With a nod to Harper’s Index, a note about the Florida Capitol Press Corps

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

After reading about the transition of former Florida Politics reporter Bruce Ritchie to POLITICO Florida, I got to thinking about the turnover in the Florida Capitol Press Corps.

So I scanned through Sachs Media Group’s handy Capitol Press Corps guides from 2014 and 2015, did a little back-of-the-napkin math and came up with what I think is an interesting set of statistics. With a nod to Harper’s Index (and an acknowledgement that my arithmetic may be off by one or two):

35: The number of full-time members of the Florida Capitol Press Corps employed at the start of the 2014 legislative session by print or digital media outlets, i.e., not radio or TV stations.

18: The number of these reporters still employed at the same print or digital media outlet as of August 1, 2015.

That’s basically a 50 percent turnover rate among the Florida Capitol Press Corps. Five of those 18 are reporters at the News Service of Florida, so without NSF the attrition would be much worse.

Of course, many of the names and faces have found work at other outlets. Marc Caputo went from the Miami Herald to POLITICO. Tia Mitchell went from the Tampa Bay Times to the Florida Times-Union. But that’s not the point — the point here is how much movement there is within the Press Corps. It’s practically a hot-stove league.

The first quality that drew me to my eventual wife was her widely acknowledged and well-deserved reputation for loyalty. Like her, loyalty is a quality I value almost above all others.

Last Wednesday, I attended a Dave Matthews Band concert with my friend, Jim Rimes. I first worked for Jim as a 21-year-old intern on Charlie Crist’s quixotic 1998 bid for the U.S. Senate. He and I don’t work together on a lot of projects, nor do we work together very often, but it goes without saying that there is a sense of professional loyalty to each other.

I believe in my heart of hearts I have this same kind of relationship with dozens of other colleagues in the political and influence industries. For example, if Sarah Bascom needed us to drive RIGHT NOW to Tallahassee, we’d already be on the Suncoast Parkway.

This is not to suggest that the members of the Press Corps do not share this same sense of loyalty. In most cases, the turnover among them is likely due to management’s failings. The fact that most of those who have transitioned have done so to another news organization is proof of their dedication.

Still, I am left wondering…

Why have half of these reporters changed jobs?

Why didn’t their editors and managers do more to retain them?

And, most important, how are readers suppose to trust these reporters if they can’t even recognize their names?

Something’s wrong here…

Photograph credit: Tallahassee Magazine.

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.