Walt Disney World is billed as “The Happiest Place on Earth” and any regular reader of this blog or any friend on Facebook knows how much I believe that. In fact, I believe that title extends to any place where Uncle Walt’s magic can be found, including the majestic Disney cruise ships. My family and I returned Saturday from aboard the Disney Fantasy and it was nothing less than what the ship’s name suggests — a genuine fantasy of happiness and joy.
And yet, late Friday night, after Ella Joyce was tucked into bed, I had a tear in my eye after reading two horrible stories from the day’s news (which also served as reminder to turn off the Internet while cruising).
One was about 22 people, including a pastor, arrested in Pensacola during an undercover sting that targeted adults who used the internet to solicit sex with children. The other was about a man who stabbed his 6-year-old daughter to death in front of two park rangers along the Blue Ridge Parkway because he didn’t want them to take her away from him.
You’re right, there are no words that can soften the blow of those two stories. In fact, it was the Pensacola Police Department, in announcing the results of the sting, which best put these kind of situations in context: “This post will not be entertaining. It will not be funny, humorous, or elicit a slight chuckle. This post will not be the one you read to your spouse on the couch tonight. This post will concern you, trouble you, and make you ask, ‘What is wrong with this world?’”
Exactly. What is wrong with this world?
As I sat on the barstool and watched the massive cruise ship’s wake cut through a moonlit Atlantic Ocean, I couldn’t stop thinking about how incredibly privileged our daughter, Ella, is compared to the countless number of children vulnerable to the evil that walks this Earth. I couldn’t stop thinking of poor Phoebe Jonchuck, the little girl dropped off a bridge by her father into the cold waters of Tampa Bay.
But what could I do about it other than order another drink?
A challenge from children’s advocate Victoria Zepp was recently posed to me and POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon during a panel at the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists to spend as much time covering political issues impacting kids and families as we do clickbait-friendly stories about, say, the state lawmaker who slapped a man for taking down one of his campaign signs.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Not as long as we in the media are slaves to the analytics. The groundbreaking reporting of the Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller is a luxury because it is as much a rarity as it is essential.
But I can do something, in my own little way.
As the publisher of a magazine titled “INFLUENCE,” it’s now my goal to spend more time covering those without it.
Florida Politics seeks to launch a new vertical on those stories Victoria Zepp would like to see more of. Just as Jim Rosica covers gaming issues for us and Christine Sexton works the health care industry beat for POLITICO Florida, one of our reporters will track the state agencies and legislative committees entrusted to oversee the welfare of our children. This reporter will cover the hearings that don’t receive a lot of attention and are not watched over by a room full of lobbyists.
We’re going to apply our new media model — one that has disrupted other segments of state government — to the sleeping giants, like the Department of Children and Families, and to vigilant watchdogs, like the Florida Senate’s Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs.
All we need now is the right reporter.
Keep in mind, advertisers won’t be beating down our door to place their message next to stories about abused children and broken families. This will, financially speaking, be a loss for Extensive Enterprises Media. The budget for this reporter will come from the tight margins of our overall budget.
But if you are interested in doing important work read by the most influential people in the state, this position is for you.
If you are interested in applying for this Tallahassee-based position, please email me at email@example.com. Or if you have suggestions for topics to cover or news tips to track down, please also feel free to email me. I readily admit there will be a steep learning curve for me on these issues and it will likely take several months before the right reporter is in place and our vertical is running at full speed.
But we’re going to do something.
Because I am tired of asking “What is wrong with this world?”