Sunday, September 14, 2008

SPT Editors Goof Off in School Board Recommendations


Columbia Journalism Review
Journalism Building
2950 Broadway
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027


I enclose for your review data for a journalism problem that the readers of the St. Petersburg Times have. My husband of fifty-one years is one such reader: he wakes up at 4 a.m. to read the paper from cover to cover. My telling him that such reading habits will make him dumb has done no good.

The SPT editors who review candidates for the school boards of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties don’t do their homework and find out the facts about the candidates. They goof off and don’t know what they are talking about because they throw editorial darts at a board of the names and recommend a random candidate, citing some vacuous template reason that does not coincide with the reality of the candidate’s worth or lack of it.

These press muckety-mucks who make the recommendations also do not appear to consult with the reporters who cover the school boards. These reporters know what is going on and could clue in the editors if the latter would stoop to the maneuver of talking to their people who watch the actions of the board members and candidates minutely. I also suspect that their feckless, timid editors rein in the on-site reporters and make them write innocuous accounts of school-board outrages against school students, teachers, and voter interests. I infer the editors want to keep in the good graces of the pols whom their reporters cover so as not to disturb their social position amongst the political thugs they cover.

Such editorial slovenliness about editorial duty to the community of its readers confirms the justice of newspapers’ decline and replacement by the blogs and online news outlets. These blare out the truth in raw rhetoric that readers rejoice in. The print editors don’t care about this disappearance of the print press because they are old guys (yes, guys: look at the sexist banners that cite the high-level people in the news sweat lodge) who are close to pension time and so it’s no concern of theirs that the industry they earned their pensions in is going down the tube and to hell with the young journalists. Let them eat cake.

I append my complaint to the Pulitzer committee for naming the publisher of the St. Petersburg Times, Paul Tash, to its committee. I append as well a copy of a speech given by Le Tash in which basic grammar and punctuation errors proliferate and in which he maintains the stale Indiana rube stance of an innocent spawned in the middle-America farmlands who somehow ascended to the pinnacle of newspaper imminence by becoming the publisher of the SP Times.

I can tell you how he pulled off this feat despite his lack of acquaintance with basic grammar and punctuation in an industry the chief tool of which is the English language. He was the sycophant of the previous publisher, Andrew Barnes, who used to maintain the fiction that he is a species of outback Cincinnatus by having a retreat in the outlying rural areas of St. Petersburg, where he worked, in which its Erskine Caldwell denizens bedizen their yards with rusting jitneys and poor-white trash artifacts. Barnes is too innocent of Southern culture to know what these artifacts mean. I bet he has not read a book of Faulkner.

I attended Columbia forty years ago when my husband had a job in NYC. I was too unsophisticated then to know that Columbia had a journalism gauntlet through which national journalists had to tread. Now that I do, I offer our local publisher and Pulitzer-committee member for your examination as to his responsibility of using the paper’s power in recommending local political candidates—especially school-board members—with informed discretion.

Lee Drury De Cesare

15316 Gulf Boulevard 802

Madeira Beach, FL 33708

c: to all spt proletariat that the site reveals

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