Five things I think I think about today’s Tampa Bay Times

By on August 31, 2012

This morning, Adam Smith offered a list of Winners and Losers coming out of the Republican National Convention. Winners include Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio; losers include barricades and Pam Bondi.

Included among the winners must be Smith’s employer, the Tampa Bay Times.

It was Howell Raines, a political reporter at the St. Petersburg Times before he was executive editor of the New York Times, who coined the phrase “flooding the zone” to describe how a newspaper offers an abundance of dramatic accounts around a tent-pole story.

That’s what the Times did here, more so than the Tampa Tribune, which also offered solid reporting, most notably from roving-reporter Jeff Houck.

The Times simply p-wned the space.

Just think of how many times the words “Tampa Bay Times Forum…” was the byline in some reporter’s story. Thousands of times? Tens of thousands of times?

Or consider how many cameos a hard copy of the Times made its way on to the TV news shows. So many times you’d be forgiven for thinking MSNBC replaced Willie Geist on the set of Morning Joe with the newspaper.

The Times was omnipresent. The Times was ubiquitous. The Times was the de facto Chamber of Commerce.

The Times coverage was also … Pulitzer-worthy. That’s right, I said the P-word. Yet don’t be surprised if the Times takes home the hardware next year for simultaneously covering an approaching hurricane/tropical storm and the Republican National Convention.

The Times‘ collaboration with POLITICO was a master-stroke, so much so that I hope Albritton Communications and Times Publishing Co., are in negotiations this morning about how to continue the partnership. Both news organizations seem to share an egoistic ethos that, when it works, produces the kind of product we saw this week. Certainly POLITICO and the Times‘ hubris can lead to blind spots in their coverage, but these two organizations’s ambitions, whether it be demonstrated in POLITICO’s “Pro” model or the Times‘ PolitiFact franchise, are setting the pace in the world of journalism.

The coup de grace for the Times this week had to be the luncheon on Tuesday featuring Mika Brzezynski and Joe Scarborough. The event raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Poynter Institute and in the crowd were several media heavyweights, including Arianna Huffington.

The event reinforced the argument that, yes, there is DC and NYC, but there’s also a handful of great regional newspapers left standing — the Times being first among them.

And certainly the Times made money this week!

Case in point was the moment when, if you went to Times’ homepage, two takeover ads cancel each other out: Across the top of the frame, the Obama campaign said, “ROMNEY-RYAN: WRONG FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS Click to See Why.” Across the bottom, the RNC said, “Welcome America’s Comeback Team #GOP2012.” The two strips left just a narrow band of content in the middle.

Something I tweeted last night which I will reiterate today is: “Where do we send the petitions to keep Michael Kruse blogging on a permanent basis?” Dude is re-inventing the blogging form, combining the best of legacy and new media.

Like Kruse, I completely agree with Tom Jones’ assessment that, “(W)hen it comes to political conventions, all the cities run together. They all look the same. To the average viewer watching at home, especially those not associated with this area, Tampa might as well have been Charlotte, N.C., or Atlanta or Memphis or St. Louis.”

It’s disappointing but true, but “viewers never learned about our traditions and culture — from Cuban sandwiches to cigars to our beaches.”

Kruse was one of several staffers who embraced social media with enthusiasm, if not zeal, not present before in Times‘ reporting. John Cox, Eric Deggans (@deggans), Josh Gillin (@JPGillin), Amy Hollyfield (@Amy_Hollyfield), Stephanie Hayes (@StephHayes), Marissa Lang, Katie Sanders (@KatieLSanders) and so many others were using Instagram and Twitter to provide exciting, fly-on-the-wall coverage of the RNC.

A closing note about the Times coverage of the RNC. It’s what I want to say to everyone involved in the Republican National Convention — the elected officials and the street-sweepers, the police officers and the politicians, the journalists, the waiters and waitresses, everyone in Tampa Bay — why can’t we be like this more of the time? Why can’t we operate at this level of excellence when there isn’t a convention in town?

Why can’t the Times‘ ‘flood the zone’ about what’s not working in the City Hall or local hospitals or public schools?

Why aren’t all of us, editors and reporters included, our better angels?

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