With sacking of Rob Lorei, decimation of Tampa Bay’s political media continues
end of story, the text is typed on a vintage typewriter, on old paper close-up

end of story, the text is typed on a vintage typewriter, on old paper close-up
If you are any kind of politician, corrupted or not, these are salad days indeed.

If you are, say, a state Senator who steered $1 million to a daycare center tied to your church but failed to disclose that your wife held positions in both organizations, it’s a good time to be walking the streets of Tampa Bay.

If you are a Hillsborough County Commissioner with a penchant for avoiding transparency who provided advance information to a major campaign donor about where a proposed baseball stadium would be built, it’s a great time to be alive.

If you are any kind of politician, corrupted or not, these are salad days indeed.

That’s because there is essentially no one left to watch the watchmen.

Over the last six months, Tampa Bay’s political media has been decimated.

By attrition. By firings. By transfers.

And with that, there are very few journalists left in the region with the talent to explain to readers and viewers what’s really going on in local politics. There are only a handful of reporters with the chops to break open the big stories all but begging to be exposed. There is almost no one left in town with the heft to hold the most powerful politicians accountable.

On the day this country is supposed to celebrate the legacy of George Washington and other presidents, the local, non-profit, left-leaning radio station WMNF sacked Rob Lorei, the on-air personality who helped found the station and was its public face. Why? Partially because he didn’t post to Facebook enough.

This writer has never been a huge fan of Lorei, mostly out of spite because he refused to invite me on to his weekly public affairs television show. But even I recognized Lorei’s place in the market and his enormous contributions to it.

He was a liberal do-gooder who patiently fielded calls from listeners who wanted to know, for example, why the Republican-dominated Legislature wasn’t acting more like a Democrat-dominated Legislature. He championed the environment, big government, public education, and a host of other progressive causes.

Lorei was also beloved by those in Tampa Bay who lean left. He emceed their annual banquets; he showed up at their rallies; he knew so many of them by name. He was as much an activist as he was a journalist, which was OK because he was working for the ‘little radio station that could.’

Lorei is already sorely missed. If I had the budget — and assuming Lorei would take a check from me — I’d hire him to produce a daily podcast on Tampa Bay politics because I know his audience would gravitate to wherever he is.

But, alas, I doubt Lorei’s voice will be as prominent tomorrow as it was yesterday. And so he joins an increasing number of Tampa Bay political journalists who were just with us, but are now out of the business. Consider:

— In September, highly regarded reporter Alex Leary, based in D.C. but often wrote about Tampa Bay politicians, left the Times for the Wall Street Journal.

— Veteran reporter Mitch Perry relocated to Tallahassee to cover state politics (I’m partially blame for this personnel move.)

— Pulitzer Prize recipient Daniel Ruth retired in October 2018, just as the Times shelved its once-vaunted — and feared — Sunday Perspective section. (We note for the record: Also that month, Jennifer Orsi, the Times’s managing editor and a 30-year veteran of the paper, took a job as “senior manager for editorial content at Carillon Tower Advisers,” a global asset management firm that’s a subsidiary of Raymond James Financial.)

— Investigative reporter Mark Douglas, who spent four decades scaring the pants off of local pols while working for News Channel 8, retired.

— In December, the Times’ highest profile political reporter, Steve Bousquet, exited that newspaper and is now a columnist for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

— Polk Award winner Noah Pransky, who used his TV reporting post to bludgeon secretive local officials, left the market.

— At the end of January, Times political editor Adam Smith left journalism for a job with a public affairs firm.

Mark Puente, the Pulitzer finalist aptly described by his colleagues as a “bulldog reporter,” just announced he’s heading west to work for the Los Angeles Times.

And on and on. Even Times food critic Laura Reiley, who almost won a Pulitzer for a semi-political expose of the myths of farm-to-table menus, is no longer around.

In some cases, these reporters were replaced; the able Steve Contorno has been asked to fill the shoes of Leary, for instance.

But in most of these situations, the voids are still there. (Pransky, after all, was supposed to fill the gap left by Mike Deeson, so in reality 10 News is down not one, but two incredible reporters.)

The Times’ editorial page is now a shadow of its former self. There really aren’t any name brand TV reporters left to chase down runaway politicians.

Yes, there are still some solid journalists at the Times and elsewhere plying their craft.

What Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi exposed at All Children’s Hospital is devastating (and award-worthy).

Charlie Frago and Chris O’Donnell are thumping their beats in Hillsborough and Tampa’s City Hall. And I’m proud of what our Janelle Irwin does every day covering local campaigns. Columnist Joe Henderson‘s ability to distill local politics down to the very basics is so in demand that he splits time between us and the Times.

But who’s out there that really scares the local politicians?

