I was at my parent’s house in Tampa yesterday, visiting the folks for mother’s day. Sometime during the morning, Mom asked me to get the newspaper. “Isn’t that the dog’s job?” I asked, wondering whether I could continue my quest of doing nothing of significance for a day (other than taking her out for dinner and buying her some books).
She gave me a look only a mother could, telling me without words, but in no uncertain terms, “I gave birth to you so you could get me my newspaper.” Gotcha. Also, Dixie the dog was still sleeping.
I fetched the newspaper and plopped it on the table. Since I’m once again contemplating a move back to the Tampa Bay area, I thought I’d look through the paper’s pages to see what’s been going on in the town.
Front page, St. Pete Times: a story about the Largo mayor who wanted a sex change operation. “Presenting Susan”, I think it was titled.
Wait… what? The front page story is about a sex change operation? Was this the St. Pete Times or The Onion?
Maybe this was a fluke, maybe page two held the real story, because page two always… err… nevermind.
It didn’t get better from there.
Sure, there were stories about the shortages in national guard levels causing problems for Kansas, Florida and California, but those were all in the middle of the news paper. To the paper’s credit, they managed mark the importance of those stories by putting huge pictures of beautiful, busty women in the can-we-make-them-any-less-sexy granny bra advertisements newspapers have been relying on since time began. Sex sells, and these sexy undergarments are aimed squarely at the over-60 crowd, even with the models being in their 30’s. That’ll get ’em.
I’ll admit, the whole Largo mayor story was important to the region, especially when you look at the various civil rights angles, but how do you justify a front page story on a follow up when so much else is happening? What editor got drunk and landed a dart on this with his “cover story” picker? Damn liberal media. (Seriously, the St. Pete Times is a pretty liberal newspaper.)
Later on in the newspaper, in the Mother’s Day stories section, there was a wonderful story about a mother/daughter stripper team. The mother always knew one of her three daughters would follow in her high-heel steps, or so the story said. She’s planning to write a book about it, to tell us her inspiring tale.
At this point I put the paper down. I might as well have been reading The National Enquirer or The World. Seriously, when did the St. Pete Times become such a rag?! Of course, it’s really not all that bad. I mean, at least it’s a well written rag.
The morning’s Tampa Tribune was better, but not by much. (It used to be that the reporting was supposed to be better in the Times. What happened? In what bizzaro world have I landed?) The front page story was about how people in Cuba are often paid under the table and take foreign money, like American dollars. I think this story came from the U.S. Department of the Blindingly Obvious, though I’ll have to check my sources on that. The rest of the paper stuck to other news of national and local interest, most in better taste than the St. Pete Times, and most in the paper’s traditionally conservative vein, but nothing I’d bother to read if it hadn’t been right in front of my face.
I’ll put it succinctly, I wouldn’t pay for either of these. If I got one for free, it’d probably be the Trib. But I’d happily pay for the New York Times or the Washington Post, and instead check the online versions of both the Times and the Trib for Bay area specific news.
For any Tampa and Tampa-at-heart readers, maybe you can tell me which newspaper do you choose and why? Am I missing something here? Given the level of journalism I remember from not all that long ago, before I was transplanted to south Florida, I’ll be willing to bet that, sadly, I’m not.