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Maybe, just maybe, the Times is partially responsible for St. Pete voters’ apathy

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

Not to stir up any more trouble for myself than I usually do, but maybe, just maybe voters are undecided about whom to vote for St. Petersburg Mayor because the Times coverage is so lackluster.

Not for lack of trying. The Times has bombarded the voters with coverage of the trivial and trivial candidates. Whether it be stories about Rays’ tickets, “sign monsters” or Kentucky Fried Chicken, the focus has been on what is Buzz worthy, rather than what is newsworthy.

As much, if not more, has been written about third-tier candidates Alex Haak and Paul Congemi as has been written about frontrunners Bill Foster and Deveron Gibbons. Point in fact, Deveron Gibbons’ questionable driving record has yet to be written about. And with three weeks until balloting begins, time to cover such issues is running out.

(Blame the editorial board, specifically Diane Steinle, for the reluctance to adjust the Times’ coverage to fit the new voting timetable. The Times doesn’t like Deborah Clark, nor her efforts to expand voting by mail.)

What we need from our daily newspaper is a renewed effort to separate the wheat from the chafe: veteran reporters asking tougher questions on any and every policy question; astute columnists, like Howard Troxler and Adam Smith, laser focusing in on this critical race, rather than sortieing in every now and then to cover it. We need the Times to be, well, the Pulitzer Prize winning news organization it is.

Right now, there is triumvirate of Heather Uriquedes, Aaron Shrockman and Cristina Silva covering this race. They are either uninspired or overworked because blogging from a candidate forum at the city’s Neighborhood Services meeting just ain’t cutting it.

I’ve actually come to agree with a point Cristina Silva once made to me (not that one Cristina), that those reporters who cover what happens in City Hall maybe shouldn’t be the the same reporters who cover those running for City Hall.

I haven’t mentioned this to anyone (other than the Condor) but there was a day last month when I ran into Aaron Shrockman. He was sort of wandering aimlessly around Central Avenue, he says, “looking for stories.” I ran a few ideas by him, but he said they were more Cristina’s style, whatever that means. Maybe Aaron was suffering from a case of writer’s block, but I was just jaw-dropped that a reporter of Aaron’s quality, who pretty much has a blank check to write about any issue facing city government, could be out of ideas.

If Rome burned while Nero fiddled, all the Times would do is post an article on the Bay Buzz talking about which song he played.

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.

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