On POLITICO’s forthcoming arrival in Tallahassee – Part 2

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Of all of the faces reporter Matt Dixon did not want to see as he walked into the Crew’s Cup Lounge inside of Walt Disney’s Yacht Club resort last week, mine was probably at the top of the list. Not because Dixon and I don’t get along, but because he was there to have a drink with a POLITICO editor interested in wooing him away from the Naples Daily News. And Dixon didn’t want him and his soon-to-be new colleague showing up in my blog or in Sunburn before he had the chance to inform his bosses at NDN.

After I put two and two together, I offered to give Dixon enough time to put his affairs in order before I would write about his switching teams. Dixon and I both laughed at this because we both understood that few else in Florida journalism would likely care enough to write about a reporter changing jobs. In other words, who would scoop me?

As we would report two days later, POLITICO’s effort to recruit Dixon to head its forthcoming operation in the state capital was indeed successful. He will be the chief of a five- or six- reporter bureau in Tallahassee that will cover the Legislature, several policy spheres, and all of the other interesting stories emanating from the bizarro world of Florida politics. Pairing Dixon with Marc Caputo in Miami, POLITICO now has a one-two punch around which it can build a team capable of winning an NBA title or something like that.

I’ve been reading POLITICO almost from its inception. Its star reporter, Mike Allen, is all but a role model to me — at least in terms of his style and work ethic (if only I had his humility.) Much of what I do with SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, Sunburn, and the rest of the Extensive Enterprises Media micro-empire is based, in part, from what I’ve learned observing how POLITICO has evolved.

If this blog post were like that classic anti-drug PSA, I would say, “I learned it from watching you, POLITICO.”

Knowing my affinity for POLITICO, it’s not surprising that some of my friends and colleagues — when asked what they thought about Dixon making his move — said the first thing they thought about when they learned the news was me.

“I kinda felt bad for you, dude,” said Brian Hughes with classic Brian Hughes delivery.

What Hughes and some of my other colleagues were trying (I think) to say was they felt sorry for me because there was this assumption that I wanted POLITICO to buy our networks.

At one point, this certainly was a goal of mine — to build a media organization interesting and profitable enough that some outside force might make an offer to buy the whole enchilada. But as I’ve gone about building this media organization, one that I without a doubt believe is interesting and I know is profitable, I’ve moved away from that goal.

Not that it could have ever happened anyway…

See, that’s where I do feel bad. To be open and honest in a way I rarely am about myself, I always knew there would be no way POLITICO or National Journal could buy Extensive Enterprises. That would be crazy.

I can see the headlines in Gawker now: “POLITICO Jumps Into Bed with Pay to Play Expert” or “National Journal Buys Interest In Websites Owned By Florida Man Once Convicted Of Grand Theft.”

That’s the reality for me. I know that and understand that. Knowing and understanding that is why I wake up at 3:36 a.m. in the morning to pump out Sunburn. It’s why this hamster never gets off the wheel.

It’s also why I am the happiest son of a bitch in Florida politics. Because without walking through those valleys, I would never have arrived at the mountains of being a husband and father.

There is no SaintPetersBlog without me making the bad decisions I did 10 years ago.

Will these decisions keep POLITICO or someone else from making me a millionaire? Probably. Scratch that. Make it absolutely.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I’m excited that Matt Dixon is moving to POLITICO. Why? Because game respects game. I want to compete with them for stories and scoops. It’s a win for me just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Caputo and Dixon. If I’m one of the four or five people whom politicos leak to, then I’m winning.

Because the others in this game can’t and won’t do what I do, which is takes sides.

POLITICO’s forthcoming arrival in Tallahassee is not a threat to me, it’s a threat to the status quo. LobbyTools and News Service of Florida and the Times/Herald are the organizations that should be worried. I mean, how many subscription-based news organizations can there be in Tallahassee? One? Less than one?

I’m not even sure how POLITICO makes the math work. Five or six reporters in Florida equals at least a half a million dollars in overhead. Can POLITICO create enough web traffic from this state-based journalism to attract enough advertising revenue? It’s done it before, so I won’t doubt it, but as the guy who probably understands that market as well as anyone, I’m not convinced yet.

But all of that is beside the point. What I hoped to convey in this post is, “I’m fine.”

So what if Caputo has a morning email like our Sunburn? His is uber-witty and irreverent and chock full of news, but I’ll put Sunburn up against it any day. It’s comprehensive and deep-divey and has many features Caputo doesn’t care about. My advice? Read them both.

We have ContextFlorida.com and its brilliant contributors. And Christine Sexton and her healthcare mastery. We have A.G. Gankarski, Janelle Irwin and Mitch Perry blogging nonstop about their regions. We even have a magazine (which, ironically enough, will feature Caputo in its next edition.)

I never wanted to own 10 Outback Steakhouses. Instead, I have aspired to be the chef-owner of a handful of three- and four-star restaurants. I think that’s what I now have.

So to me what someone else is cooking in their kitchen is their own business.

I hope you will continue to enjoy what we’re serving up.

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.