The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Sunshine State News

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“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil…” ― Robert Louis StevensonThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

If you are a regular reader of Sunshine State News, the conservative, online news service which focuses on Florida politics, you will find yourself often struck by the duality of the website’s offerings.

On one hand, you have the intrepid work of reporter Allison Nielsen and the take-no-prisoners analysis of writer Jeff Henderson. On the other hand, there is the conspiratorial, sometimes zany, always Javertian pursuit of Charlie Crist as part of its coverage of the 2014 gubernatorial race.

Think of it as the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Sunshine State News, where one face (Dr. Jekyll) of the site is a straight-up, albeit right-leaning, political news website. The other face of it — the you-don’t-want-to-see-me-when- I-am-angry side of it — is this wackadoo fixation with the worst rumors about Charlie Crist.

Case in point is a column published today by the otherwise venerable Nancy Smith. The headline blares like a guttural scream from Mr. Hyde, “IRS Investigating a 537 Consulting-Related Tax-Violations Complaint Against Annette Taddeo.”

Oh, wow, this must be a real scandal because the headline has in it “IRS” and “Investigating.”

Wrong.

If you read Smith’s entire piece, you’ll come to understand that the IRS is not really investigating Taddeo, rather an anonymous source filed a complaint last year against Taddeo.

The South Florida office of the IRS would not acknowledge where agents were in their investigation, if the investigation would be complete before November, or if the complainant would be informed of the outcome” writes (or is it admits?) Smith.

In other words, some probably bitter political enemy of Taddeo filed with the IRS a complaint whose barrier of entry is dialing a 1-800 number.

Meanwhile, Smith, who ought to know better, is attempting to paint Taddeo as the next Jim Greer.

In the meantime, what expenditures besides payroll are run through 537 Consulting LLC, or if the company functions as Victory Strategies did for the Republican Party five years ago, remain a mystery,” Smith wonders aloud.

Unlike this website, where its clear who is footin’ the bill because, you know, they’re right there in the advertising boxes, Sunshine State News has not disclosed who owns it. It’s widely speculated that it is owned by this Republican political consultant or that Republican political consultant, each of whom is supposedly a hardcore enemy of Charlie Crist. SSN supposedly keeps the doors open by balancing its otherwise respectable coverage with a healthy dose of Crist-bashing.

Whatever.

It really doesn’t matter to me who owns Sunshine State News. In fact, I am not only an admirer of SSN, but I root for it. It’s nothing but good for my online empire of SaintPetersBlog, FloridaPolitics.com, and Context Florida if there other online sites to legitimize this aspect of the news industry. So I enjoy seeing Allison Nielsen get the praise she deserves. I enjoy reading Jeff Henderson’s drill-downs on legislative races. I am particularly fond of Nancy Smith’s thumb-her-nose brand of journalism.

But when SSN reverts to its Mr. Hyde face and publishes the incoherent rantings of batsh*t crazy “writers” like Leslie Wimes or when it spews its anti-Crist venom just because it has to, it allows itself to be dismissed — or worse — by its readers, critics, and competitors in the news business.

Of course, as Stevenson wrote, “The less I understood of this farrago, the less I was in a position to judge of its importance.” 

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.