5 things I think I think about today’s Tampa Bay Times and other media

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My goodness, have you read Tim Nickens’ apocalyptic column in Sunday’s edition? It’s a forecast of what Tampa Bay and Florida might look like in January 2015 if certain electoral scenarios play out this August and November.

“There is a fence blocking the Pier, and the inverted pyramid is empty. While the City Council refused to schedule a referendum on the Pier’s future in 2012, opponents kept picking at the innovative new design until the Los Angeles architect backed out.

Tropicana Field is closed as well. Foster refused to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for new stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough, so frustrated franchise owner Stuart Sternberg sold the Rays in 2014 and bought the New York Mets. The new Rays owner moved the team to Charlotte…”

It’s appropriately hyperbolic, but Nickens’ message cannot be overlooked. Elections matter. Elections have consequences.

It is forty-eight hours before the polls open in Tampa Bay’s primary elections and do you know what the top headline on the Bay Buzz — the Times‘ blog supposedly about local politics — reads? “Advocates call for countywide funding in wake of Clearwater homeless crackdown.”

There is little mention of the interesting races for State House or Senate, Hillsborough Property Appraiser, Pinellas Sheriff, school board or even the Lealman Fire District. What entries there are are just excerpts from stories that first appeared in print.

Perhaps worst of all, there has not been a new post since August 6 — six days ago. What, is there nothing new occurring in any of the campaigns for local office?

Talk about an epic #Fail.

Heather Uriquedes is the editor in charge of the Bay Buzz. If I were her boss — and thank the good Lord I am not — I’d fire her for gross negligence.

Two of the reporters Uriquedes oversees are Pinellas County government reporter Anna Phillips and St. Petersburg City Hall reporter Mark Puente. This week Phillips and Puente made a mountain out of a molehill with the non-news that developer Darryl LeClair has an idea to put a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays on some property he owns.

As most anyone who has followed the “stadium saga”, this development was anything but news.

Even one of Phillips and Puente’s colleagues, Aaron Sharockman, who previously covered the stadium beat through the “Ballpark Frankness” blog had to tweet:

@Asharock: By the way, I wrote the first story about the new Rays site — Jan. 1, 2009! How anyone can be shocked by it amazes me.

In all fairness, Sharockman responded to a question of mine by saying that the response of Mayor Bill Foster, Councilwoman Leslie Curran and County Commissioner Ken Welch made this latest development actual news.

That’s fine. But what really seemed to happen was a couple of reporters new to their beats wrote about the history only they did not know.

As 10 News reporter Noah Pransky, who probably has followed this issue, consistently, longer than any other reporter wonders, ‘Haven’t we heard this all before?’ To prove his point, Pransky compiled these comparisons:

Aug ’12:Tampa Bay Times editorial board rips Mayor Foster for not doing enough to negotiate with the Rays, while giving the team a free pass.
Sep ’11: Tampa Bay Times editorial board rips Mayor Foster while giving Rays owner Stu Sternberg a free pass.

Aug ’12: Plot of land made available in Gateway for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult.
July ’12: Plot of land made available in Downtown Tampa for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult.
Feb ’10: Plot of land made available in Downtown Tampa for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult.
Feb’ 10: Plot of land made available at state fairgrounds for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult.
Feb’ 10:Plot of land made available in Gateway for baseball stadium, but officials admit financing it would be difficult.

Aug ’12: Local TV stations interview fans (and bartenders) who love the idea of a stadium closer to them.
June ’11: Local TV stations interview fans who love the idea of a stadium closer to them.

Aug ’12: St. Pete councilwoman rips Mayor Foster for his handling of the situation.
Aug ’11:  St. Pete councilwoman rips Mayor Foster for his handling of the situation.

So, yes, LeClair’s plan sounds familiar? Even the Rays said, “Over the years, we’ve heard and read about many developers who would like to include a baseball stadium in their plans.”

The biggest difference in this story is the two reporters who are now assigned to cover it.

Wanna see an example of a newspaper’s political blog that pays just as much attention to local races as it does state ones? Then check out the Florida Times-Union‘s PolitiJax blog. Reporter Matt Dixon does more with less better than almost any other political reporter in Florida.

Just compare his coverage of the key State Senate race in North Florida — SD 4 between Aaron Bean and Mike Weinstein — to the Times‘ coverage of the key State Senate race in Tampa Bay — SD 22 between Jeff Brandes and Jim Frishe. Dixon sets the tempo in that race, while the Times seems to always be playing catch-up.

Adam Smith named Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn his Winner of the Week in Florida politics because “so many Republicans are raving about the enthusiasm and help they’re receiving from this ardent Democrat.” (In the original version of this post, I read wrong the online version of Smith’s story.)

This is sorta off the beaten path, but La Gaceta Joe O’ Neill notes that both the Times and Tribune recently featured stories about Fetish Con 2012, which took place at the Hyatt Regency.

Both pieces shared space with an obituary page. The Tampa Tribune version was far more blatant. The entire package, including photos of models and bondage enthusiasts, was juxtaposed next to photographs of the recently deceased.

If you are a family member of one of the deceased, you had to have been outraged at this insensitivity.

I had the privilege of recently appearing on Carson Cooper’s “Florida Matters” program to discuss some of the local primaries on the ballot on Tuesday. Journalism professor Wayne Garcia and Tampa Tribune reporter William March were the other two guests. I have to tell you three things about this appearance: one, Cooper was as thoroughly prepared as any program host with whom I’ve interacted; Garcia, the ol’ Political Whore, is sorely missed in both the local media and political circles; and three, March has a honeyed voice just made for radio.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, myself and several of Florida’s leading political and public affairs consultants will be hosting an invitation-only party for media folks in St. Peterburg. The “Full Lid Party” will be the go-to after party following the official welcome reception at Tropicana Field. Click here for more information and tickets.

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.