By Jim Bleyer
In keeping with The Tampa Bay Times effort to make itself relevant in the digital age, the paper and its parent the Poynter Institute continue to conceal important facts from readers while attempting to control the local political narrative behind the scenes.
A poll, published Friday, May 19 in the Times digital edition regarding the 2019 Tampa mayoral election is the latest transgression in a long series of unethical “news” stories in Tampa Bay’s lone surviving daily. The breaching of journalistic standards by Times-Poynter has become so commonplace that we at Tampa Bay Beat have lost count of them.
A cratering bottom line in operations and waning political influence seem to have been the triggers for a corrupted editorial policy that has smothered any semblance of propriety over the past decade. Big advertisers are always lauded, never questioned, in Times “news” pages. See Baker vs. Kriseman if you have any doubts. Or Jeffrey Vinik’s blurred “vision,” heavily subsidized with government funding.
But back to the poll: It was commissioned by Barry Edwards, a “political consultant,” according to the Times’ manufactured news story. But most readers don’t know Edwards is listed as a faculty member of the Poynter Institute and on the Poynter Foundation board. Nowhere accompanying the faux polling article in the digital Times edition is that stated.
A disingenuous Edwards was quoted in the article as saying that he commissioned the poll “just for his own knowledge.” Laughable.
The polling choices all have been projected as candidates except former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio who has shown no interest publicly in re-entering the political arena.
With 41 percent of the vote, Iorio led an eight-candidate field, poll results showed. Oddly, there were no percentages given for the other candidates: City Council members Yoli Capin, Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, public relations executive Bill Carlson, former police Chief Jane Castor, former state Rep. Ed Narain and developer Ed Turanchik.
Edwards said, “If she gets in, it’ll be Pamelot,” no doubt echoing the wet dream of the Poynter Institute and its foundation. It appears Edwards also gets advice for his trite quotes from Times headline writers who failed to move the needle at The Improv’s Open Mic Night.
A second poll question, not on the minds of any voter, was also posed: would you support a change in the city charter to allow Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who faces a term limit, to run for re-election?
Buckhorn and the Times are a mutual ballwashing society but the mayor has burned more bridges than Attila the Hun. It will take more than the Times, discredited by most Hillsborough County residents, for the voters to change the city charter and allow an ill-tempered miscreant to run for a third term.
The story said that although “60 percent said the city was headed in the right direction, the charter change lost 50-42 percent.”
Obviously the poll was steered in favor of two Tampa personages that the Times knows it can control because it has done so in the past. The honchos at Poynter crave a slam dunk; it’s possible some of the others will represent their constituents rather than a morally bankrupt media entity in the next county.
Thankfully, there is a major disconnect between Tampa Bay voters and the craven politicians they elect. See Moving Hillsborough Forward, Greenlight Pinellas, and Go Hillsborough if you don’t believe that. Those initiatives, all heavily promoted by the Times ad nauseum, were beaten handily by an engaged citizenry adept at utilizing social media.
Poynter’s deviousness knows no restraint. In an online publication called “Alive TampaBay,” a September, 2016 article quotes Edwards raving about the election victory of State Rep. Darryl Rouson. The story identifies Edwards as a strategist for the Rouson campaign but an accompanying bio makes no mention of his link to Poynter.
And there’s no way a reader would know that Alive TampaBay is connected to Poynter. Greg Truax, publisher on the masthead, is also listed as a Poynter faculty member. He too sits on the board of the Poynter Foundation.
Various online business resources list Alive TampaBay as being formed in 2005 and located at 3012 West Villa Rosa Park, a couple of blocks from Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. Truax is listed as the frontman.