||Ellie Brecher has been a
reporter for The Miami Herald since May 1989, one year after
completing a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. Based on
the Metro Desk since 2001, her main beat is news obituaries:
posthumous biographies of noteworthy South Floridians that often
run on the front page or the cover of the local section, as well
as the Herald website. She was among the first obit writers to
record video “pre-bits’’ of well-known citizens who agreed to
tape their recollections while living, to be shown on The Miami
Herald’s website after their deaths.
Brecher also specializes in stories about Holocaust survivors,
and is the author of a best-selling nonfiction book, Schindler’s
Legacy: True Stories of the List Survivors (Dutton, 1994, in the
U.S.; 1994, Hodder & Stoughton, U.K.). With a forward by Thomas
Keneally, whose1982, Booker Prize-winning novel, Schindler’s
Ark, was adapted for Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Oscar-winning film,
Schindler’s List, the book was translated into Portuguese and
German. It was a Book of the Month Club selection and Penguin
|Brecher, a dog lover, also
covers animal issues for the Herald, such as high-profile
cruelty cases, a decades-old controversy over Miami-Dade
County’s high-kill animal shelter, and illegal horse slaughters.
For three years, she wrote a Herald blog called Crazy for
Critters, which served as a discussion forum, bulletin board and
gathering place for the animal-rescue community.
Born Elinor Jane Brecher in New York City on Sept. 18, 1948, she
graduated from G.W. Hewlett High School on Long Island in 1966.
Her late father, Walter Brecher, operated movie houses in
Manhattan, as well as Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater, co-founded
by his father, Leo Brecher, and business partner Frank Schiffman,
Her late mother, Roslyn Kaplan Brecher, was a life member of the
Hadassah National Board, and a sought-after international
speaker for the organization. Her father was Dr. Ira Kaplan, a
pioneer radiologist in New York City.
A true child of the ‘60s, Brecher attended the University of
Wisconsin/Madison for the first semester of her freshman year in
1966. She dropped out to join the National Office of Students
for a Democratic Society in early 1967, and for the next four
years, led anti-Vietnam War activities at the University of
Oklahoma/Norman. In Norman, she operated the Renaissance Faire
coffee house, a gathering place for OU’s small hippie/anti-war
community, and modeled for the OU fine arts department.
She moved to Tucson, Az., in 1972, and lived a counterculture
lifestyle until 1975, when she enrolled in an English course at
the University of Arizona, while serving as head waitress at the
historic El Charro Mexican restaurant downtown. She joined the
Arizona Daily Wildcat reporting staff, and became the campus
daily’s city editor before graduating from the UA School of
Journalism in 1977. By then, she had also served as news editor
of The Tombstone Epitaph, in Tombstone, Az., and proof-read the
519-page 1976 Statistical Abstract of Arizona, for the
university’s School of Business.
She was named the Journalism Department’s Outstanding Student
for 1977, and was inducted into the Daily Wildcat Hall of Fame
Brecher joined the reporting staff of The Courier-Journal in
Louisville, Ky., in August 1977. For the next 12 years, she
covered general city news and the Jefferson County school
system, wrote a singles column for the Features section, and was
one of three full-time writers on the Sunday Magazine.
Among her Courier-Journal honors: the 1986 American Cancer
Society award for outstanding coverage of cancer (one year after
receiving her own breast cancer diagnosis), and the 1988 Clarion
Award from Women in Communications (national writing
Following the Nieman Fellowship, during which Brecher studied
American literature, she joined The Miami Herald, initially as a
feature writer. She was the last Metro-desk writer to rotate
onto the Herald’s award-winning Sunday magazine, Tropic, which
“discovered’’ the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry,
before it was eliminated in 1999.
A 1990 Tropic cover story, The Miniskirt Rape, earned Brecher
the title of Outstanding Feature Writer of the Year from the
American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.
During the late 1990s, Brecher was one of six Herald reporters
starring in one of the earliest reality shows: the short-lived
City Desk, on Barry Diller’s WAMI network (Channel 69, Miami).
In one popular episode, cameras followed Brecher as she reported
a Tropic cover story about pornographer Al Goldstein, the SCREW
Magazine publisher, who was living in South Florida.
On Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked,
Brecher was in New York to profile Hadassah Leiberman, wife of
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Leiberman. She
was able to reach Lower Manhattan just as the first tower
collapsed. Armed with a cell phone, a notebook and a tape
recorder, she reported from Ground Zero that day, and from Lower
Manhattan for the rest of the week.
|She has reported for the Herald
from Haiti, Israel and Germany, and shared in the Herald
news staff’s Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for
coverage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
She was one of eight Herald reporters who contributed to
Democracy Held Hostage, a book about the fateful 2000
presidential election, which hinged on a U.S. Supreme
Court decision that stopped the vote recount in Florida.
She also wrote the forward to Florida 24/7, a 2004
coffee-table book by Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen,
creators of the iconic Day in the Life series of photo
Brecher has freelanced for The New Republic; MAMM:
Women, Cancer and Community; and People, as the
magazine’s Kentucky stringer in the 1980s. She has also
written family memoirs for private clients.
She lives in Miami with her dogs.