Sunburn for 10/28 – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: What if they made a Constitution and nobody came? This date in 1865 marked the start of one of the stranger chapters in Florida’s constitutional history. At the direction of President Andrew Johnson, Florida Governor William Marvin convened a constitutional convention in Tallahassee just six months after the end of the Civil War. Its purpose: writing a new state constitution to annul the ordinance of secession and clear the way for Florida’s readmission to the Union. However, the President soon lost control of the Reconstruction process to congressional Republicans, and the new Constitution never took effect. Instead, Florida was placed under military jurisdiction, a situation that wasn’t resolved until yet another Constitution was adopted in 1868. And you thought Florida’s modern political history has been turbulent?!?

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Are you dressing up? What do you have planned for the kids? What are your favorite traditions? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll include the best in Friday’s edition.


We are now taking your nominations for the highly anticiapated 2014 W & L list. Who were the consultants who banked? Who were the hardest working activists? Who took it on the chin. All emails are confidential, but start getting them to me now.



For the first time since he announced he was running for governor, Crist’s campaign has more cash to spend than Scott.

Through Oct. 25, Crist had $3.2 million. Scott dipped to $2.9 million.

Scott has had a sizable financial edge from the start, spending $46.8 million, or 45 percent more than the $32.2 million Crist’s campaign had spent through Saturday. With polls showing the race a dead heat, any little bit could help.

Still, with the race awash in Super PAC money, Crist’s $300,000 edge is almost meaningless, especially with Scott confirming he’s dumping his own money into the race. (Just how much he’s spending might be revealed when the Republican Party of Florida releases its quarterly financial report).

In the last two weeks, from Oct. 11 to Oct. 25, Crist raised $5.6 million to Scott’s $4.8 million. He’s spent more, too, burning through $4.6 million compared to Scott’s $3.9 million.

The Florida Democratic Party kicked in $414,738 the past two weeks, plus Crist’s campaign received nearly $300,000 the past two weeks in public campaign financing, which helps candidates with a monetary disadvantage to compete. Overall, Crist has received $1.6 million in public financing, which Scott (who spent $75.1 million of his own fortune in the 2010 race) opposes.

Scott is relying on the Chris Christie-fronted Republican Governor’s Association, especially in the final weeks. It contributed $2.3 million since Oct. 14, and has contributed a total of $15.3 million, or 27 percent of all that Scott has raised. A Super PAC that does for governors what the Republican Association of Attorneys General does for AGs, it’s trying to keep its national edge over Democratic governors 29 to 21.


Crist is courting political history in next week’s election.

If he wins, he’ll be the first governor of Florida elected as both a Republican and a Democrat, and only the sixth in the U.S. since 1900.

If he loses, Crist could be on his way to another kind of history. Losing to Scott would make Crist a three-time loser in statewide politics (he lost U.S. Senate bids in 1998 and 2010). The third strike or “negative hat trick” has cut short the careers of a number of big-name Florida politicians, and history suggests that a loss for Crist will do the same to him.

The latest example is Bill McCollum, who lost the Republican primary to Scott in 2010 after losing U.S. Senate bids in 2000 and 2004. Tom Gallagher, Crist’s opponent in the 2006 Republican primary for governor, vanished from the political scene after his third statewide loss that followed unsuccessful bids for governor in 1986 and 1994.

Then there’s Bill Gunter, a Democrat who served in Congress and as state treasurer and insurance commissioner. Gunter agonizingly failed on three occasions to get to the U.S. Senate (1974, 1980 and 1988). He was the Democratic nominee in 1980 and lost to Republican Paula Hawkins.

How about the late Jack Eckerd? The Republican drugstore magnate from Pinellas County lost bids for governor in 1970 and 1978 and for U.S. Senate in 1974.

Crist is 58, and he would have a lot of political life left. But the history of Florida speaks for itself: A third statewide loss is too much to overcome.


Scott began the last full week of his re-election drive by unveiling what he dubbed his Florida 2020 Plan, a compilation of policy proposals already advanced but packaged into what his campaign said is now his closing argument to voters.

