What Michael Kruse winning the FSNE's 'Best Writer' award says about the future of the Tampa Bay Times

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Congratulations to Michael Kruse — whom I’ve touted like a promising thoroughbred – for winning the Florida Society of News Editors’s Paul Hansell Distinguished Journalism Award, which recognizes overall excellence in reporting and writing. Michael won for his body of work in 2011. In the words of Vice President Joe Biden, this is a big f*cking deal. Not just for Michael, who really, really is a gifted writer, but for what recognizing a writer with Michael’s versatility says about the future of journalism.

Yes, Michael is an enterprise reporter for the newspaper published by the Tampa Bay Times. In that format, he writes harrowing stories, such as the one chronicling one woman’s slow descent into an isolated madness. But Michael is more than just a print reporter.  He’s also a contributor to Grantland, the website owned by ESPN covering sports and pop culture. Michael has his own (fledgling) blog. And he’s a force on Twitter, always making it near the top of my list of Florida’s Top Tweeters.

Like two other of the Times‘ most valuable and visible (non-sports) reporters – Eric Deggans and Adam Smith – Kruse has effectively integrated not just the technology, but also some of the attitude of new media into his traditional media repertoire. Now, don’t get me wrong, Kruse is a fierce defender of traditional media and the Times.  In an interview last year with a local online news site, Kruse sounded more like a fanboy of the Times, rather than an employee:

“The St. Pete Times is a place you want to be if you do what I do. This is where Rick Bragg worked, and Anne Hull, and David Finkel, and David Barstow, and Jeffrey Gettleman, and Chris Goffard, and Tom French, and so many others who helped establish a culture and a standard that’s recognized throughout journalism. When Ben Montgomery and I were working together at the Times Herald-Record in New York’s Hudson Valley, we went to conferences to hear Tom, Kelley Benham and Lane DeGregory talk about the craft. Now Ben and I get to work with Kelley and Lane. How cool is that?”

Michael understands the privilege it is to have what you write be read. He’s hungry!

There are so many reporters, not just at the Times, but every news outlet who are content with their deadlines to meet and holes to fill.  They’re not paid really to blog or Facebook or Tweet.  They went to journalism school when new media referred to Tom Wolfe, not Pinterest and Storify. So they bitch and complain when they are asked to evolve, much the same way a factory worker bitches and complains when some part of their job is modernized.

And like the factory worker who never learned any new skills along the way, they find themselves no longer needed. Just like all those puffy white faces in this picture of the staff at the downsized New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In other words, Times staffers worried they might be part of the next, inevitable round of lay-offs (and if you don’t think they’re inevitable, read David Carr’s piece from this weekend about the ticking time-bomb that is newspapers’ underfunded pension obligations), you may want to take a page from Michael Kruse who is aptly demonstrating that traditional and new media go hand-in-hand.

On a side note, The Times won the most awards from the Florida Society of News Editors, but I seriously have to question the judgment of an organization that believes Sue Carlton is the best columnist in the state. I have been critical of her style for some time now, but I’m willing to give her a second look. What am I missing here?

Never – not once – has anyone I’ve ever spoken to about anything of importance said to me, “Did you read what Sue Carlton wrote today?” Folks would ask that kind of question about Howard Troxler’s column frequently. I’m not saying Carlton has to be Troxler, but, again, what am I missing?

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.