Still trying to understand the rules governing Steve Bousquet's alternative universe

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I’ve written before about how there is a political reality most of us recognize and live in and then there is an alternate universe Tampa Bay Times political reporter Steve Bousquet occupies.

Although I have long held this belief, it wasn’t until Bousquet wrote about how a smaller legislative delegation from Pinellas might not hurt the county’s clout in Tallahassee did my belief become unshakable.

Discussing Pinellas’s loss of population and how this impacted the reapportionment process, Bousquet argued that Pinellas County might still receive the same level of attention from lawmakers in Tallahassee even if the new legislative lines reduce Pinellas’ delegation by a member. Bousquet wrote:

“A little less representation in Tallahassee might not even be noticed, especially since two of the next three House speakers are from the region (Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel and (Richard) Corcoran of New Port Richey).

But with the possibility of fewer people looking out for them in the Capitol for the next decade, the people of Pinellas would be wise to realize that it matters more than ever who gets elected to office in 2012.”

Yeah, and a football team with ten players might score more touchdowns than one with eleven.

By the time Bousquet wrote this column, I had already noticed another interesting phenomenon occurring in Bousquet World: his tendency to use Twitter to spread “breaking news” – with no attribution to the original source, a  big no-no for a so-called traditional journalist.

On January 9, Bousquet tweeted that “Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, will resign, source says.” With that Tweet, Bousquet’s breaking news was launched into the blogosphere to be repeated by others in the traditional media. “Kurt Browning is resigning, Steve Bousquet reports” was the first line in several other reports.

Except the news was broken on this site on January 5.  The timing of Browning’s announcement about his decision to step-down was accelerated by that blog post.  So, yes, I am sure “sources” regurgitated to Bousquet what they had first read earlier on my blog.

The same convenient reporting occurred when Bousquet tweeted, “Fla. Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater will run in Dist. 20 in North Pinellas” — something I had “reported” earlier in that week.  Bousquet’s Tweet reads as if he’s breaking the story, when, in reality, he’s merely repeating what had already been reported by social media.

Now, is this a big deal? No, I really don’t think it is.  I actually do what Bousquet did all the time.  But Bousquet and Co. all hold themselves to a different standard.  They’re journalists, they’ll tell you. They attribute and source and so forth.

Except when the attribution and sourcing come from social media.

I had to hear from the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas last week about how “You can’t call yourself a journalist…” after I insisted that she properly credit me for reporting first the news that John Thrasher had officially dropped out of the race for Senate President.  Klas credited another traditional media reporter. I had to go so far as to tell Mary Ellen, “Who do you think called that reporter? Me” before she changed the story.

Mind you, never once have I said I am a journalist.  Blogger, reporter, writer. Yes, yes, yes.  But never a journalist.  If for no other reason, I don’t wear blue-checked shirts and red ties. But also because I understand and respect that being a journalist means buying into a certain code of ethics. I cannot uphold that code and still do what I do in the political world, so here’s where I am at. On this blog.

As a blogger, I do my best to credit traditional journalists.  This blog would not exist were it not for traditional journalism.  My gripe here is that it would be nice if traditional media returned the favor once in a while.

What prompted this post was a blurb in the Florida Current that read: “In a Tampa Bay Times column, Steve Bousquet explains the method behind the Florida Democrats’ presence in unwinnable legislative races: if you can’t beat ‘em, make ‘em pay.” Well, that must have been a very difficult column for Bousquet to write, considering Aaron DeSlatte of the Orlando Sentinel hypothesized the same theory four days earlier and I had been blogging and Tweeting about this issue — going so far as to detail how much money was left over in every candidates’ campaign account — for weeks.

Bousquet offered no reference to DeSlatte’s story or my blogging.  He just arrived at the exact same conclusion four days later after two members of the Capitol Press Corp said basically the same thing.

Yet, because Steve Bousquet wrote it, it’s bible.

Like I wrote in the headline, I’m still trying to understand the rules governing Bouquet’s alternative universe.

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.