Scott touted the 2020 plan in Wellington, at an appearance with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The plan includes boosting per-pupil school funding to $7,116 — $232 more than the current year — making it the highest in state history.

Scott also would pledged to put $1 billion in Florida seaports, cut $1 billion in taxes, and invest $1 billion into environmental proposals, focused mostly on restoring freshwater springs and promoting alternate water supplies.

Christie, head of the Republican Governors’ Association, has already steered at least $16 million to the Scott campaign.

Scott’s opponent has his own package of policy proposals, dubbed Fair Shot Florida, which includes a per-pupil funding boost and an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Scott, though, on Monday said Crist “hasn’t laid out a vision for Florida.”

“The Florida 2020 plan is just that — a clear vision to move Florida forward,” Scott said.


South Florida in-person early voting turnout might have been relatively lighter than expected this weekend, but Democrats for the first time this election still topped Republicans in pre-Election Day ballot casting at the polls in the entire state.

But, thanks to strong vote-by-mail absentee ballot returns, Republicans still lead Democrats in overall early voting: 138,572 of the more than 1.8 million ballots cast as of this morning. In relative terms, the GOP is up 7.6 percentage points.

Either way, the GOP lead over Democrats has been shrinking. Yesterday it was about 147,000 or 8.4 percentage points.

At this rate, Democrats could come within 3-6 percentage points of Republicans in total ballots cast heading into Election Day. In raw votes, at the current rates, Democrats could wind up trailing by anywhere from 80,000 to 150,000 total ballots cast — and with a 455,000 registered-voter advantage over Republicans, that’s not an ironclad GOP lead at all. Then there’s the matter of independents, who have cast 17 percent of the early ballots so far. Most polls show Charlie Crist is winning them, which potentially gives the Democrat more cushion and could put Gov. Rick Scott in an even tougher spot (please note: these are all estimates based on prior return rates and polling data. Early, absentee and Election Day votes will be counted Nov. 4, not before.)

TWEET, TWEET: @AmySherman1: Broward had biggest early voting day so far with 8,518 voters.

TWEET, TWEET: @gbennettpost: Today was biggest #EarlyVoting day so far in heavily Dem Palm Beach County w 7,019 turnout.

GRAVIS POLL: FAN HELPS CRIST via Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel

That wind of momentum in the governor’s race last week was provided by Crist’s fan, a new poll finds.

The latest political survey from Gravis Marketing of Winter Springs finds Crist taking a two-point lead over Republican Gov. Rick Scott and voters saying the dispute over Crist’s fan — which kept Scott from joining a televised debate for seven minutes — has had an effect.

The Gravis Florida poll gives Crist a 44-42 percent lead over Scott among likely voters, and those who watched the second debate on Oct. 15 who thought the fan dispute changed their minds gave the edge to Crist.

“It hurt Scott,” Gravis managing partner Doug Kaplan said of the fan.

The automated phone poll of 861 likely voters was taken Oct. 22-24 and has a margin of error of 3 percent.


Gov. Scott is leading Crist by a single point in the latest YouGov/New York Times/CBS News Battleground Tracker poll.

The survey found Scott leads Crist 46-45 percent, including voters who lean towards a particular party. Taking “leaners” out of the calculations, Scott continues to lead by 43-42 percent.

The numbers fall just within the +/- 2 percent margin of error.

Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie was not included in the survey, but “Other” received 2 percent and 7 percent said they were unsure.

A deeper look at the poll finds Crist losing whites to Scott by 18 percent, but making a difference with strong support from Hispanics and non-whites.

YouGov also found a nearly 10 percent gender gap, as women favor the Democratic Crist by more than men did. The race now hinges on Democrats’ ability to boost turnout among base voters. Traditionally, Democrats are less passionate about midterm elections, which pose challenges for the Crist campaign.


