If you were expecting to read SUNBURN as you usually do on a weekday morning, this isn’t it.
Nor will Takeaways from Tallahassee, our weekend newsletter, appear in your inbox Saturday.
Both of those products are “going dark,” as they say, today and tomorrow as a message to the four leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor, after their debate this week.
Here’s why: It’s one thing to not know that Janet Cruz is the outgoing House Democratic Leader, or what the precise amount of education spending is in the state budget.
It’s another to admit that, either as novice or career politicians, your “morning reads” don’t include SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source.
As I wrote earlier this week, “ … not one of the four candidates, when asked what was the first thing they read in the morning, mentioned the state’s largest newspaper. Can you imagine Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, or Charlie Crist not mentioning the Times?”
And The Times needs all the eyeballs it can get. This same week, we learned the paper plans to lay off around 50 people “after new tariffs sent the price of newsprint skyrocketing,” according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. (I’m still miffed The Times didn’t break its own layoffs story, instead of merely announcing two promotions that same day, but that’s for another rant.)
Here’s how The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam put it in the lede of her debate story:
“Three of the four Democrats vying to replace Rick Scott as governor of the third-largest state in the nation get their news first from The New York Times, and only one, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, relies on his hometown paper [the Tallahassee Democrat] to find out what’s going on in the world.”
Moreover, Orlando businessman Chris King said his first morning read is The Sayfie Review, which typically isn’t updated until 6 a.m. or later.
So I asked myself, “why do we bother?”
Why do me and my staff, POLITICO Florida aces Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon, and all the other scribes who labor to put out morning newsletters summing the political and other news of the day — often with exclusives — do it?
After all, three of the four top Democratic contenders to become the state’s next chief executive admit their go-to in the AM is a newspaper produced roughly 1,000 miles away from the Florida state line.
Even the Democrat, lucky to have the talent of longtime newsmen Jeff Schweers and Jeff Burlew, too often relies on News Service wire copy for politics and government news in its own front yard. (Disclosure: Don’t get me wrong, it’s good stuff; we’re a subscriber.)
But staff reporters — like our Scott Powers in Orlando, A.G. Gancarski in Jacksonville, and Jim Rosica in Tallahassee — also beat their brains to get news of local and statewide import and scoops on the competition.
I guess I just answered my own question.
We all do it to inform and enlighten this state’s elected officials, their staff, candidates, campaign professionals, lobbyists, nonprofit groups and anyone else, anywhere, willing to give us their email address or visit, in our case, Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.
Let’s not forget the Orlando Sentinel (looking at you, Mr. King), the Miami Herald (ahem, Mr. Levine) or a host of other local news sources that produce frequently-updated websites, blogs, newsletters, podcasts and other vehicles to get pertinent news to those who want to consume it.
How about crediting the hard work of veteran John Kennedy? He rose like a phoenix from his ignominious layoff at The Palm Beach Post to report for The Florida Channel and now as Tallahassee correspondent for GateHouse Media’s Florida newspapers, soon to include — oh, the irony — The Palm Beach Post.
No, that work doesn’t seem to break into the Democrats’ headspace. I won’t get into the staff members of those very candidates who pester and plead with us to get their news releases and campaign updates into SUNBURN and/or on our sites.
In fact, we were deluged with emails of post-debate spin trumpeting “bold proposals” and “debate victory,” while blasting opponents’ “poor record” and “misleading statements.” Even as I type, those campaigns are sending advisories about upcoming appearances of their candidates.
So that’s why SUNBURN, save for this editorial, and Takeaways from Tallahassee are going dark today and tomorrow.
Yes, we’re as guilty as anybody else for sometimes shedding more heat than light, to mangle T.H. White.
But all of us working in Florida’s news business collectively aspire, in our “newsman’s cart,” to “hurry from hamlet to hamlet … undertaking to purvey all that the human mind need know or the human soul craves, to that day’s date,” as Frederic Jesup Stimson said.
If only the Democratic candidates gave a damn about our wares.