certainly reeks of a deliberate cover up, financial impropriety and a complete disregard for the ethical code of the free press. That's hardly small scale. Frankly, it's criminal.Posted On:
CPA says:
Unless Miss Donnelly has been heeding the City Mattress commercials and packing it away in her Sealy Posturpedic, surely there must be some kind of paper trail- either on her end or the donor side. Hasn't anyone thought of that? Posted On:
Florida Floridian says:
CPA, if the groups giving the gifts are foundations, they might have to account for them under promotional expenses (but I don't know if they need to be itemized; maybe you'd know?)
If the gifts were from private individuals, as might be the case based on the examples in the article, then they would be tough to track. Posted On:
Laurie B says:
Back when I lived in Palm Beach, I kind of remember the IRS freaking her out with some kind of investigation regarding her cashing out big checks at the various branches of banks they were drawn on. Whatever happened with that? Posted On:
car guy says:
What about the Mercedes that was leased by a "friend" for her use--did Shannon report that "income" to the IRS?Posted On:
bob2 from Davie says:
Bob,I just read this story and all the comments. When you are trying to keep your head above water, all of this sounds crazy.This story seems to infurate alot of folks. What do you think will happen here? You've been a pretty good watchdog for a while. I like your style.I think there's something to deal with but what is itWith all the dishonesty and troubles in the world today, its hard to think that something like this goes on with newspapers.Is this Leamerr just trying to sell some more books or does he have a real beef? You seem to think so, right?I haven't read any of the man's books, but what is he after.And does the Post really care. Who is this woman, Shannon Donnelly, who we now know is either power hungry or greedy.There are a lot of suspicions about her.Whoever heard of a reporter driving a mercedes.Sorry to ramble on, but the story here is interesting for those of us who dont live in Palm Beach.
Posted On:
Lake Way says:
For many years I served on various committees of Palm Beach charities. And it always seemed standard operating procedure to have a line in the publicity budget for Shannon or at least have one of her private supporters as a member of a big committee. This was usually at the advice of some of the older ladies on the committee who said that this was how things worked. If we had known that this was inappropriate, I'm sure we would have never done it, as it would reflect poorly on the organization.
But with so many events in such a short period of time, and the competiton for attendance and attention so great, I guess we were duped.
I think this whole thing began with Betty Scripps and Celia Farris, and just snowballed.Now, having read responses from so many people who appear to know far more than I do, I'm simply disgusted. Posted On:
Shopgirl says:
I was one of those gals who worked in various stores on Worth Avenue during the boom years. We were all friendly with each other. The stories about selling wedding gifts on ebay are true. She would constantly complain about getting stuff from Tiffany's as they would only give her store credit. That's what she sold for fifty cents on the dollar. She registered at Neimans because she could return for cash.Posted On:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Confrontation in the streets of Palm Beach

Other than being confronted during an interview with Tim Malloy of Channel 5 with a berserk Palm Beacher accusing me of writing a “disgusting, despicable” article for Boston Magazine full of racism, it’s been an uneventful few days. I asked this gentleman on camera to say specifically what his complaints were but coward that he is, he continued walk away spitting out a few epithets as he left. If you want to read the “disgusting, despicable" article, you can find it at: Http://

If you find anything at all offensive about the article, please comment. And if you don’t, please weigh in too.

Here’s the link to the video of the confrontation:

If anyone knows who this man is, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dear Blog,

I have betrayed you. I have been disloyal for days, and now I will have to play catch-up. I’ve been busy promoting my book. A great time in Boston largely due to Marilyn Riseman, a dear friend and one of the world’s great characters. And the events on the island have been overwhelmingly successful. There was a sold out luncheon at the Pundits Monday and a standing room only event in the evening put on by the Palm Beach County Historical Society. I was so worried that the book would be so controversial that it would create problems for me, and I have a wonderful life in Palm Beach. But just the opposite. People have been overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve made new friends, and been new places, and it’s been generally marvelous.

There’s been just one exception and that’s the Palm Beach Daily News. I won’t bore you with the details, but the piece that Bob Norman has written a piece about Shannon Donnelly and the Palm Beach Daily News in New Times is the talk of the island. You can read it at:

What Norman doesn’t say is that a group of Palm Beachers are contemplating starting their own daily newspaper. That’s how bad they think the Daily News has become. I’m astounded at the response they are getting. I think people have moved beyond being afraid of the paper to being rather embarrassed that the Shiny Sheet is the public image of our island. So many serious stories are not covered or are written about in the most twisted, desultory way. There are terrific reporters on the paper. The problem is not with them so much as with the editor and publisher. The reason Cox doesn’t do anything in my opinion is that the paper makes money. But it’s on a downward trajectory in almost every respect.