On one hand, this should be good news for Crist. In early September, the same outfit had Scott up five; in a late September/early October poll they had Scott up four; and now that lead has tightened to Scott being up just 1 point. This is undoubtedly a good trend for Crist.

But there is something seriously amiss with the party breakdown of this poll that if this were the poll and the definitive benchmark, would make every Crist backer very – VERY – nervous.

Forgetting the fact that the writer originally had Charlie beating Daryl Jones in 2006, or that the Ind/NPA percentage is simply way too high, there is an important aspect of this poll that simply cannot be overlooked. This poll breaks down party as follows: Democrats – 36%; Ind/NPAs – 30%; Republicans – 34%

By this reckoning, Democrats should outnumber Republicans by two full percentage points.

That didn’t happen either time Barack Obama was on the ballot and it won’t happen this year. In off-year elections, turnout skews in favor of Republicans. The question is not a matter of “if,” but “by how much?”

So if we recalibrate the numbers and reweight these findings to make it a more reasonable Dem -3, then Charlie would likely be 4 or 5 points down. THAT would be bad news.


The yin/yang of competing TV spots continues in Florida’s deadlocked gubernatorial race, starting with a new ad from Crist focusing on Gov. Scott and his “shady” past.

Without treading on any new ground, “Then and Now” launches today from the Florida Democratic Party.

Once again, the FDP touches upon Scott’s troubles during his tenure as head of Columbia/HCA, which was forced to pay a record $1.7 billion fine.

From the other side of the coin comes a new twist, courtesy of the Republican Party of Florida.

RPOF’s 30-second spot highlights $90,000 received by the Crist Campaign from “strip club owners,” including $40,000 from the owner of the Cheetah Hallandale Beach.

“Charlie’s War on Women” focuses on Democratic base voters, mainly females, by linking Crist to strip clubs – which the ad points out are the main perpetrators of sex trafficking.

The spot closes with Crist saying the money came from a “management company,” and that he does not intend to return the money, even after knowing the source.

TWEET, TWEET: @JKennedyReport: TV ad $ in Fla gov’s race is 3x Fla spends on mental health/subs abuse; cld provide health care for 6,546 srs.


In the campaign to defeat Gov. cott, NextGen Climate sank another $3 million into its Florida operation, according to finance reports with the state Division of Elections.

Founded by California hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, NextGen Climate directs cash to several targeted races nationwide, with the goal of defeating politicians who reject humanity’s role in climate change.

Scott has previously said he was unconvinced that climate change was because of human activity and when asked about ways to address the issue, famously said he was “not a scientist”.

Steyer has now given a total of $14.75 million to its Florida organization, which has already spent about $10.4 million, mostly for advertising.

NextGen Climate Florida also received $210,000 in donations from other individuals.

FUNDRAISING EMAILS GALORE: “Can’t buy what we’ve got,” “His millions won’t drown you out.” via Charlie Crist; “Kiss all hope goodbye,” “Skin in the game” via Jessica Clark, finance director for Charlie Crist; “How low will the Florida GOP go” via the Florida Democratic Party; “Our deadline is almost here” via George Sheldon; “Have you voted yet?” via Florida Votes Early


There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and Internet headlines (apologies to Benjamin Disraeli, Mark Twain, et al.)

On Daily Kos is one example of the third, which introduces a blurb with this enticing headline:

“Rick Scott sends white supporters to harass black voters.”

The accompanying piece describes a Crist rally in Fort Lauderdale — an event that quickly devolved into a shouting match, with the Democrat’s supporters squaring off against those for Scott.

A commotion supposedly took place at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, where a crowd of devotees, mostly black Democrats, greeted Crist’s bus.

Also meeting the former governor was a group of “mostly white” Scott supporters, many carrying signs saying “shame on you.” In Scott’s group, there was someone with a megaphone.

