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5 things I think I think about today's Tampa Bay Times and other media

By on July 22, 2012

The Times has released its endorsements for the Florida House and Senate. In an earlier post, I asked whether these endorsements matter much in GOP primaries.

Sure these endorsements might make the candidates feel better about themselves, but it is doubtful the support of a newspaper viewed with skepticism by many, if not most, likely Republican voters will help.

All in all, the Times‘ endorsements in these races are far less effective than its recommendations in races where candidates don’t have the resources to fully deliver their campaign message, such as down-ballot contests for judge.

Still, it’s always a bonus to be able to put on the campaign literature, “Endorsed by the Tampa Bay Times.”

Reading through the endorsements, there are several back-handed compliments of candidates the Times endorses, such as its description of Rep. Peter Nehr for “offer(ing) experience and a modicum of common sense.” A modicum! How kind of Tim Nickens, Joni James and Co. to say such nice things.

Two other gems from the Times‘ endorsements (of one candidate it opposes and one it supports):

About Democrat Lynn Thomas Dostal (District 34), “…it doesn’t seem likely he will stick around for the general election to challenge incumbent Rep. Jimmie T. Smith.”

About Republican Betty Jo Tompkins (District 59), “Her approach for curbing welfare spending — denying recipients the ability to purchase “jumbo shrimp” and other items — is demeaning and shallow.”

On a side note about newspaper endorsements, kudos to the Tallahassee Democrat for staying out of the race for Leon County Commissioner. Mary Ann Lindley, former editor of editorials for the Democrat, is a candidate in the race and, as executive editor Bob Gabordi explains, there is no plausible way for the newspaper to appear fair and objective in this race.

“(W)e simply believe that any endorsement we make in this race would not serve to help our readers make an informed decision and might actually undermine our readers’ perception of us as being fair-minded,” writes Gabordi.

It may seem like a no-brainer for the Democrat to have stayed out of this race, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve recognition for playing it straight.

Two recent rulings from PolitiFact demonstrate the power — and arbitrary danger — of the fact-checking arm of the Times.

For better and worse, PolitiFact weighed in on the veracity of a mailpiece sent by the Committee to Protect Florida criticizing Jeff Brandes, who is running for State Senate District 24. PolitiFact also checked out the claims made in a TV ad produced by Accountability in Government, Inc., criticizing Jim Frishe, Brandes’ opponent.

For just fact-checking these political volleys, PolitiFact performs a much-needed public service. That is its power.

But why fact-check these ads? And why now? Why not all of the ads coming from these committees? Why not all of the ads coming from outside groups in other battleground races? Logistically, this is all but impossible.  But the seemingly arbitrary decision to check this ad, but not that ad, etc. is the danger of PolitiFact.

If you haven’t yet, please read my “defense” of Adam Smith — not that he needs me to defend him — in the face of criticism from the Connie Mack Campaign that he is not a “real journalist.” Bottom line, Smith is more of a “real” journalist than Mack is a “real” leader.

If my defense of Smith isn’t enough of a slurp of a Times reporter, let me pucker up in praise of Eric Deggans’ blog.  It’s simply the best blog of all those showcased on the Times‘ website. Yes, there are other interesting blogs, but none of those are as timely as Deggans’ The Feed.  The diversity of topics — from the shooting in Aurora, Colorado to the Emmy nominations — is perhaps what is most impressive.

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