There was a time, many years ago, when the St. Petersburg Times (and its companion, the Independent) were the prettiest papers in the nation.
They, alone, were produced on offset presses and were able to produce full color, a rarity among big newspapers in those days.
How we young ball writers in the wilds of Northwest Florida used to envy the gorgeous color photos, especially on football Sundays, that the Times was able to produce. We raced to the newsstand and got to the sports pages with the enthusiasm of a roomful of nuns at an archbishop's lecture.
Our gods were Furman Bisher and Jesse Outlar in Atlanta, and very strong nods of respect to Ed Pope and Jimmy Burns in Miami - they were the writers we probably emulated. But it was the Times and its brilliant color that was such a knockout. It made a big impression on us country boys.
So it is with sadness to note that the paper, at least here in the northern provinces of Pinellas County, has become dysfunctional.
Yes, very sad, because the newspaper is being used as a weapon, bludgeoning those it views as opponents of its agenda of what governments in these parts should be (in their view) pursuing.
It goes against the grain of we old patch in the pants newspapermen (no, not journalists, heaven forfend, but newspapermen and newspaper women, of course, is the proper terminology) who were taught to write down what people said and did. To not use the powerful print as a weapon against individuals in pursuit of an agenda.
What is equally sad is that the hicockalorums of the Big Paper consider their endeavors sacrosanct, wreathed in the odor of sanctified incense, their editors schooled at the knees of such gods as Ralph McGill, supposedly swinging censers full of holy smoke to cleanse the area of all iniquity.
One wonders if the capo di tutti capi even reads the whole paper. If so, how come the misuse of press power goes on and stories are misreported to fulfill the goals of who knows who?
Isn't it unseemly to have a reporter, hot on the trail of a personality in the news, interview that person's neighbors, employer, hoping to turn up some piece of dirt that would not pass the sniff test among respectable folk?
One wonders, who exercises editorial power? Or, even more significantly, who edits the editorialist (is there more than one?) and is in a position to say, "No." A big question is the editorial writer in the Clearwater office separate from the news function, which is holy writ on reputable newspapers? Signs are that is not the case.
Largo is coming apart. It's not reported in the BP. Instead, one can read a caterwauling editorial about how things are now looking up, at the same time taking a nasty swipe at the old regime, said swipe totally off base in every way it is possible to be wrong.
There is a connection some discern between figures in Largo who have certain goals for the city and key editorial figures of the BP who are trying with all their might and main to help achieve those goals.
Poor - maybe deliberately poor - reporting can be a weapon and it is used by the Times. Example - The Largo City Commission last year signed off on certain elements involving the planned "super block," on the corner of U.S. 19 and West Bay/Roosevelt.
City staff did not send the proper material for vetting to Tallahassee; in fact, sent the wrong stuff. It worked against one of the developers, Fred Thomas. Mayor Bob Jackson accompanied Thomas to Tallahassee to appear before the department in question to straighten out the mess and explain the position that the commission itself took.
The Big Paper reported this in such a manner as to make it appear that Jackson was a private lobbyist for Thomas and the BP did not mention the fact that Thomas was reimbursed for Jackson's expenses in going to the capital on Thomas's plane.
It used to be that in the Eighteenth Century in this country that newspapers were the vehicle for identifiable interests and they acted accordingly - as propaganda outfits for those interests.
Then along came old man Ochs with the NY Times and objectivity came to newspapers. The idea, more or less, was to report and leave the advocating (provided it was fair and correct) on the editorial page.
The BP seems to have lost sight of this.
A once promising paper is just another rag.
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