What puts it in the “damned lies” category is that it simply did not happen that way. Even the original Miami Herald story somewhat contradicts the Daily Kos headline.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s pre-election “Florida Grown” bus tour to visits Clearwater starting at 8 a.m. with a meet-and-greet breakfast at the Sunset Grill, 2328 Sunset Point Rd. Joining Putnam are Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and David Jolly, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and state House candidates Bill Young, Chris Sprowls and Chris Latvala. At 11 a.m., he will be sign waving with Bill Young at the corner of Ulmerton and 49 Street North, 5050 Ulmerton Rd. in Clearwater.

DISPUTE OVER AMENDMENT 2 ADS GETS HAZY via Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times

Now the medical marijuana campaign has a kerfuffle about ads on television and — zounds! — political untruths.

United for Care, the group sponsoring Florida’s medical marijuana amendment, announced this afternoon that it had sent out “cease and desist” letters to televisions stations for allegedly airing a 30-second Vote No On 2 ad called, “It’s Nuts.”

The Federal Communications Commission forbids stations from broadcasting  false and misleading statements, United for Care said, and the offending ad did contain a few extreme zingers, like Amendment 2 “is not about compassion. It would legalize marijuana,” and “Kids can legally get it without their parents’ permission.”

Problem is, Vote No On 2 never put the ad on television, said spokeswoman Sarah Bascom. It’s on YouTube and maybe a website, “but we don’t know what they are talking about. Maybe they are too concerned about polls to pay attention to what is going on on TV stations.”

United for Care Campaign Director Ben Pollara said he acted after hearing the ads were on TV. “I’m glad they’re not on TV because they are completely inaccurate and misleading.”

The fact that they are on YouTube and not broadcast television, he said, “doesn’t change the fact that they are egregiously misleading.”

ODD ENDORSEMENT OF THE DAY: “99.5 WQYK’s Dave & Veronica endorse Danny Burgess for State House.”


Dwight Dudley voted to allow Duke Energy to charge the fees that he now fervently opposes, says a new campaign ad in the House District 68 race.

The Democratic incumbent claims to “fight for us,” says the ad from GOP opponent Bill Young, “but when he has the chance to fight, he just sells us out,” siding with Duke Energy to charge consumers for a nuclear power plant that may never be built.

Much of Dudley’s campaign platform rests on protesting those Duke Energy fees, as he calls for the utility to refund the money to Pinellas County consumers.

The 30-second spot, set for release today, also points to Dudley’s support of the Greenlight Pinellas transit initiative, which seeks to raise the county sales tax rate to 8 percent – the highest in Florida.

“That’s outrageous,” a woman tells the camera.

Dudley faces first-time GOP challenger Young, son of the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, for the seat covering eastern Pinellas County and parts of Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg.

POLL: HD 112 RACE IS A “STATISTICAL DRAW” via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Some South Florida political observers have said they doubt Democrats can flip Florida House District 114. But a new poll conducted by the left-leaning firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design says the race is a dead heat.

The survey has incumbent Republican Rep. Erik Fresen leading Democratic candidate Daisy Baez, 37-35 percent.

The independent candidate, Ross Hancock, carried 6 percent of respondents. The remaining respondents said they were undecided.

House District 114 is a swing district. It includes conservative communities like West Miami, as well as left-leaning municipalities like Pinecrest and Cutler Bay. It also covers some of Coral Gables, which has a mix of Republican, Democratic and independent voters.

Fresen, a land use consultant from Miami, is a well-known state lawmaker from South Florida. He has raised more than $463,000 in campaign contributions, making him one of the best-financed candidates for the Florida House anywhere in the state.

But Democrats have faith in Baez, a health care administrator who has served in the U.S. Army. They point out that Fresen was re-elected to the seat in 2012 by a narrow margin.

The poll surveyed 300 “registered and likely voters,” according to the memo. The interviews were conducted in either English or Spanish, depending on the respondent’s preference.

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GOV. SCOTT DEFENDS ORDER ON EBOLA MONITORING via Matt Sedensky of the Associated Press

Scott defended his decision to monitor anyone coming from Ebola-affected countries, saying it’s “the right thing to do” to protect Floridians.

“I want to make sure that … we don’t do what CDC did – they got behind,” he said. “We’re not going to get behind. We’re going to be prepared.”

