Monday, February 19, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete Beach on east coast? Hernando mermaids in Ocala?

It sounded like a good idea.

Visit Florida, the state's tourism agency, struck a deal with Coastal Living magazine to persuade people to, well, visit Florida. At a reduced rate, visitor bureaus and resorts from the Panhandle to Key West chipped in to buy a seven-page glossy advertising section. On the first page, a barefoot, wispy-haired boy stands on a pristine beach and holds a lemon yellow kite over his head. Above a distant breaking surf, at the top of the page: "Florida — STAY & PLAY GUIDE."

The trouble is, if you used the subsequent pages as an actual guide, you would in several cases neither stay nor play anywhere near the places you intended.

The ad put the beaches of St. Pete and Clearwater on the east coast (not so bad if you dig sunrises and rocket launches); it said three of the Panhandle's most posh coastal communities were west of Destin, instead of east (Mississippi is just as nice anyway, right?); and it gave Ocala and Marion county Weeki Wachee Springs (mermaids for everyone!).

Though five of the pages prominently display "VISITFLORIDA.COM," spokeswoman Kathy Torian placed the blame entirely on the magazine.

Just because the agency put its "stamp of approval" on the package, she said, didn't mean state officials were responsible for its accuracy. In this case, Torian added, Coastal Living hired a freelance writer to produce the content and was contractually obligated to check the facts.

Still, she acknowledged that someone from Visit Florida had reviewed the pages before they went to press, but only to adjust the layout or point out anything "we're not comfortable with." For instance, Torian said, folks in the Panhandle don't like their home referred to as the "Panhandle."

Visit Florida doesn't take responsibility for the veracity of the ads because of how many of them it buys and arranges.

"That would require us to spend money to hire a full-time fact checker," Torian said of the agency, which the Legislature gave $63.5 million in public dollars for this fiscal year.

A spokeswoman for Coastal Living, which has a circulation of more than 650,000, declined to say where the freelancer lived or how much the ad cost. (Torian said she didn't know.) The magazine's publisher, Greg Keyes, issued a statement of regret and said the publication would issue corrections and offer new promotional pages in future issues.

People whose communities were miscast said Visit Florida shouldn't be spared of all blame.

"What a faux pas," said Walton County Commissioner Cindy Meadows. "Yow."

Just Tuesday, she said, county officials had debated how to better brand their beaches, which tourists tend to confuse with the horde of others in the region.

"This," she said, "is probably not going to help us a whole lot."

Tony Satterfield, a member of the Pinellas Tourist Development Council, feared that those not familiar with the area might actually believe our beaches are on the Atlantic coast.

Hernando Commissioner Dave Russell struggled to understand how a state agency that controls so much money, solely intended for marketing Florida, could allow such a mistake.

"I'm sure the people of Ocala are just thrilled," he said. "They got mermaids. Our mermaids."

Times news researchers Natalie Watson and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Comments
Forecast: Temperatures hover near record highs across Tampa Bay, with little rain

Forecast: Temperatures hover near record highs across Tampa Bay, with little rain

Warm weather will continue this week across Tampa Bay, with temperatures hanging around the low to mid 80s and a low chance of rain for the first half.Early morning fog is sparse across central Florida with some low visibility inland in places such a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

TAMPA — Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart says he’s ready to put his checkbook where his heart is when it comes to supporting a Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City.So is the investment fund for the founding family of Ashley Furniture. So, it ap...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, reported missing in Manatee County

Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, reported missing in Manatee County

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is searching for the 12-year-old sister of a murder victim who was reported missing on Sunday night.Deputies say Jalyssa Shannon left her Manatee County home around 9 p.m. Her mother, Michelle Mosley, reported her ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Stoneman Douglas students to protest in Tallahassee; ‘We had this monster living under our roof’; Will Rays Ybor move equal more corporate support?; SOCom prepares for Warrior Games

The Daystarter: Stoneman Douglas students to protest in Tallahassee; ‘We had this monster living under our roof’; Will Rays Ybor move equal more corporate support?; SOCom prepares for Warrior Games

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• For the latest legislative coverage from Tallahassee, keep checking The Buzz, which is updated throughout the day by the reporters of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.• An...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Planning begins for Warrior Games coming to Tampa in 2019

Planning begins for Warrior Games coming to Tampa in 2019

TAMPA — Army Gen. Raymond A. "Tony" Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, had a court-side epiphany last July at the United Center in Chicago while watching the annual Department of Defense Warrior Games.So impressed with what...
Updated: 12 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Have Democrats gained 50 seats formerly held by Republicans since Trump was elected?

PolitiFact Florida: Have Democrats gained 50 seats formerly held by Republicans since Trump was elected?

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager had a prescient message for Republican voters: Get out and vote, or risk losing more seats to Democrats.Corey Lewandowski traveled to Sarasota on Feb. 11, along with former Trump deputy campaign manage...
Published: 02/19/18

Ernest Hooper: Let’s hope post-9/11 generation will stand, engage and act

We’re approaching a new era. Before our eyes, a post-9/11 generation, stunned by mass shootings, roiled by political divides and connected through social media will soon reach the age of majority.They will be able to vote, hold elected officials acco...
Published: 02/19/18
50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

Ulysses Floyd remembers February 1968 all too well.Teachers by the thousands walked off their jobs across Florida. Among their concerns: low pay, poor funding, a lack of planning time, missing materials, and more. "We were at the mercy of the School ...
Published: 02/19/18
Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

TAMPA — The mixed-use rebirth of the old Tampa Armature Works warehouse is proceeding in stages. First up: last month’s debut of the new ballroom, followed closely by the opening of more than a dozen vendors in the Heights Public Market food hall.YEA...
Published: 02/19/18
Artistic anarchy reigns in Dali Museum’s Dali/Duchamp exhibition

Artistic anarchy reigns in Dali Museum’s Dali/Duchamp exhibition

ST. PETERSBURGIn Dalí/Duchamp, the world-class exhibition now at St. Petersburg’s Dalí Museum, you’ll meet Salvador Dalí, the publicity hound who claimed his nutty moustache was for receiving signals from outer space. And you’ll meet Marcel Duchamp, ...
Published: 02/19/18