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5 things I think about this weekend’s St. Petersburg Times: A banner week for the newspaper

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

What a roller-coaster week it’s been for the folks at First Avenue South.

After word spread — on this blog first — that the Times was dropping its lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg, thereby ceding the fight over the city’s solicitation ban, many, including me, were ready to write that the axiom “You never pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrel” no longer applied to the opponents of the St. Petersburg Times.

At least that was the thinking at the beginning of the week.  At the time of this writing, the Times had whomped several of its institutional enemies.

Soundly defeated was the Church of Scientology, which the Times exposed as abortion pimps.  I spoke with several reporters at the Times about this coverage and all of them said they felt confident that, due to the fearsome backlash the Church of Scientology is facing over this latest scandal, Scientology may never fully recover.

And the icing on the cake, as far as this coverage goes, is Joe Childs and Thomas Tobin winning the Gold Medal for Public Service from the Florida Society of News Editors for the series “Inside Scientology.”

Other Times winners included Howard Troxler in the Columns category for a collection of work that included: “It’s only the biggest decision in our history,” on oil drilling. Joni James, deputy editor of editorials, won first place in Editorials for her work on the Legislature.  And first place in Blog/Online Commentary went to The Buzz.  Congratulations to all three of those well-deserving winners.  Of course, you may have also noticed that none of the Times‘ winners came for its local coverage.  Of course city editor Heather Uriquedes will tell you that her boss likes the coverage of the city and county and, after all, that’s all that matters.

But back to the Times’ enemies list…

The newspaper has also all but defeated Commander Bobby Thompson and his “so-called” charity work for the Navy veterans organization.  The state of Florida has ordered Thompson to cease-and-desist from fundraising in the state.  And that’s only the beginning of his problems.  In fact, his story won’t end until he’s in bracelets.

Another victory for the Times came with the news that a judge has overturned a $10 million libel verdict concerning articles the Times wrote in 2003 about the former chief of medicine at Bay Pines.  Not only is this a victory for the Times in terms of freedom of expression, but I think (I’m still checking on this) this is a huge victory for its bottom line.

Perhaps if the Times had known it was no longer on the hook for the $10 million libel verdict, maybe they wouldn’t have dropped the lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg.

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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.

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