You don’t realize how lacking for original commentary the St. Petersburg Times is until Howard Troxler goes on vacation. This is the Achilles Heal of the newspaper — the holes in its lineup of columnists. Sue Carlton is the Columnist Who Isn’t There and Ernest Hooper is, like the dude in this spoof of The New York Times, just a Cool Black Guy.
PolitiFact may wins awards, but columnists sell newspapers and there isn’t a metro columnist writing for the Times who could sell cookies at a bake sale. This has been especially evident this week — a week chock full of big news stories — when Troxler is off gardening. Imagine the St. Louis Cardinals without Albert Pujols. Well, that’s the St. Petersburg Times without Howard Troxler.
One of the features you may enjoy about Saint Petersblog is that I often post tomorrow’s stories today. Meaning, if I receive a Google alert about a story about Charlie Crist that is going to run in tomorrow’s newspaper, I’ll link to the online version immediately. That’s why one of the best times to check back in with Saint Petersblog is around 10 p.m. That’s when many of the first drafts of tomorrow’s stories go online for me to add my, um, editorial curation, of what I believe will be an important story.
A story I linked to last night that I think is a fascinating story is Adam Smith’s article, Charlie Crist unleashed:
“Isn’t that fun?” he asked, when board members looked momentarily taken aback by his direct answer.
“Honesty is the best policy,” he said, adding later, “It’s easier (as an independent). I don’t have to sort of think about, ‘How’s that group going to react?’ “
See, that’s one of the many advantages a newspaper has that I don’t. They have an editorial board to which candidates will often go out of their way to genuflect. Sure, I have an editorial board, but it’s made up of me and my miniature Fox Terrier and we haven’t seen a Senate candidate in these parts for quite a while.
As a corollary, check out Alex Leary’s profile of Eric Eikenberg, who is now facing unemployment after parting ways with Charlie Crist after he switched parties. It sure does suck when your meal ticket runs out.
Another couple of things I can’t do is a) be in more than one place at a time and b) take as good a photo as Melissa Lyttle does here at a rally against HB 1143 outside of Governor Crist’s condo in downtown St. Pete.
I’d like to close today by, once again, asking what is the point of a local newspaper employing a film critic. Steve Persall seems like a nice enough guy, but, in this day and age of almost unending information about film and movies, who cares what he thinks? Is his review of Robin Hood going to be any more illuminating than any of the thousands that can be found online? No, it’s not. If you’re reading a local newspaper for movie reviews instead of, say, IMDB.com, you’re an intellectual Luddite. Movie reviews are not like reviews of the arts, restaurants or performances, which have to be done locally. The food critic at the Los Angeles Times is not going to write anything, ever, about the restaurant scene in St. Petersburg, Florida, so the newspaper is smart to offer a critic as a guide to this industry. The same cannot be said about film reviews. The same movie plays in Lincoln Center as it does at BayWalk.
So Times publishers, take the $100K in salary, insurance and benefits you have to dole out to a film critic and spread that around the rest of the newsroom. If there is no longer a local film critic, your readers will never know the difference.