Behind the News

The Tampa Tribune fesses up to blog post theft. Well, kind of.

For the last few weeks, local and national blogs buzzed with the story of Tina Dupuy, a L.A. freelance writer (and blogger) who sent an opinion column to the Tampa Tribune for possible publication. Well, the Tribune did indeed publish the op-ed, but they never paid Dupuy for her work. When she contacted them about it, an editor claimed any unsolicited article sent in was ripe for free publishing. She didn’t agree and made this video.

But this act by Tribune editors did not surprise some local bloggers, including myself. We’ve had our blog posts outright stolencopied word-for-word and pasted onto the Tribune‘s website, TBO.com. Michael Hussey of Pushing Rope even started a Facebook page after editors ignored his request to cease such unethical behavior. And most recently, Dave Dugan of Zencomix sent the Tribune a $400 invoice after finding out the newspaper reprinted at least four blog comics without permission.

Well, the Tribune finally decided to do something about all the negative attention.

First, they paid Tina Dupuy. Here’s her new video about it:

And sometime over the last few days, the Tribune edited those orginal posts they stole from local bloggers to just an excerpt that links back to the original story; basically, what they should’ve done to begin with. I hope this was an effort to right a wrong and not an attempt to erase any evidence of unethical behavior (either way, I do have screenshots and the cached version is still available).

But honestly, a little apology would have sufficed.

UPDATE: Sticks of Fire has a response from TBO.com’s director of content here.

Behind the News

Is the Tampa Tribune stealing bloggers’ work?

Sure looks that way.

Tina Dupuy is a freelance writer and blogger from L.A. She recently sent an op-ed piece to the Tampa Tribune for possible publishing. Well, the Tribune did publish the piece, but never paid Dupuy for it. So she made this video:

Unfortunately, this is no isolated incident. The Tribune has also stolen posts from Michael Hussey’s Pushing Rope blog. Litbrit had a small post copied word for word with no byline, too. And last month, the Tribune did the same thing with my entire post on Charlie Crist and his congenial letter to some neo-nazis. Although these are the only instances I know about, it seems reasonable to conclude they’ve done this to other bloggers who didn’t catch on.

Michael Hussey has contacted the Tribune editors about the plagarism, but they have yet to reply.

Even if there is no copyright infringement here, which I find hard to believe, Tribune editors should regard stealing bloggers’ work as unethical and unbecoming of a huge news organization that brings in millions of dollars a year.

Anyone else have similar experiences?

UPDATE (9/8/09): The Tribune finally noticed all the negative attention and agreed to pay Dupuy. Read about it here. Also, they edited the stolen blog posts on their site to just excerpts, so I changed one of my links above to a cached version of the post they copied from me.

Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

St. Petersburg Mayoral Primary: Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster jockey for losing candidates’ support

As Bill Foster and Kathleen Ford celebrate primary wins this evening, the losing eight mayoral candidates wrapped up election parties and drove home. But their roles in the mayoral election are not finished. Over the next few weeks, Foster and Ford will jockey for the remaining 47 percent of voters who didn’t choose them tonight, and attempt to turn former opponents into friends.

That won’t be easy.

The third and fourth top vote getters — Deveron Gibbons (19 percent) and Scott Wagman (15 percent) — won’t say who they’ll support in the general election.

As Gibbons left Push Ultra Lounge, he promised to meet with Ford and Foster to “discuss the issues.”

“Then let me sit down with my supporters and decide who I run the race with,” he said.

Wagman said he was hesitant to back either candidate.

“At this time I’m not even thinking about it,” he said from his event at Outback Steakhouse. “I have issues with both [of them].” He paused and added, “I will back Ken Welch. At some point, he will be mayor of this town.”

John Warren, the owner of Savannah’s Cafe who championed smart growth and economic recovery, also wasn’t prepared to support either candidate.

“I’ve had a chance to speak with [Ford and Foster] and each has some decent ideas,” he said. “But a big issue that hasn’t been discussed is community planning. A lot of the other individual issues you could categorize under community planning.”

The importance of the other candidates was not lost on Ford or Foster.

At her victory party at Red Mesa Cantina, Ford praised all contenders for running great campaigns, singling out Gibbons and Wagman. At Midtown Sundries, Foster told supporters, “I intend to be everybody’s mayor, whether they supported me or not.”

Like the other office-seekers, former city councilmember Larry Williams, who finished fifth in the primary, knows the remaining two candidates will seek his support.

“I’m going to meet with them and I have three questions,” he said. “What are you going to do about D and F schools? What are you going to do about panhandling? And what about the baseball team?”

After finishing off a chicken wing, Williams added, “Before I ran my first campaign, a friend of mine in Tampa, who worked on many political campaigns, told me, ‘Sometimes you’re more powerful when you’re not elected.'”

Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

Florida Gov. Crist denies Neo-Nazi connection, story goes national

Two days ago, I wrote a post about a Florida white supremacist who sent several public officials copies of a anti-Semetic film. One of those officials was Charlie Crist, who seemingly wrote back to the Nazi thanking him for the film and promising to share it with the “people of Florida.”

I cross-posted the blog on the popular progressive blog, Pushing Rope. Well, the story got out. Quick.