Scott’s weekend order gives state health officials authority to do twice-daily monitoring of individuals arriving from places the CDC designates as affected by Ebola.

“We’ve got 19.6 million people living in this state. I want them to be safe,” Scott said. “I want the 100 million tourists that we get here to be safe. I want all of our health care workers, our first responders to be safe. If you go to a Ebola-infected area when you come back you ought to be monitored by the Department of Health. It’s the right thing to do.”

Federal health officials have been critical of quarantines of medical workers returning from West Africa, saying it could discourage volunteers from traveling to the danger zone.

2014-15 FORECAST: CITRUS SEASON SHAPES UP FAVORABLY via Kevin Bouffard of the Ledger

The 2014-15 Florida citrus season could be a good one for both growers and orange juice drinkers.

Orange growers should see higher farm prices for their fruit in the current season, which began on Oct. 1, but OJ consumers should see lower or stable prices, said Marisa Zansler, chief economist at the Florida Department of Citrus at the meeting of the Florida Citrus Commission, the department’s governing body.

On the downside, “higher (grower) revenue will be offset by higher costs,” said Zansler, referring to the rising cost of grove caretaking to battle the fatal bacterial disease citrus greening.

In her 2014-15 season outlook, Zansler also predicted an easing of the decline in U.S. retail OJ sales, but that total sales will still fall for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Orange growers should see a 10.5 percent increase in the farm price for early and mid-season oranges harvested from October to March, Zansler said. She predicted growers would average $1.90 per pound solids compared with an average $1.72 in 2013-14.

Florida’s juice processors buy 95 percent of the annual orange harvest. They pay based on pound solids, the amount of juice squeezed from fruit. A gallon of orange juice contains about one pound solids.

Valencia oranges, harvested from March to June, should earn growers $2.33 per pound solids on average, down 2 percent from $2.38 last season.


Florida’s health maintenance organizations responsible for coordinating health care coverage to the poor, elderly and disabled have been targeted for $556 million in rate reductions under a proposal crafted by the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program.

The proposed cuts were outlined in budget documents submitted earlier this month by the Agency for Health Care Administration to the Legislature.

The state’s HMOs are now the prime health care providers responsible for Medicaid under a shift to managed care that was approved by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott back in 2011. AHCA suggested the reductions as part of its annual budget exercise.

Legislators have been asking for years for a list of potential areas to cut spending and agencies have obliged, usually identifying the cuts by priority. Many years the list is not noticed because state legislators have enough money to work with. But that may not be the case in the fiscal year 2015-16, which begins July 1, 2015 and runs through June 30, 2016.

Florida is projected to have a $336 million budget surplus next year but the forecast could make it difficult for either Gov. Scott or Charlie Crist to carry out some of the campaign promises they have made on the stump. Scott has pledged to cut taxes and boost school spending to historic levels.

Scott’s own budget director, Cynthia Kelly, put out a memo in September and called the projected surplus “understated” and said that there may be more money available. In that memo she said the surplus number was derived without any presumed savings from identifying efficiencies, when in fact agencies over the past three years have identified savings and will continue to do so.

In its proposed list of reductions, AHCA has recommended that prepaid health plans have their capitation rates reduced by 4.19 percent.  The majority of the reduction, or $424 million, will come from traditional prepaid health plan, or the HMOs that don’t coordinate long term care. Traditional prepaid health plans would receive $362.47 per member per month for treating the 2.6 million Floridians enrolled in the plans, budget documents show.


The Department of Health acted reasonably, logically and within its authority when it proposed a lottery to award five licenses to grow, process and dispense a medicinal marijuana product. DOH Monday filed a proposed recommended order in the challenge to its plan to implement the Charlotte’s Web law the legislature approved in May.

DOH called on an administrative hearing judge to uphold its plan and dismiss the challenge file by Costas Farms, Plants of Ruskin, and the Florida Medical Cannabis Association that the department exceeded its authority when regulators inserted into the proposed rule a lottery and widen the applicant pool, among other things, for the licensing process.

