5 things I think I think about today’s Tampa Bay Times

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The Republican National Convention, as expected, has been a boon to the reporters of the Tampa Bay Times.

The organizers and planners of the RNC leak like a sieve to the hometown Times, such as when they give scoops about speaking slots to reporter Richard Danielson. These scoops are then picked up by POLITICO and Real Clear Politics and so many other national media organizations. You just can’t put a price tag on this kind of publicity.

That’s why if you really believe the Times changed its name this year because of some expired arrangement with the Tampa Tribune, you’re only half-right. This year, with the RNC in town, is the perfect time to rebrand.

Now on to the Times‘ Election Day coverage…

Steve Bousquet, who just RSVPed for my Full Lid Party, offers the ultimate insider’s guide to what to look for in today’s primaries. There’s some real insight here, especially about how today will be key for Senators Don Gaetz and Jack Latvala.

By the way, how lucky was Bousquet to get to cover Rick Scott’s fishing trip yesterday? Real tough assignment there, Steve!

Columnist John Romano reminds Pinellas voters how fortunate they are to have a competitive race for Sheriff between Bob Gualtieri and Everett Rice.

“…have you forgotten the time when an unemployed disc jockey with no law enforcement experience was a major party candidate? Or that time when a psychologist ran against a two-term incumbent? Or that freedom-affirming election when the best the Democrats could offer was a blank line on the ballot?

We have seen retired cops from up North, security guards from down the road and a candidate who had once ranked 123rd out of 126 applicants in the Sheriff’s Office when applying for a promotion to sergeant.

All of which has led to 20 years of landslides, blowouts and hey-wasn’t-there-an-election-today results.”

Despite Bousquet and Romano’s work, I must point out that the media, specifically the Times, deserves its share of the blame for the flatness of our local politics.

For example, a $250,000 contribution from the US Chamber flows into a committee supporting a local legislative candidate and all this transaction warrants is a single blog post? No connecting of the dots. No follow-up. Just, ‘Hey, this happened, but we laid off our assignment editor during the last round of buyouts, so I better get dressed for my interview on Bay News 9.’

That’s what passes for political coverage in this town.

The Times is so busy nowadays Politi-facting whether Olympians will owe taxes on their medals that it no longer bothers to  pay attention to the titanic political battles taking place in its own backyard.

It’s on days like this when I miss my friend David DeCamp, who I believe more and more, “got” Pinellas’ local elections. He and I competed for scoops in even the smallest of races — “Lealman Fire District commissioner raises $832 dollars — but it was a friendly rivalry.  No offense to some of the new reporters at the Times, but it’s difficult to switch horses in midstream, or more to the point, switch beat reporters in mid-election.

The AP’s guidelines for political reporters during the upcoming presidential election are a welcome guide to maintaining journalistic sangfroid while covering political passions: Not just nuts and bolts stuff (e.g., “press secretary” is “Seldom a formal title and thus lowercase”) but also a roadmap to help journalists avoid cliches like “pressing the flesh” (use “shaking hands” instead) and not wander into linguistic minefields (e.g., don’t use “Democrat Party”).

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.