As part of his in-depth coverage of Governor Rick Scott’s turn at making donuts, St. Petersburg Times reporter Aaron Sharockman added a little frosting to his reporting with a Twitter tweak aimed at the Tampa Tribune. Sharockman tweeted:
@asharock. On #donuts and #media: Best I can tell, the Tampa Tribune did not send a writer to cover @FlGovScott today. Just using TV.
That dig may not have been directed at Tribune political reporter William “Windy” March, but I betcha he took it personally. No, Windy, nor was any other Tribune reporter at Gov. Scott’s ‘get-to-work day.’ It was decided that March would cover this week’s meetings of the Republican National Committee, in town to plan for next year’s convention. Catherine Wittenburg would cover the donut story remotely with the Tribune‘s television partner, WFLA – Channel 8, providing video.
It’s not really for me to judge whether this coverage decision was an effective use of personnel resources, but the absence of the hometown newspaper at a much-publicized visit by the Governor did prompt me to wonder what exactly is going on over at the Tribune.
First of all, it turns out Windy March cannot be in more than one place at any given time. Even if he was on Twitter, which he is not. March can only cover one event at a time.
Covering events is not really March’s gig anymore. With so many interesting stories breaking in Florida’s politi-verse, March has taken on more of a Broder-esque role of putting his decades of experience to use by offering his analysis and perspective. Of course, he is still a deadline reporter — just read his coverage of the aforementioned RNC meetings as proof that the guy still knows how to get the goods.
Trouble is (actually it’s two troubles), William March has been a reporter for a very long time. And he works for Media General. Because March has been around for so long, he earns a lot of paid vacation time, which he must take. And because he works for Media General, he also has to take unpaid time off from work — furloughs, or furcations, as they are referred to around the Trib’s office.
Between now and the end of the year, March has to (HAS TO) take about five weeks of paid vacation and three weeks of furlough time or about eight weeks off from his job as the political reporter for the newspaper smack dab in the middle of the most important political battleground in the state, if not the country.
I’m not so worried about March’s five weeks of paid vacation. Good for him. He’s sixty two years-old and deserves every hour of his vacation. What I am concerned about is March’s mandatory time away from his job; the three weeks of furlough time March MUST take between now and the end of year.
Remember, during a furlough, March is not suppose to answer his work phone, check his work email or do anything else related to his job. Doing so, technically, is a fireable offense.
Ask yourself this, how in the hell does a political reporter worth his salt not check his work email, especially during this cycle? In Florida, there’s a presidential primary in six months, a national convention in a year and the most unpopular governor in the country and, in the face of all of that and more, you want Windy March to step away from his keyboard.
One question for the Media General honchos: Are you nuts?
Wanna know what’s the real rub of this whole furlough situation? Media General, specifically WFLA – Channel 8 makes tens of millions from political advertising precisely because of the battleground status of this media market, yet the company cannot find the money to make an exception for the political reporters who cover this battleground.
So here’s my idea, Windy. Come work for me. I’m serious.
Any week you are furloughed from Media General come work for Extensive Enterprises, the holding company of SaintPetersBlog.com, BattleGroundTampaBay.com and InsideTheLinesFLA.com.
I’m not exactly sure what you make, so please don’t find this insulting, but our company will pay you a thousand dollars a week for your services. It’s an expensive proposition for the company to take on, but we’ll just sell another ad or two to pay for you.
Think about it: old school meets new media. You can come to work each day (and by come to work, I mean, you can meet me at Kawha Coffee, Michelle’s downtown condo, mom’s house or the bar at Bella Brava; that’s where I work) and you can blog and tweet to your heart’s content.
There are no deadlines or editors. Just thinking, debating and writing. You can say whatever the hell you want.
Now, don’t forget to bring your Rolodex, or whatever it is you use, because I am going to take advantage of having a seasoned pro working beside me for a week. Don’t forget your AP stylebook either, because I obviously could learn a thing or two about, you know, writing.
At the end of day, it’s off to a political fundraiser or meeting you normally can’t get access to because you’re a reporter, then off to some bar along Beach Drive. (You better sign up for FourSquare before you start work.)
The hours are easy. Roll out of the rack whenever you want. Start writing whenever you want; just write enough that our traffic continues to increase. That’s right, we don’t use phony circulation numbers to justify our existence, we use Google Analytics, so we know precisely how many people visit the sites each day.
Yeah, so don’t worry about nine-to-five: there’s a long lunch, nap time, tennis time and time to watch whatever is on the DVR. Just keep your laptop close by.
At the end of the week, you will have learned a lot about social media, while also making an important point about the value of your craft.
And I will learn a lot about journalism from the ‘David Broder of Florida politics.’
For that, I’d gladly pay you a thousand dollars.