The 1990s are bookended by the tenure of David Lawrence as publisher from 1989-1999. It was a decade of growth and change, technologically, in perception, of new ideas and cultural assimilation, from morals to manners. In population the Hispanic-Latino community accounted for over 25% of that total, reflecting the county’s continued increase in ethnic diversity.
It was a decade that witnessed dramatic change in almost every area. Technically, it started with the successful 1990 launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, while the most popular achievement was the debut of the World Wide Web, and the explosion in growth of mobile phone services. The decade ended with a world anxiously watching at midnight on December 31, 1999, when, for the first time, the new year would start with the digit “2” – cheers went up when computers and associated technology kept running without a hitch. The wait had its own name – Y2K.
In Washington, the decade began with President George H.W. Bush, followed by Bill Clinton, who was re-elected in 1996. Clinton’s second stint was rocked by scandal when he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 22-year-old intern. Clinton denied the affair, which led to his being impeached. After a 21-day Senate trial, Clinton was acquitted. However, the “people” story of the 1990s was unquestionably the trial of former football star O.J. Simpson, charged with the slaying of his ex-wife and an acquaintance. Aired live on television in its entirety, the nine-month trial received unprecedented world-wide publicity. So obsessed with the trial it was estimated the loss in U.S. productivity had been an unfathomable $40 Billion.
These stories were covered in-depth by the Herald, as were important local stories. In 1992 the entire county staggered from the destruction of Hurricane Andrew. The first Summit of the Americas was held in Miami, acknowledging Miami’s growth on the international stage, which was also reflected in the name change from Dade County to Miami-Dade County. The decade culminated with the 1999 opening of the American Airlines Arena, and the debut of the annual music festival, Ultra.
After 10 years, during which the Herald won 5 Pulitzers, Lawrence closed this chapter of his career. He left the Herald in a strong position as the new decade dawned.
If there was a decade that marked the onset of the challenges newspapers would eventually have to face, it would be that of 2000-2010, but for the Herald there were also rewards – and a plethora of important news to cover. Alberto Ibarguen, publisher of El Nuevo Herald, became the first Latin-American publisher of the Miami Herald.
It was a decade that saw phenomenal growth in the tech markets. Important for the newspaper industry was the 2000 launch of the first mobile news, followed by Multimedia Messaging Service. These on-demand, “instant” news services would present another significant alternative to how the world received the news. Another challenge was the proliferation of “all news” channels such as CNN and Fox News. Knight-Ridder, the Herald’s parent company, jumped into the digital age.
One of the most controversial events was the Elian Gonzalez affair, which further polarized US relations with Cuba. What started as a local story quickly became a major nationwide report. A year later, one of the most significant events in recent history occurred on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four planes, flying two into New York’s World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The Herald used every resource at their command to relay the story as it unfolded, as a stunned nation watched it unfold live on television. On its heels came an unprecedented suspension of civilian air traffic and the Anthrax attacks launched through the US Mail. Two years later, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry, killing all aboard, resulting in a 29-month suspension of the Space Shuttle Program, and the US invaded Iraq to fight an insurgency, with the deposed President Saddam Hussein being captured by US special forces.