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

By on October 11, 2012

Happy birthday to the best political reporter of them all, the inestimable Lucy Morgan.

The Times coverage of the sale of the Tampa Tribune to a California-based private equity firm for $9.5 million dollars has strayed wwwaaayyy past the excessive and is now bordering on obsessive.

I mean, the Times is ‘flooding the zone’ about the sale of an eight-figure company.  Does the newspaper devote similar resources to the sale and acquisition of other similar sized companies? It’s doubtful.

As I noted yestedrday, the number of tweets from Times reporters about the sale of the Tribune is much greater than the number of tweets from Tribune reporters about the sale of the Tribune.

Of course, a newspaper is not just another company, just as journalists are not like the rest of us. Journalists, upon their death, can at least count on receiving a glowing obituary from their surviving colleagues. Likewise, the sale/death of a media company attracts the kind of over-coverage the Times is giving to the sale of the Trib.

Yet, the Times does not really care how the sale of the Tribune impacts the community — rather it’s all about how the sale of the Trib impacts the operations of the Times.

That’s why every story the Times writes about the Trib sale includes something similar to the last couple of paragraphs in business columnist Robert Trigaux’s story: “Only the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper, remains locally owned in St. Petersburg — and not by a private equity firm.”

A question for ye Timesman … do you receive some sort of prize from Paul Tash’s office — Yeah, a new Times tote bag!!! — every time you include in a story a line about the Times being “Florida’s largest newspaper” or that it the newspaper is “locally owned”?

The real crux of the matter is this: the sale of the Tampa Tribune, rather than the shuttering of its doors and stopping of its presses, runs counter to the grand plans of Tash and Co., with the billboards boasting of “hundreds of new subscribers each week” and unending naming-rights deals.

Sorry fellas, but the Tribune isn’t going anywhere for a while. It may not remain the same newspaper, for better or worse, but it’s not going anywhere.

And that is the worst news imaginable for the Times Publishing Co., which had really hoped to rub the Trib out of business.

The Times‘ manifest destiny just came to a grinding halt.

All of this said, a word to the wise at Revolution Capital Group, the equity firm which now owns the Tribune: tighten up your sphincter, because the honchos at First Avenue South are about to send a probe up your ass.  Every business deal will be examined. Every prospectus will be scrutinized. Every SEC filing will be gone over with a fine-tooth comb. And not just as it relates to Revolution’s purchase of the Tribune. Every deal.

I can imagine the headlines now … Equity firm has history of troubled, short-term deals (this will be a story about the one deal out of ten that has gone bad for Revolution, written with absolutely no context) … Former Revolution employees talk of ‘unusual’ corporate ethics (this will be the follow-up story as seen through the one disgruntled ex-employee who “reached out” to the Times to share their side of the story) … etc, etc.

When it is done, the Times will make Revolution Capital Group look like the Scientology of private equity firms.

Consider yourself warned, RCG.

The only subject matter more ridiculous than one newspaper covering another newspaper’s fire sale is a blogger criticizing one newspaper’s coverage of said fire sale, so let’s move on to politics….

It’s less than a month before The. Most. Important. Election. Ever. and Sue Carlton is drilling down on a subject critical to the national discussion — Getting creative for low-kill, no-kill animal shelters.

Um, yeah.  Sue, you could have put this column in a drawer until November 7.

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board is keeping it simple: Just say no on all 11 state constitutional amendments proposed on this year’s ballot.

And in Thursday’s paper, the ed board will do the same: Just say yes on merit retention for all Florida Supreme Court justices and appellate judges.

Interesting enough, that’s exactly how I said I voted in this recent blog post about how I cast my ballot.

A round up of the board’s recommendations thus far — with links to original editorials – can be found at here.

Be sure to read this eulogy of political legend and WWII hero, Sam Gibbons.

It has been very interesting to read Steve Bousquet’s continuing, unofficial series of stories about absentee and early voting (stories here, here and here). Not because the stories are at all captivating — they’re not — but because of the childlike wonder Bousquet lets come through about this phenomenon which politicos have been aware of for over a decade. Bousquet sounds almost overcome that millions (!) of voters are casting their ballot early or by mail.

Bousquet’s articles play to a theme I’ve been harping on for a while: the media simply does not understand the basic mechanics of modern campaigns. This is echoes by Sasha Issenberg in his new book:

“A lot of the big stuff is still a total mystery to us. We still have very little idea what ads do; we still have very little idea what a convention does; we still have very little idea what a vice presidential pick does; we have very little idea how broad messaging stuff affects a race. There’s tons of uncertainty about that, and the smartest people are more uncertain than the dumbest people about it. The more you know the less confidence you should have that any of that stuff is explainable and predictable.”

This is nothing less than a kill-shot.

In one paragraph, courtesy of Peter Jamison, any chance of Democrat Scott Swope becoming Pinellas County Sheriff evaporate:

“Swope’s private finances are also less than tidy. In 2009, a judge overseeing his divorce chided him for his budgeting priorities. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Jack Helinger stated in a written order that Swope had spent $5,000 on an engagement ring for his new fiancee and $3,000 on a vasectomy reversal, even as the mortgage went unpaid on the house still occupied by his ex-wife.”

Sorry, Scott, you’re a nice guy but that’s game, set, match.

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