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

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It’s been a while since I wrote a “5 things …” column, but this past week has been a particularly hathotic one for me when it comes to the Times. From the trivial to the substantial, it was truly a very bad week for the newspaper.

First up was the news that the newspaper’s abandonment of the naming rights to the former Tampa Bay Times Forum is the clearest signal yet of the Times’ continuing financial problems.

“I assume the only reason you do that is you don’t want to make payments to keep your name up there,” Craig Huber, an independent media analyst with Connecticut-based Huber Research Partners told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The, loss, err,  transitioning of the naming rights comes about eight months after it was the reported the Times had secured a $28 million loan from Boston-based Crystal Financial LLC, which, in language only a loan shark could appreciate, specializes in “making loans to companies who require more debt capital than is currently made available from traditional lenders,” according to its investment profile.

Bottom line: The Times has a eight-figure loan coming due in two years, so all of its assets, down to and including the employee break room microwave, is on the chopping block.

Perhaps not coincidentally, there has been at least two key staff departures from the newspaper, including Drew Harwell and John Cox leaving for The Washington Post.

The latter’s departure could not make me any happier. Cox is the S.O.B. who wrote that since-debunked hatchet job about me. Even though I knew I had done no wrong and Cox’s report was mostly based on the accusations of an unhinged individual (Michael Pinson), his story did cause me and my family distress during last year’s holiday season. I’ll never forgive him, his editor Heather Uriquedes, or the newspaper for that.

Harwell and Cox’s leaving the newspaper is a reminder that most of these reporters are not from here, are not staying here, and don’t care about this community. They care about their resume and moving up the ladder. They’re great feature writers, but they don’t have St. Petersburg or Tampa Bay at heart when they write. It’s their careers they have foremost in mind.

If it wasn’t a tough enough week for the struggling newspaper, this royal screw up on the front page of the newspaper certainly did not help.

For the first time in some time, I actually read a hard copy of the Times. We’re staying at the Vinoy this weekend and the newspaper was delivered with breakfast.

The print edition is such a different, better product than what is presented online. This reminds me that the Times is an incredible newspaper company, it is a mediocre online media company.

Reading the print edition, these 5 things I think I think popped into my head…

What an interesting column in the Perspective section from Kent Curtis, who recently lost a race for the Pinellas School Board.

“As a candidate who lost 10 times as many votes to apathy as to his opponent, I am discourage and perplexed by these circumstances,” writes Curtis, who sounds like so many first-time candidates who JUST. DONT. UNDERSTAND. HOW. THEY. LOST!

“… in the Tampa Bay area, too few people vote and a large share of those who spend no time learning about the candidates they are about to elect.” What arrogance! But, how surprising is it coming from a Ph.D. whose real world experience ended up not matching up with what he learned in the classroom.

With candidates as arrogant as Curtis, it’s no surprise voters did not show up at the polls in the primary election. Actually voters did not show up because there were not more Kent Curtises on the ballot but because there was little on the ballot to drive turnout; there was not a competitive U.S. Senate election, nor other congressional races. The Democratic primary for governor was a fait accompli, while the GOP primary was even more so.

Without an interesting top of the ballot, voters aren’t going to show up for the Kent Curtises of the world, no matter how smart they are.

Also in the Perspective page is an editorial, first of many to come no doubt, blasting the record of Governor Rick Scott. Today’s is about Scott’s environmental record, which the newspaper labels a “disaster.”

About re: Scott’s record, the Times also front-pages his PolitiFact record, which is surprisingly positive. The governor has kept 42 percent of his promises, while breaking only 26 percent. Then again, if you promise to rob a bank and follow-up on that promise by robbing a Bank of America, is that a laudable accomplishment?

Dominating the front page is a feature from food critic Laura Reiley about the rise of the so-called New Florida cuisine.

“For the first time since the 1980s, a style is emerging that feels unique to the Sunshine State,” writes Reiley, who then highlights a dish from the newly opened Ulele in Tampa: Alligator hush puppies with gator, country ham, duck bacon, fresh corn, jalapeño, St. Augustine, datil pepper sauce and fresh-ground horseradish aioli.

While I thought this dish sounded delicious, my wife, a member of that key demo known as “decision makers” was turned off by most of what she read. That kind of makes sense to me because I just can’t see a lot of mothers and wives and girlfriends asking to go to ‘that restaurant with the Cracker food.’

P.S. Can Reiley get her head further up the asses of Ulele or The Refinery’s Greg Baker, who is a damn good chef, but… it’s like every other day, there’s a slurp from Reiley about either Richard Gonzmart’s new project or whatever Baker is up to.

Speaking of getting one’s head further up the ass of some muckety-muck, business writer Jeff Harrington’s Biz Quiz features, who else, but Jeff Vinnick. It’s almost as if there are no other developers breaking ground in Tampa Bay. I think I may start a new feature tracking how often the Times slurps Vinnick.

It couldn’t be more than Reiley’s glossing of Ulele, could 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.