On Benjamin Kirby, the Political Hurricane, Sarah Rumpf, and Justin Sayfie

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Florida’s independent political blogosphere is dying, if its not dead already.

It drew its last breath last night right before noted progressive blogger Benjamin Kirby announced that his blog, The Spencerian, was going on hiatus, probably permanently. 

Kirby’s departure follows those of liberal firebrand Kenneth Quinnell and leading conservative voice Sarah Rumpf, who, while still writing about politics and remaining active on Twitter, are considerably less active about Florida politics. At one point, Quinnell was considered the most prominent liberal political blogger in Florida,; the same could probably be said, from a conservative perspective, about Rumpf.

Today, their blogs lay mostly silent. (Rumpf, as she Tweeted to me, still occasionally writes about Florida politics on her blog, even after moving to Texas and spending a good part of the last election cycle in Massachusetts.)

Kirby’s exit also follows the recent news that the two founders, Kartik Krishnaiyer and Dave Trotter, of the we-barely-knew-ya Political Hurricane were going their separate ways.  This after the Political Hurricane made an indelible mark on Democratic politics in the state, whether it be its coverage of legislative races or the internecine struggle for control of the Florida Democratic Party.

The Political Hurricane, in fact, was one of just three sites recognized earlier this week by the Washington Post as the best political blogs in Florida, along with SaintPetersBlog and The Sayfie Review.

Rather than being a cause for celebration, this list is confirmation of the decaying state of Florida’s political blogosphere. Think about it, of the three blogs recognized, one of them (the Political Hurricane) is already going out of business, while another (Sayfie Review) is anything but a blog.

The Sayfie Review is a lot of things, including a must-read political website. In fact, as I continue to interview lobbyists for my “4th Floor Files” series, one constant answer I receive is when I ask what is on these political insiders’ reading lists. Invariably, The Sayfie Review is on the list.

But The Sayfie Review is not a blog, which is defined as a “personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.” There is nothing personal about The Sayfie Review. There is nothing reflective about The Sayfie Review. Yes, there are a lot of hyperlinks on The Sayfie Review, to the considerable work of Florida’s political journalists. But The Sayfie Review is not a blog.

Like myself, Justin Sayfie, the publisher of The Sayfie Review, asked his readers to nominate his site for consideration by WaPo as one of the best state-based political blogs. Justin doesn’t realize this, but him doing this is not only insulting to other bloggers, it devalues his own product.

Justin should stop thinking of his site as a blog and, instead, say, ‘The Sayfie Review is one of, if not the, most influential political websites in Florida. Deal with it!’ (And while you are it, Justin should say, continue to fork over $1,500 a week during Legislative Session for an ad on my site.) 

The Washington Post‘s rankings did not sit well with Ben Kirby, so much so that I wonder if they were the straw which broke the camel’s back.

“I’m not particularly pleased with their Florida list,” Kirby writes. “(B)ut I don’t want you to think this is about being bitter.  I said when nominations opened that I wouldn’t be nominating myself, and I didn’t.  I nominated other, better blogs, and I’m sorry to see they didn’t make it.  They should have.”

That’s the kind of generous writer, and more important, person Kirby is. He was not worried about his own site making the list, instead he was concerned about others being properly recognized.

What Kirby didn’t say, but I will is just how incredibly difficult it is to write a blog, especially if it is not your full-time job, as it is for me or traditional journalists. For a blog to succeed, it must be constantly updated. And by constant, I mean by the time you are done writing your first blog post of the day, you should already be working on your second and third.

Again, this is hard, hard work.

I don’t know how long I could do it if it wasn’t my primary source of income. I am blessed with a very healthy advertising base, the revenue from which allows me to blog full-time, which in turn attracts more advertising dollars, which provides more resources which I can dedicated to content, which drives additional advertising and so on. 

That campaigns, lobbying and public affairs firms and other commercial concerns advertise on my site  is probably what separates my sits most from the rest of the blogosphere. This is entrepreneurial for me. This is my family’s small business, no different than a corner shop or a restaurant or whathaveyou. 

That’s why, I for one, am not going anywhere. In fact, after two days in Tallahassee, I feel better about publishing SaintPetersBlog and Sunburn than I ever have. I feel there are more eyes on me than there has been before. There are new readers coming to the site every day. There are advertisers turning to SaintPetersBlog to make sure their message is delivered. I take all of this — all of this responsibility — more serious than ever.

Maybe Florida’s political blogosphere isn’t dying. Maybe we’re just in the Spring of the odd year three years removed from a presidential election. Kirby, Quinnell and Rumpf have moved on, but maybe others will rise up to take their place, especially as the 2014 and 2016 elections come into focus. 

As long as their are readers hungry for more information about Florida politics — and that would appear to be a certain — there will be those with keyboards ready to blog away.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.