By Jim Bleyer
Just when we thought the Tampa Bay Times hit rock bottom, it has plumbed new depths.
Its coverage of the Florida gubernatorial race deliberately paints Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum with less-than-subtle inaccurate inferences that appeal to bigots.
Influence-peddling and slanted news coverage have been Tampa Bay Times trademarks. Now we can add racial innuendo to that dishonored brand.
Look at the above Buzz headline containing a verb reserved for physical confrontation and combat. That hardly applied to the story in which Gillum called for protection of Dreamers and criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran for demonizing immigrants.
Corcoran, a Republican, is expected to announce his candidacy for governor after the current legislative session ends. If anyone has been feisty, he has; Gillum’s trademark has been his clear, concise, courteous but firm discussion of issues pertinent to the campaign.
You can bet “courteous” has never been applied to Corcoran in any of his yearbook profiles.
Here are the most recent articles where the Times used a form of the word “brawl” in its headline:
—Pacific Cruise Liner Brawl Sends Guests Fleeing to Cabins.
—Momessen Appeals Penalties after Boys Basketball Game Brawl.
—Deputies Search for Group Involved in Pinellas Strip Club Brawl that Critically Injured Woman.
—Judge Releases Tampa Man Accused of Wine Bottle Brawl on Delta Flight.
That’s a sampling but you get the point. Those stories involved aggression and physical altercations. The Times editorial staff knew goddam well what they were doing when they employed that verb to describe the articulation of a political position by the only African-American in the race.
Then the Times tried to marginalize the debate, criticizing it because it wasn’t carried live and Corcoran was not an official candidate. Never mind that the public heard two opposing viewpoints of an important issue, something they never read in the Times.
Gillum’s unabashed progressivism on a multitude of pertinent issues for Floridians has been reported by cable news networks, PBS, NPR, Politico, the Florida press, and several nationally-known newspapers—-but not the Times.
Check out this idiotic column by John Romano published on the same day as the Gillum-Corcoran debate. Gillum has been the only Democrat standing up to Trump, Gov. Rick Scott, Corcoran, and the two other declared Republican candidates aiming for the governorship: Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis.
This follows on the heels of the Times’ constant depiction of Gillum as a criminal, months after an official statement that he was not a target of an FBI investigation into city of Tallahassee contracts. As far as the Times is concerned, when Gillum is not “under a cloud,” he is “brawling.”
Gillum is the only viable progressive running for governor in either party and his campaign appearances have resonated with Millennials, minorities, and moderates weary of the right-wing kleptocracy that has dominated Tallahassee over the past two decades.
Unlike his two main primary opponents, Gwen Graham and Phil Levine, Gillum has articulated the traditional values of the Democratic party. Graham, with only one Congressional term in the public sector, is relying on a legacy candidacy and campaign contributions from a multitude of special interests. Levine, the wealthy former mayor of Miami Beach, is self-funding.
Here is the underlying problem: Former senator and governor Bob Graham, Gwen’s father, sits on the board of the Poynter Foundation. The Poynter Institute is the majority stockholder in the Tampa Bay Times.
Last fall, the Times was teeing up Jack Latvala on the Republican side and Graham for endorsements. When Latvala’s longtime predatory behavior was exposed, his candidacy evaporated.
Knowing its endorsements are ineffective if not outright kryptonite, the Times has been using its news pages to slant coverage and omit important facts and developments.
Tampa Bay Beat will no longer refer to the Tampa Bay Times as a newspaper or media entity. As badly as the state of journalism has gotten in this country, the Times does not deserve to be referenced on a par with a profession that may have lost its tenacity but, in general, not its integrity.