Enough with the strippers and stereotypes: Florida takes a beating in pre-RNC media coverage
This, dear readers, is the picture of Tampa some journalists are spreading to the world just before the Republican National Convention gets underway. And it's kind of irritating.
Not just because it's unfair and overly simplified, but because it is the kind of stereotype you'd expect journalists to avoid, given that they're in town, able to report firsthand on the glorious mess that is our metropolitan area and our state.
For example, while Salon called "the GOP vision of the country the Tampification of America," the writer didn't note that Tampa's mayor, Bob Buckhorn, is a longtime Democrat, despite serving in a non-partisan job. Or that every members of the city council is a Democrat. Or that the police chief is an out and proud gay woman.
And the Village Voice story on the post-governmental wasteland didn't note that "left-leaning" Tampa serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County, not "nearby."
The fact is, the Tampa Bay area has always been a little tough to pidgeonhole, even for those of us who have lived here awhile. How can the same area smart enough to hire and support a Jane Castor have a mass transit system so bollixed up we have one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the nation?
For a more serious, nuanced take on how Florida is America's future, check out my colleague Adam Smith's piece from today's Tampa Bay Times. As he notes, Florida's sheer size is easy to overlook: two time zones, 10 TV markets, 19 million people. He writes: "Floridians are Southerners, Midwesterners, Northeasterners. They're also Cubans, Brazilians, Indians and Germans. Nearly two-thirds came from another state, and one in five was born outside the United States."
The hardcore Republicans who run our state government are a bit different than the leaders running the cities in the Tampa Bay area (though we do have a county which has banned fluoride in the water, 'tis true). And the relationship between the Tampa Bay area and the rest of the state has always been unpredictable; at times, a mirror, other times a polar opposite.
We do have a tea party movement favorite of a governor who was elected after running a company which agreed to the largest Medicare fraud settlement in history. But Rick Scott got elected by spending millions blanketing the state running ads making his case to a public which hardly seemed to be paying attention. Sounds a little familiar.
I'm not expecting puff pieces to spark tourism. But one thing I do know, it's easy to fly into town, talk to the mayor, some protesters and a few other people, pile on the stereotypes and produce a tart column about the rubes who couldn't even get the 2000 election right.
I hope some of the estimated 15,000 credentialed journalists in town for the RNC take some time from the convention and weather coverage to get to know this area a little better.
We're more than jokes about mosquitoes and strippers. But we just might be America's future, and it would be good if a few journalists took a little time to get to know us a bit better.