In its filing, DOH reminded Judge W. David Watkins that precedent holds agencies are entitled to “great deference” in rule making and that its decisions were designed to ensure a high quality safe product for patients.

The department’s filing explains regulators settled on a lottery when regulators estimated there would be at least 75 applicants for five licenses; a random selection process resolves the problem of more interest than opportunity.

Costa Farms objects to the explanation, its proposed recommended order argues the statute requires the department to “qualitatively evaluate” applicants.

Costa, Ruskin and the FMCA also challenged the department definition of an applicant as an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.  The proposed rule restricts a qualified nursery from filing more than one application.

The rule allows investors and other interested parties to create a partnership with a nursery and the “entity” would be eligible to apply if the nursery owns at least 25 percent.  Investors are not restricted in the number of applications they can file.


The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, set for Oct.30 to Nov.3, is poised for its best year since the recession.

“We’re very excited with the prospects,” said Andrew Doole, senior vice president for Show Management, which produces the annual event for the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the show’s owner.

Doole said strong boat sales throughout the summer reinforced signs of solid demand. “The American buyer is back,” Doole said.

The show will have pleasure vessels ranging from paddleboats to 250-foot motor yachts. More than 1,000 boats will be on display in the water at various locations and hundreds more on land.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, a trade group, expects “continued steady growth” this year, with retail sales of powerboats increasing 5 percent to 7 percent from 2013. For the first half of 2014, new powerboat registrations were up 7 percent from 2013, NMMA said.

The recreational marine industry’s sales peaked at $9.8 billion in 2006 then plunged 49 percent to $5 billion in 2010, according to NMMA, which tracks small boats and yachts up to about 80 feet. Since then, boating sales have been recovering gradually, reaching $6.5 billion in 2013.

Florida is the No.1 state in sales of new powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories, with sales totaling $1.9 billion in 2013, up 16 percent from 2012, NMMA said.

FIRST IN SUNBURN: Look for Ballard Partners to announce its plans for its expansion in Orlando today.


Gordon Bailey: Guidewell Mutual Holding Corporation

Christopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: SeniorLink

Ron LaFace, Ashley Mayer, Gerald Wester, Capital City Consulting: Notary Public Underwriters, Inc.

Andy Palmer: Metz, Husband Daughton: Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc.

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On Context Florida: Both GOP and Dems have reasons to panic in the gubernatorial race, says Peter Schorsch. Florida Republicans not working directly for the Rick Scott campaign found themselves in a frenzy on Friday after survey results from a respectable pollster began to circulate. Worrying Democrats is Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami Dade, where the total number of people who early-voted Saturday was greater than Sunday — the day when black voters were expected to have the first of two “Souls to the Polls” voting events after church. Election Day is a week away, and Tom O’Hara begs those who cast ballots for Rick Scott to do so for reasons other than these 10. The latest epidemic is really freaking Diane Roberts out. What if stupidity is airborne? Florida is one of the most diverse states in the nation, but Mark Ferrulo says that wouldn’t know it from looking at our courts.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Diane Roberts is going to give her talk at Mission San Luis. Seven months later.

Roberts will speak Wednesday evening at Mission San Luis about the pollution of Florida’s rivers, springs and lakes. Roberts, a well-known Tallahassee writer and political pundit, was originally scheduled to speak April 3.

But her presentation was canceled at the last minute by the Department of State, which said speeches about the environment were “not part of the core mission and programs” of the state-operated Mission San Luis. The mission is on the site of a 17th century village inhabited by Apalachee Indians and Spanish priests and soldiers.

The cancellation sparked controversy and inspired the resignation of a part-time employee of Mission San Luis. Critics called the cancellation censorship and said it was retaliation for Roberts’ frequent criticism of Gov. Scott.

After the story broke, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner called Roberts to apologize and promised she would be invited to speak at Mission San Luis “in the near future.”

