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As a tribute to my online pal Jim Lamb, who has decided to take a hiatus from his fine Tampa Bay Media blog, I'll drop a little knowledge on some local stuff.

For those of you who still can't believe Jennifer Porter won't spend a day in jail for killing two black children with her car and hiding for days, check out a story aired Thursday by WTVT-Ch. 13 investigative reporter Doug Smith, who found a black truck driver serving 15 years in a Florida prison for an accident in which two white people were killed.

(trucker Jean Claude Meus as featured in Smith's report)

According to Smith's story, this truck driver had the misfortune of having his accident in Wauchula, an isolated central Florida town known for its backward race politics. Despite the fact that he immeditely called police and had evidence he wasn't under the influence of anything or sleepy, he was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Partly inspired by Meus' case and partly by dismay over the Porter case, NAACP chapters in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater have joined forces with officials from the National Bar Association to present a press conference and community discussion on sentencing disparities.

CORRECTION: My first blog posting had an incorrect address. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the Hillsborough NAACP's branch office in Tampa, 308 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.

Seems it is long past time for the community to start talking about who ends up in prison, who doesn't and why.

The St. Pete Times published the first installment of its exhaustive look at the Porter case, crafted by Pulitzer winner Tom French, feature writer Chris Goffard and news reporter Jamie Thompson. Read The Hard Road here.

Tampa Tribune executive editor Janet Weaver confirmed to me Friday that the newspaper will soon discontinue both its Pinellas and Central zone editions. The Central zone, which encompasses parts of downtown, Ybor City and even west toward the Fairgrounds, ends next Saturday, Nov. 20, while the Pinellas zone's final edition is Nov. 21.

(Trib editor Janet Weaver)

Weaver emphasized at least four times that this doesn't mean the newspaper is walking away from coverage of the areas served by the zoned editions. Instead, reporters and editors will be reshuffled to get more Central zone material into the South Tampa zone and more Pinellas stories into the main metro and A sections.

"We've got to make sure these stories don't disappear from the newspaper," Weaver said Friday. "Newspapers in many cases relegate certain kinds of coverage to the zone editions and say, 'We're done with that.' But if you're not doing those stories in metro or 1A, or places where readers can see it, you're only doing 35 percent of the job."

What this seems to me, is the local manifestation of a national trend; with newspapers anticipating huge increases in newsprint costs next year, more outlets are focusing on subscribers who make them the most advertising revenue, while finding ways to cut down on newsprint usage.

The Tribune's struggle will be to convince readers that they haven't sacrificed coverage of Pinellas to save cash, and convince Central zone residents -- especially the poorer black folks who have seen Media General's committment to Hispanic readers amped up in recent years -- they haven't scaled down coverage of their communities to focus on the wealthier residents of South Tampa.


In case this pitiful stuff isn't enough for you, I made three other media appearances where you can check my wit and wisdom:

Friday morning, I appeared on Ed Gordon's NPR show News and Notes on a roundtable which included New York Daily News columnist E.R. Shipp and former Emerge editor George Curry.

Thursday night, I was a guest on Tampa Digital Studio's Media Talk, a podcast/webcast/rad o show on media issues hosted by Janet Scherer and Michael Piotrowski.

And the good folks at Stuck in the '80s let me get a little serious, talking politics and social change during the Reagan Years during their podcast this week (thanks Gina and Steve!). After 20 minutes trading stories on Reaganomics and Willie Horton, and I was ready to dig up the ol' Gipper and take him out again....

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:34pm]


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