RNC Winners and Losers – the 'We are the Media Elite' edition

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I’ve already slurped enough about how the Tampa Bay Times p-wned the Republican National Convention. So who were the other Winners — and Losers — in the media coming out of the RNC?


Bay News 9 – First of all, just think of how much money Bay News 9, the local all-news station, made for Bright House Networks during the convention. One could not turn on BN9 and not see a political commercial airing. Second, BN9 was afforded a very unique status somewhere right below the a national networks, but waaayyy above all of the other “Action News” stations which sent a talking head to the RNC. My buddy Troy Kinsey maneuvered seamlessly between stargazing at GOP titans and offering Florida-centric coverage of the proceedings. Analysts Ana Cruz and Chris Ingram both handled themselves with aplomb, using the home-field advantage to provide genuine insight into what was going on around them.

BuzzFeed – The award for best designed, RNC-related invitation certainly went to uber aggregator BuzzFeed. Better yet, the party was even better than the invite.

Arianna HuffingtonThe Huffington Post’s Oasis, with its massage room and yoga studio, was exactly that. With a relaxing blue light and waitresses in white shirts strolling around the white-carpeted foyer waiting to take your order, the Oasis was a subtle jab at how little the conventions have come to do with politics and how much they have to do with extravagant politicking — mostly between the media and the people who fill their airwaves. How was HuffPo’s coverage of the RNC. I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell in between the spa treatments.

Gwen Ifill – I can’t believe it’s already been eight days since Ifill produced her “Washington Week” program at St. Petersburg’s historic Palladium. This may have been one of the best media events of the entire RNC because it demonstrated Ifill’s commitment to her audience. Remember, the PBS crowd is generally not the same as the RNC crowd, so this event gave the former something to be excited about with all of the elephants in town.

John King – This photo, captured by Tampa Bay Times media critic Eric Deggans, of the CNN star behind a bar the cable channel built on the first floor of the South Regional Parking Garage, says it all.

National Journal and The Atlantic – For my money, National Journal’s coverage of the RNC out-kicked POLITICO’s coverage of all things insidery. NJ’s daily morning briefings, intimately set Carne Chophouse in Ybor City, were chock full of actionable insights and policy conversation-starters.

The Tampa Tribune It’s not easy playing second fiddle to the Tampa Bay Times, especially in your own town.  But the Tribune offered extensive, solid reporting on issues large and small (Trib reporters were, for weeks, detailing how the RNC would interrupt everyday life in the host city.) The Trib’s columnists, especially Joe Henderson, were both inviting and critical about the circus coming to town. And the decision to unleash food writer Jeff Houck into a roving reporter to visit restaurants, shops and other places around the area to hear what people are saying about the convention was a master-stroke.

Mixed bag

POLITICO – I will never assign my beloved POLITICO to the Losers section, still something was missing from their coverage this week. Four years ago, POLITICO reset the game on how to cover a presidential campaign, so maybe it’s all old hat now to Jim VanderHei and Co. POLITICO was suppose to be the “pros from Dover” in its collaboration with the Tampa Bay Times, yet the local guys carried more than their share of the weight. I don’t know, maybe it’s that I, and many others, hold POLITICO to an impossibly high standard, but regardless, I was not over-freaking-whelmed by their presence at the RNC. Even its “Hub” in the ‘Beer can building’ was not as awesome (!!!) as other media hangouts.


Florida newspapers not named the Tampa Bay Times or Tampa Tribune – With a few exceptions (such as the Florida Times-Union, which, with one reporter produced a slew of posts, stories and Tweets), many of the other major Florida newspapers treated the RNC as if were being hosted on another planet rather than a single-tank’s drive from their market. For example, the usually informative Central Florida Political Pulse blog produced by the Orlando Sentinel did not offer a single post about the convention’s proceedings. Jealous anyone?

Florida reporters stuck with the state’s RNC delegation – This may have been the worst assignment of the RNC. First of all, reporters covering the delegation were embedded with them at Innisbrook Resort, 25 miles away from the real action. And just as the delegation was ‘stuck on a bus’ so were the reporters who were with them. All of those headaches just to cover what Adam Putnam said at breakfast?

La Gaceta The multilingual, Tampa-based newspaper welcomed the RNC with a headline which read something like “Does the ‘T’ in Tea Party stand for terror?’ What a way to welcome 50,000 guests to Tampa Bay

Chris Matthews – It may be a long time before Matthews comes to Tampa again. He began the week by getting into a  heated exchange with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus over a Mitt Romney joke about his birthplace — presumably alluding to a conspiracy theory that President Obama had not been born in the United States — that Matthews contends was meant to provoke racist sentiments. The “Hardball” host ended the week with a late-night confrontation with convention delegates who heckled Matthews at a restaurant.

MSNBC – Besides the incidents involving Matthews (above) and Todd (below), the left-leaning cable news channel consistently seemed out-of-the-loop because it was set-up outside the RNC event zone. Even Morning Joe seemed off (as opposed to the clubby vibe the show gave off when it was on-location in New Hampshire coffeehouses during the Republican primary). Also, I don’t know whose idea it was to set up shop outside in Florida’s August heat, but the move led to hosts and guests alike looking especially uncomfortable, which they already were due to being heckled by the pro-GOP crowd on its way to the Hooters located nearby.

Jon Stewart and The Daily Show – Do you know that aunt or uncle or cousin of yours who lives in Manhattan (don’t dare call it New York City) who comes down to “the South” once a year to point out how everything we do — from how we drive to how we speak — isn’t as cool or good as how they do it up North? Well, that was Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, which grabbed at the lowest hanging fruit of humor — yes, there are strip clubs in Tampa — while really not offering anything already lampooned on The Onion. By the way, Samantha Bee just isn’t funny. Tampa-raised correspondent Aasif Mandvi was the lone guest who seemed to remember his manners.

Chuck Todd – Even though Todd gave me a shout-out on Twitter, he still has to go down in the Losers column for his counter-intuitive observation that the Republican Party has showcased a diverse array of speakers at this year’s convention that the Democratic party only wishes it had. This comment did not sit well with left-of-center political analysts who found the statement absurd.

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.