Tampa Bay Times puts its bias on display by not covering Trump boat parade

TAMPA BAY TIMES (Z)
The silence is deafening.

Surprise, surprise: I have a beef this week with the Tampa Bay Times.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump supporters took to their boats for a massive boat parade through John’s Pass that attracted some 1,500 boats. It was so big, the group is now trying to get a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest such event.

But the Times couldn’t be bothered to cover it.

A few disclosures before I explain why that’s a big deal.

First, we didn’t cover it either. But, our team worked all weekend on wall-to-wall coverage of Tuesday’s election — more than 100 races that yielded just as many stories on our website between Saturday and Sunday alone. The Times, meanwhile, had scant coverage about the primaries on its website (more on that in a minute.)

Second, I hate the politicization of boating. I just want to go to the sandbar and NOT think about the election.

That said, the Times really showed its hand here.

The paper has taken a lot of flak for its bias, and its silence on the boat parade only proves the point.

The Times invested multiple reporters, at a time when its newsroom is shrinking, to cover Black Lives Matter protests. It’s not that it wasn’t a worthy investment — America is and was in crisis, and the movement deserved attention. I’ve been a huge supporter of the Black Lives Matter protests and calls for police reform, and our team extensively covered the issue, too.

But a paper can’t expect to be taken seriously as an unbiased source of news and information if it covers protests on one issue, but ignores a massive political rally.

The Times’ absence of coverage is troubling for other reasons, too. It’s evidence the paper is struggling to manage its dwarfed newsroom.

Its Senior Deputy Managing Editor appears to be on vacation while Florida’s primary elections, the Democratic National Convention, and back-to-school are all happening this week.

It is Media 101 that you don’t send staff off on vacation during peak news cycles.

That sort of decision-making shows.

On Monday night, the Times homepage showed stories discussing the U.S. Postal Service crisis, reopening schools, and COVID-19 — all important topics. Further down, there were stories about mortgage delinquencies and St. Pete’s planned Sunrunner, some sports headlines and Hillsborough deputies wearing bodycams.

But nowhere was there any coverage of the local races appearing on Tuesday’s ballot.

It’s not like these races are sleepy.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ross Spano faces a credible threat in the primary against Republican Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. It’s a huge race with national implications — an opportunity for Democrats to claim another seat in the House.

There’s also the Republican primary in Congressional District 13, where Republicans are vying for the chance to topple Charlie Crist. Anna Paulina Luna is surging in the race. If she wins, which she may very well, it’s a bellwether on how much President Donald Trump still affects local races.

Even further down-ballot, several competitive races could alter Tampa Bay area politics fundamentally.

Harry Cohen has an opportunity to grow Democrats’ majority on the Hillsborough County Commission.

Voters will decide who should replace retiring Hillsborough County Clerk Pat Frank in a contentious Democratic primary between former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and School Board member Cindy Stuart. The race has been anything but sleepy.

Two Democrats also are on the ballot hoping to replace Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden.

In Pinellas, voters will decide whether a White candidate should advance in a school board race that could lead to an all-White board.

It’s not that the Times has ignored these races — the newspaper has offered some coverage in most of these races. However, election coverage is never as important as it is the days before the election, and the Times was missing in action.

The bottom line is, the Tampa Bay Times is this region’s newspaper of record. Readers expect it to know what to cover and, almost as importantly, when to cover it.

The silence on Trump’s boat parade was deafening.

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.


11 comments

  • Jim

    August 18, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Peter —

    I’ve loved and relied on Florida Politics since I moved back to FL just over two years ago, but honestly this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read on this site. You’re criticizing TBT for not covering an event that YOU didn’t cover either. Please. I really don’t care that a bunch of rich, entitled jackasses showed for Trump: that’s his voter base. Who cares? If every boat owner in FL voted for Trump (they won’t), it wouldn’t be enough to win him the state.

    You should have spent your time posting something more substantial, like maybe investigating what has happened in other states that reopened schools with projections about what will happen in FL when we do the same here — because those rich, entitled jackasses have DeSantis’s ear too and don’t care how many of our kids die. They just care about their money.

    • Connor

      August 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm

      “You should only cover things that fit my viewpoint”. That’s essential what you just said.

    • Jason

      August 20, 2020 at 10:19 am

      Well said.

    • Rebecca

      August 23, 2020 at 10:46 pm

      Sorry, but you really ought to educate yourself on this virus and the fact that children from 0 – 18 are virtually unaffected by it. In addition to that, while youngsters typically function as Petrie dishes in terms of spreading diseases, that has not been the case with this coronavirus. In the entire world, there has not been one case of a child infecting a teacher with Covid 19. Last but not least, this virus has a 99% survival rate.

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    August 18, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    What was there for a newspaper to “cover?” A bunch of rich people on their boats? Reminds me of those land-lubbers at The Villages and their Trump Golf Cart Parades. I wonder — did the local TV stations air any film of the flotilla?

    How many sea creatures were killed? (THAT would have been news.)

  • FLnative44

    August 18, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    Peter, you’re ”flogging a dead horse,” even though in the case of the saint pete times, they don’t even seem to know it yet.
    Used to be a pretty good newspaper years ago, but big mistake to buy the Tampa Tribune without continuing to support some of the better aspects of that paper, and hence, ‘dilute the brand’ and then distort both brands…
    R.I.P.

    • Gail

      August 19, 2020 at 8:28 am

      I was schooled and trained as a journalist. The St Petersburg Times was always heralded as an example of a great newspaper. I have had problems with the editorializing of the news in the TBT since it became the TB area’s only newspaper. Shame on them. I continue to get the paper because it has the local non-political news such as local sports and obits. I complain every time they call for my subscription renewal but nothing changes. Thank you for pointing this out publicly. I assume it was not easy to make this politically incorrect observation. Just know that it was very appreciated. And no I am not a boat owner.

  • Palmer Tom

    August 18, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Yet another (yawn!) boat parade? Not news anymore. They got TV coverage because those guys have to fill airtime with fluff. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen articles in TBT about the local elections that are on the primary ballot. The Crist election will be decided in the general.

  • Paul

    August 18, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Guess how many news reporters, not just TBT, covered the Tampa Bay Young Republicans packed house for a Back the Blue event featuring TPD Major and the Chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police?

    You guessed it. 0
    And now how many reporters did you say are DEDICATED to Black Lives Matter rallys!

  • Steve emerson

    August 20, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    This is why few people read the Tampa Bay Times. I was an avid reader of the Trib But the tongues as a biased leftist rag.

  • Don Morris

    August 21, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    The Times ran a story on the boat parade on Wednesday on the front of the Local section headlined “Trump get-out-the-boat effort gets record check.” Sounds like someone needs to check their own bias AND their facts while at it.

Comments are closed.


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