Peter Schorsch: Putting Florida in Context with the launch of

As more than one friend has counseled, it’s crazy to be launching any sort of journalism endeavor in today’s marketplace.

Aren’t newspapers laying off editors and reporters? Aren’t media companies being bought up like Boardwalk and Park Place in a game of Monopoly?

Unfortunately, the answer to those two questions is “yes.” But that doesn’t mean entrepreneurs will stop attempting to build a better mousetrap. In fact, it’s in chaotic periods like this when “the next great thing” is often created.

As far as Florida’s political journalism arena is concerned, the next great thing will be Context Florida — a non-profit, online, statewide opinion network.

Wait, you insist, didn’t a statewide opinion network operating in Florida just call it quits?

You’re right. Florida Voices — launched by the  inimitable Rosemary Goudreau and Rosemary Curtiss — made a run at bringing together smart, divergent voices in one place to raise the level of discourse about public affairs in the Sunshine State. That service went out of business in April after its founders said they had run out of money. This despite their best intentions and the good work of their contributing columnists.

After flirting with buying the rights to Florida Voices, I decided to stand on its founders’ shoulders and create a new platform, built first for the web and with, what I hope will be, a better business model more dependent on advertising and content sponsorship than fees paid by newspapers to run the op-eds published on Context Florida.

Much of what you liked at Florida Voices will be found at FV editors Tom O’Hara and Rich Bard will run this publication, thereby bringing into the fold two experienced, trusted journalists to helm a site that is as much a paean to legacy media as it is to the new techniques and tools.

O’Hara is also doubly charged with keeping me out of the kitchen as much as possible so that Context Florida has its own heterogeneous composition rather being an extension of its publisher. In other words, while I’ll be writing for Context Florida (as well as selling advertising to keep the site afloat), it won’t be just a tout sheet for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign or my other pet causes.

So what exactly is ContextFlorida? That’s a good question, especially if you were not familiar with Florida Voices. Is it a blog? Is it a news site? Is it a soap box? Well, yes to all three of those questions. That and more.

First of all, Context Florida is about what its title suggests: Florida. For a state as large and populous and as politically important as Florida, there are very few outlets for considered opinion about it. There are the newspapers, with their dwindling editorial pages. And there are some blogs and social networks and even a couple of think tanks. But, for the most part, there are very few places for the issues of the day to be debated.

My vision is to make Context Florida one of the arenas for these debates.

These debates will rage via a stable of regular columnists — many of them veteran journalists, such as Doug Clifton and Martin Dyckman and Florence Snyder, but also new media voices such as Steve Schale and Ben Kirby and Julie Delegal — who will offer at least four new op-eds per day on the site. In turn, these op-eds will be made available — at no cost — to the newspapers that have been forced to pare down their editorial staffs.

Context Florida also will welcome the contributions of outside interest groups and writers whose viewpoints are worth amplifying.

For example, one day you might read an op-ed from the Panhandle’s Rick Outzen about the impact of the BP oil spill; the next day you could see a second piece from the executive director of Audubon Florida. On Wednesday, you’ll be able to read a response from BP’s public relations team, while on Thursday you’ll get the perspective of a lawmaker dealing with the issue. By Friday, another one of Context Florida’s regular columnists will weigh in.

A genuine, rollicking debate — all sides represented, all in one place.

That sounds well and good, but how do we keep the lights on? How do we avoid the pitfalls which beset Florida Voices and other new media endeavors?

First of all, I bring a personal track record of making online media work in Florida. With and Sunburn — my daily email about what’s hot in Florida politics — I’ve helped prove that new media can thrive in the Sunshine State.  My company has attracted dozens of advertisers who had previously not thought of advertising online, but have since reaped the benefits of marketing to a targeted, influential readership.

Second, and perhaps, most important, Context Florida is being established as a non-profit, much the same way ProPublica and other similar journalism endeavors have been organized. Instead of news being delivered in the public interest, we will be delivering analysis and opinion — context, you might say — in the public interest.

Yes, the editors and I will be taking a salary, but the goal with Context Florida is to plow its revenues back into this worthwhile project. Being a non-profit — once the status is approved by the IRS — creates tax incentives for donors to contribute to the mission of Context Florida. It also allows us to go after grants that are out there for an endeavor like this.

Being a non-profit also forces us to maintain a level of transparency not typically found in much of Florida’s new media. There are questions about who is behind that site and such. This won’t be the case with Context Florida.

Once we file our annual reports, the contributors to Context Florida will be there for the world to see. For now, it’s just me plowing the profits of SaintPetersBlog into this project, but we already have several advertising commitments from those excited about getting in front of our audience.

One sure way to get in front of that audience will be through sponsored content, the concept of which will very much be embraced on CF. So long as it is clearly defined, sponsored content is one of the ways forward in the world of 21st century journalism. So you will see on Context Florida reports and op-eds brought to you by those in an advocacy position.

For the most part, however, what you will read and see on Context Florida is what I describe as a bustling cacophony of smart ideas written by smart people for a smart audience.

I hope you will be part of it.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was 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.


  • Barbara Lumpkin

    August 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Sounds like great resource

  • Cathy Harrelson

    August 27, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Great news Peter. Looking forward to reading and submitting content.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704