Who is the columnist who can go toe-to-toe with, say, a Bob Buckhorn or a Bob Gualtieri?

What’s left out there in the political media landscape is commerce media. From the TV stations who are uninterested in deep-dive political reporting (while engorging themselves on the money made by selling political TV ads) to the local, pro-am blogs too afraid to publish anything controversial lest they scare off potential advertisers, the news desert in this community is as dry as its ever been.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • David Bryant

    February 19, 2019 at 7:39 am

    Rob will be missed. I hope he stays on WEDU, maybe in an expanded role.

  • Cheryl Wilkin

    February 19, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Take a look at the interview of CBS reporter, Laura Logan, the other day. She said she was committing professional suicide by saying the MSM is 90% biased to the left. Biased reporting is the antithesis of what our Founding Fathers wanted. They gave us the 1st amendment to insure an open and free press who is the watchdog of ALL of those who hold power over our citizens. Shameful and dangerous the one sided and shallow reporting. Not to mention the lack of digging deep on a story before reporting it . Good luck to Rob and his family.

  • Gary J Stein

    February 19, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Let’s not forget Bob Norman leaving his investigative position in south florida, Gary fineout jumping behind a pay wall, and the world from the readers side is sad

  • Lori V

    February 19, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Whenever I watch Lara Logan, I do so with trepidation. She is quite mistaken about MSM being left biased as those of us paying attention can attest. She also married a U.S. government defense contractor and in my opinion has the potential to taint her reporting. Here is a link to a Gawker article you may find interesting. https://gawker.com/lara-logan-s-husband-was-a-propagandist-for-the-u-s-mi-1462275766 With all of this being said, I enjoyed and had the utmost respect for Rob Lorei and cannot imagine what WMNF was thinking in showing him the door. They will never get another dime from me.

  • Schadenfreude

    February 19, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Oh Jesus. Get over yourselves. “Whatever will the poor unwashed masses do without us to explain to them how to think?? They’re not nearly educated enough to understand these things on their own! I mean, some of them even vote REPUBLICAN.” Earning a journalism degree is no great accomplishment and doesn’t magically transform you into some angelic arbiter of objective Truths. Instead of lamenting how society owes you a living for a doing a job nobody wants you to perform anymore (while trying to portray that as some altruistic calling instead of the grubby venality it is), why don’t you follow the advice your industry was all too happy to give to America’s coal miners who also found themselves out of a job due to changes in the political and economic climate: LEARN TO CODE.

  • Clyde Klastoff

    February 19, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Peter you are hardly the one to comment. You have been a political extortionist for revenue for years. If people check your criminal history it is extensive. Lorei was hardly a liberal. He was an opportunist. He blackballed many people at the station and even hid from his listeners the facts about the 11 hep c infections by one of his stars, Dr. Carol Roberts, in 2009. He has never spoken about it on air. Local political black leaders could not get on his show. He strategically put black public affairs block on Sunday mornings ensuring that prominent blacks never heard the show. Those shows are a joke now. Your colleagues Mitch Perry and Janelle Irwin, rationalized having air time to not spill the beans about Roberts. He was not liked by staff and djs. His hubris needed a shoehorn to get into the station front door. He would never let Leon Crewes, a great local writer for Florida’s Oldest black owned newspaper, The Florida Sentinel Bulletin, Appear on either WEDU and WMNF. There was nice guy public Rob and nasty pride filled private Rob, especially at the station.

  • Tom Palmer

    February 19, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    I retired from journalism (mostly) in neighboring Polk County after covering local politics, planning and zoning for 42 years. Journalism is about laying out the facts for the public so they can begin thinking about how their communities ought to be run.
    People are capable of drawing their own conclusions and forming their own opinions. without any help from anyone.
    It is odd that you now mourn Adam Smith’s departure. When he was working at the Times, you took a shot at him whenever you could.
    I was surprised by Rob Lorei’s firing. He had matured as an interviewer over the years and brought in a lot of guests whose views would never be heard in other media outlets. You could agree or disagree, but at least you left with a better idea that there diverse ways of looking at issues. I’m curious where local public affairs reporting at WMNF will be heading in his absence.

  • Donald James Graham

    February 20, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    “Lorei was also beloved by those in Tampa Bay who lean left. ” WRONG!!!! He was aldo beloved by those of us who lean right! Whether he was right or wrong (and I thought he was wrong a lot) He was honest and that is a rare trait in the modern world

  • Shephard Bruce

    February 22, 2019 at 7:44 am

    I believe Rob Lorei’s journalistic strengths far outweighs the criticisms noted here. Against the noise of a AM radio and the lack of critical reporting overall Rob in my opinion provided a balanced view to bring new ideas and fresh ones to an audience here that desperately needs to hear more like him. I doubt WMNF will easily replace him anytime soon .

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.

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