Yesterday was one of the busiest, most exciting days of my career as I balanced what I believe was excellent coverage by the SaintPetersBlog team of the city elections and the launch of Context Florida, my new online statewide opinion network (think HuffPo for Florida).
Yet throughout the day, it felt like I was jousting (especially on Twitter) with several reporters from the Tampa Bay Times. This is because I am the loudest critic of its lackluster coverage of local politics. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the Times is pound-for-pound the best newspaper in the country, but not for its local coverage, especially not for its local political coverage in St. Pete or Tampa. The newspaper produces award-winning content with its editorials, PolitiFact, in the sports section, etc., but it rarely takes home any prizes for its coverage of City Hall or the campaigns that put people in office there.
This truth was very much on display yesterday when the hometown newspaper started the day without a story about the hometown elections on its front page. Instead, the newspaper went with, among others, a story about the appropriate length of high school cheerleaders’ uniform. In the online media business, we call this traffic bait.
As for the rest of its day-of coverage … well, there really wasn’t any. There was the obligatory story about ‘voter turnout being light’, but nothing you couldn’t learn from visiting the Supervisor of Elections’ website.
On the Bay Buzz blog — the site billed as offering “the latest in Tampa Bay politics and government news” — the only entry about the elections was one about me admitting I was the ‘St. Petersburg Chicken.’ (This story was right below a story about chocolate candies shaped like Bob Buckhorn’s face.)
Why don’t the editors just take the Bay Buzz out back and shoot it?!?
Perhaps, you wonder, the reporters took to Twitter instead of the Bay Buzz blog to post interesting items about Election Day. That would make sense, right? Well, when you find an insightful tweet about the elections in the newspaper’s hometown from any of the reporters covering the race, please let me know. I follow all of them via TweetDeck and there was hardly a peep out of them. It was almost as if they were told not to tweet.
The only tweet about the elections that Times reporters seemed to care about was one from John Woodrow Cox about me admitting I was the ‘St. Petersburg Chicken.’ (Are you noticing a theme?) Good ol’ Craig Pittman, whom I enjoy sparring with, just couldn’t get enough of the ‘confessions of a chicken’ yesterday. Online, Pittman plays the interesting role of reverse-ombudsman in which he does not let pass without retort any criticism of his employer, err, the newspaper.
As election results rolled in, Times reporters — apparently fueled on pizza — began to pay attention to the elections. Sandra Gadsden tweeted “Boom”, Anna Phillips posted a few early results, Adam Smith got some wood from Kathleen Ford.
Still, in my humble opinion, this coverage was just not as good as what our reporters Phil Ammann, Linda Hersey, Ben Kirby, and myself offered yesterday. In addition to my analysis on my blog and on Twitter, the SPB reporters were on the scene with Rick Kriseman, City Council candidate Amy Foster and the “Stop the Lens” crowd and offered better, richer profiles of these races than what could be found in the Times. Add in the up-to-the-minute polling we shared via St. Pete Polls and my “Winners & Losers” list and I’ll proudly put up SaintPetersBlog’s coverage of the local elections against what the best pound-for-pound newspaper in the country offered.