Roberts has not heard from Detzner since: Her talk is sponsored by Tallahassee physician Ray Bellamy, an environmental activist, who paid to rent the mission’s auditorium.

Roberts will be joined by photographer John Moran, who will display and talk about his “Springs Eternal” photo exhibit, which illustrates the before and after condition of Florida springs polluted by agriculture and development.


Facebook now has a fifth of the world — about 1.3 billion people — logging on at least monthly. It drives up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites, according to figures from the analytics company SimpleReach. On mobile devices, the fastest-growing source of readers, the percentage is even higher, SimpleReach says, and continues to increase.

The social media company is increasingly becoming to the news business what Amazon is to book publishing — a behemoth that provides access to hundreds of millions of consumers and wields enormous power. About 30 percent of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. The fortunes of a news site, in short, can rise or fall depending on how it performs in Facebook’s News Feed.

Though other services, like Twitter and Google News, can also exert a large influence, Facebook is at the forefront of a fundamental change in how people consume journalism. Most readers now come to it not through the print editions of newspapers and magazines or their home pages online, but through social media and search engines driven by an algorithm, a mathematical formula that predicts what users might want to read.

It is a world of fragments, filtered by code and delivered on demand. For news organizations, said Cory Haik, senior editor for digital news at The Washington Post, the shift represents “the great unbundling” of journalism. Just as the music industry has moved largely from selling albums to songs bought instantly online, publishers are increasingly reaching readers through individual pieces rather than complete editions of newspapers or magazines. A publication’s home page, said Edward Kim, a co-founder of SimpleReach, will soon be important more as an advertisement of its brand than as a destination for readers.

The shift raises questions about the ability of computers to curate news, a role traditionally played by editors. It also has broader implications for the way people consume information, and thus how they see the world.

The goal is to identify what users most enjoy, and its results vary around the world. In India people tend to share what the company calls the ABCDs: astrology, Bollywood, cricket and divinity.

If Facebook’s algorithm smiles on a publisher, the rewards, in terms of traffic, can be enormous. If Mr. Marra and his team decide that users do not enjoy certain things, such as teaser headlines that lure readers to click through to get all the information, it can mean ruin. When Facebook made changes to its algorithm last February to emphasize higher-quality content, several so-called viral sites that had thrived there, including Upworthy, Distractify and Elite Daily, saw large declines in their traffic.


Douglas MacKinnon, one of the most conservative and controversial columnists to grace the pages of a Tampa Bay daily newspaper in many a year, has been fired from the Tampa Tribune, sources tell CL.

The Trib isn’t saying anything officially. Metro Editor Dennis Joyce told CL that “It’s a personnel matter,” and refused to confirm or deny MacKinnon’s firing. But his name and work have been scrubbed off the paper’s website.

In all probability, it’s because of the embarrassment to the paper.

That’s because of a book he’s just published in which he calls on the Southern U.S. states to secede from the rest of the country because of the South’s more conservative stance on same-sex marriage and other rights pertaining to the LGBT community. Entitled The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country…Now, the book envisions a new Southern region called Reagan, after our 40th president, and would consist of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Not Texas, however, because, well, frankly, there are too many Mexicans there.

After his appearance on a conservative radio program in which he discussed the book, the website Right Wing Watch picked up on his remarks, which then drew the attention of Huffington Post, Salon and Talking Points Memo.

McKinnon was a speechwriter for President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, and worked at the Pentagon as well. He’s written opinion pieces for a number of major papers over the decades, and thus had a national portfolio when he joined the Tribune within the past year.

McKinnon was never popular in the newsroom, a source tells CL. One reporter says that “employees here were really pissed because the guy was so way out and because Metro front is supposed to be about local news, not ranting about Obama.” Another told us that MacKinnon was shunned by other reporters, often sitting by himself when he ate his lunch.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to GrayRobinson’s Fred Leonhardt. Celebrating today is the inimitable Alia Faraj-Johnson, as well as Aaron Dietrich and my ol’ professor, Bill Pfeiffer.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.