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5 things I think about today’s St. Petersburg Times — and, yes, I did ‘out’ the new food critic

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

Just another bad day for the St. Petersburg Times, which failed to convince a federal judge that the city of St. Petersburg’s new ban on street solicitation should be blocked while the matter winds its way through the courts.  Judge Lazzara said there was no question in his mind that the ordinance was content-neutral, narrowly tailored and that a significant government interest was at stake.

The Times lost in court.  And it is also losing — badly, I might add — the battle for public opinion.  Noah Pransky reported about the backlash developing against the Times for attempting to overturn the ban.  And a protest of the Times is planned for Sunday.

Of course, if I were the legal team for the city of St. Petersburg, I wouldn’t be acting as smug as they seemed during yesterday’s City Council meeting.  As Councilman Steve Kornell pointed out, the Times is a great newspaper and they are a great corporate partner.

The Times is also home to Eric Deggans, and just for that they deserve our appreciation.  Deggans has a strong take on President Obama, asking, can we tolerate a president who refuses to make us feel better?

But I saw a president who seemed angriest when talking about the public’s disappointment in his reactions. Elected as a calm voice of reason who was the polar opposite of predecessor George W. Bush’s seat-of-the-pants emotionalism, Obama now seemed almost irritated that so many expected him to echo the public’s dismay in pointed outbursts.

It’s a must-read post.

Wanna know what is not a must-read post: Sue Carlton’s too-late column about advertising fliers stuffed into 1.7 million Sunday newspapers which got wrong some specifics on what’s what around here.  Does she write anything that hasn’t been said already?

Do you know what I would do with Carlton’s real estate?  They’d have to set up a new post office box for all of the fan/hate mail I’d get.

Speaking of fan mail, the Tampa Tribune‘s food writer (not critic) Jeff Houck posted a couple of responses to my post “outing” Jim Webster, the new food critic at the St. Petersburg Times.  Houck is a great guy and a sharp, witty writer who, in a lot of ways, is the model of a contemporary food writer.

But…

I disagree with him and stand by my decision to post the picture of Jim Webster.  I think anonymous food criticism, especially in this market, is a waste of time.  For the most part, the food critics in Tampa Bay will be reviewing places that don’t care enough to post Webster’s pic on their host stand in the event he happens to show up.  And for the places that do care enough to care about Jim Webster, all they have to do is Google him, like I did.  Or I’ll be happy to stop by with a copy of the picture.  In fact, as new restaurants open up — restaurants that will certainly warrant attention from Webster — I will be sending them a copy of Webster’s picture.

Again, I don’t believe in anonymous food criticism.  Nor do I think it is necessary.  Every good restaurant in New York knew who Frank Bruni was and he survived.  So will Jim Webster.

But only if he blows up the old idea of what a food critic is and re-invents the position.  The idea of some god on high deigning to review a new restaurant is obsolete in an era of Chowhound, Zagat’s, et al.  People want information now and from a variety of sources.  And they want it online.

So if my posting of Webster’s picture leads to a re-thinking of the food critic position, so be it.

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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