Last night at YOLO Restaurant, the popular downtown Fort Lauderdale restaurant owned by Tim Petrillo, Broward Bulldog celebrated its third anniversary with a fundraising party. Notable among the anniversary presents was a $25,000 contribution from Michael Connelly, the acclaimed crime story writer. This is not Connelly’s first act of generosity to the independent investigative organization founded by Dan Christensen. Connelly contributed $10,000 to help launch the deal.
Why such interest on Connelly’s part? For starters, he knows the territory pretty well. In the mid-1980s, the St. Thomas Aquinas High School grad, not long out of the University of Florida, joined the Sun-Sentinel as a reporter. It wasn’t long before he was part of a team nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for its work on the tragic crash in Dallas of a plane which had flown from Fort Lauderdale carrying many local people. He left the paper in the early '90s and used his considerable experience as a police reporter to write his first book. The Black Echo was a big success, and Connelly, after almost 30 more books, is regarded as a master of the crime story genre. He was helped early in his career when President Bill Clinton praised his work. Obviously, he has made a few bucks.
Equally obviously, he knows the problems of the newspaper industry. Dan Christensen is among many experienced reporters who took early retirement (in his case 2009) buyouts, often against their will, as papers have cut back drastically. Understaffed papers have fewer resources for serious behind-the-scenes reporting. Enter Broward Bulldog (www.browardbulldog.org) to fill the void. Christensen and others regularly publish probing stories online, and some of the more important pieces have been picked up by the major dailies. They don’t pay much for the pleasure, however, and Broward Bulldog relies on advertising (not much) and the support of friends.
They are, for the most part, former newspaper people. Last night’s event included Gene Cryer, retired editor of the Sun-Sentinel; Jonathon King, former Sun-Sentinel reporter who, like Connelly, has turned to fiction; Kevin Boyd, who worked for The Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and the late Hollywood Sun-Tattler before entering the public relations field; and Buddy Nevins, former Sun-Sentinel political reporter who now does the Broward Beat blog and contributes to various publications, including a recent piece on Marco Rubio for Gulfstream Media Group’s magazines.