First, TBO.com ran the entire post on their website (without Pushing Rope’s consent I might add). Then, the Associated Press (and then Huffington Post) picked up on the story. At least the Associated Press added some new reporting:

The governor’s office, however, said it was an embarrassing mistake. The signature was made by a machine and Crist never saw the letter, said Sterling Ivey, the governor’s press secretary. “We are NOT sharing the DVD with the people of Florida,” Ivey said. “The governor does not support this view. The letter was sent out prior to us reviewing the DVD that was sent.”

But my favorite part is the upset White Reference blog who decries me calling them a bunch of Nazis.

Hats off, by the way, to the Ybor City Stogie who is the first blogger to find out about the letter.

Behind the News

The last days of a Denver newspaper

I meant to post this e-mail a while back when the Rocky Mountain News closed shop, but it became lost in my inbox. Nonetheless, I still think it’s important for those reporters who have (so far) survived the painful layoffs at their newspapers.

The e-mail is written by a Denver Post reporter in response to a question about how she felt about the Rocky Mountain News‘ demise.

A big thanks to the reporter who forwarded this to me after he became a self-proclaimed member of LOJA — that is Laid-Off Journalists of America

Here’s the e-mail (without any edits):

It’s been an awful month for Denver newspapers. First The Post laid off six managers. Then the rest of us were told our pay/benefits would be cut by an average of 13 percent. Then the Rocky closed. I worked there four years before I came to The Post, and I knew so many of the faces in their photo galleries and videos … very sad.

I’ve never worked as journalist in a town that didn’t have two newspapers — even Iowa City had the Daily Iowan.

And now we have hired 11 Rocky staffers (thus the laid off managers) to try to retain their readers. Supposedly we are all one big family now. It’s hard not be bitter. They get jobs at the expense of my friends, plus they come in with at least 2 months pay in severance (plus whatever the Guild negotiates) while our pay is getting cut. But this is the new reality, and I need to embrace it.

And I still get a paycheck, and it hasn’t bounced. My owner hasn’t filed for bankruptcy or put us up for sale. We still print seven days a week. So I guess I’m better off than many journalists.

I’ve been looking for work in another field for a year already — I just dont’ want to go where newspapers are going. I was into working with my reporters on stories that mattered to people’s lives and giving them information they needed about their communities. Telling people’s stories and adding to the public discourse. We don’t get to do that much any more around here. Our staff is cut, our newshole is cut and more and more resources go online. And that online audience isn’t the same as the print audience. Many days now I feel like a TV news producer — all small bites with no substance.

But it’s up to me make a change, and I dont’ want to take a big pay cut or leave Denver, so I’m picky about what I apply for. Last year I was a finalist for three communications jobs. During the interviews I was told each time that more than 250 had applied. I know it will take awhile.

Especially with 200-plus Rocky colleagues now in the job market. …

God bless us all

Behind the News

St. Pete panhandlers make it to USA Today!

USA Today mentioned our fair city this week in regards to (what else?!) homelessness!

We even make the lede:

In doorways of shops in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., one finds people sleeping and urinating amid piles of filthy blankets and empty bottles.

The article goes to talk about the predictable two-sides of the homeless issue with hum-drum quotes from national homeless advocates and upset business owners. Yawn.

The whole article is really not worth reading, except for a real interesting quote from St. Pete’s Deputy Mayor David Metz talking about the lawsuit over last year’s ordinances against sitting or lying on a sidewalk:

Deputy Mayor David Metz said St. Petersburg altered its laws because of an increase in complaints by businesses and residents about public drunkenness and public nuisances.

Pinellas County’s homeless population has increased 20% in the past two years, according to a homeless coalition. And while Metz acknowledges that there are not enough beds in shelters to accommodate all those who want them (the city says it has 2,200 people living on the streets) he said there’s no reason for them to move onto a sidewalk.

“We are blessed to have (34) public parks in downtown St. Pete, and there’s nothing to prevent any individuals from using those facilities,” Metz said.

Did Metz really just encourage homeless people to sleep in the parks?! Wait ’til the condo dwellers hear this!!!

Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

Mayor Iorio snubs CAIR

It’s the hottest story on TBO.com for the last few days: After pressure from “interest groups,” Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio renounces “CAIR Day,” the annual recognition of the city’s Muslim-American community. The mayor has proclaimed “CAIR Day” every year since 2005.

For those who may not know, CAIR stands for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, a “civil rights group” that attempts to “enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding,” according to their Website. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, CAIR has been a controversial organization that some say is anti-Semetic and sympathetic to terrorist groups.

But the Tampa chapter, while in the news frequently over two high profile cases, hasn’t garnered the outrage that some other chapters have. Nonetheless, the mayor’s spokeswoman says, Iorio is distancing herself from the group. But she won’t give any specifics.

This is an interesting move on Iorio’s part. As I’m sure she is well aware, she risks losing this political constiuency. Plus, it could make her look intolerant and bowing down to some anti-Muslim activists with a clear axe to grind. So what could she have found that made her wary of endorsing this group?

After a little research, I think I know why: According to some news outlets (of the semi-true, right wing variety), the FBI severed some ties to the group back in January over suspected funding of Hamas. This has always been a backdrop to some CAIR criticisms, but seeing it in national news is a new one.

From FOX News:

The FBI is severing its once-close ties with the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, amid mounting evidence that it has links to a support network for Hamas.

All local chapters of CAIR have been shunned in the wake of a 15-year FBI investigation that culminated with the conviction in December of Hamas fundraisers at a trial where CAIR itself was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

An official at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington confirmed to FOX News that his office directed FBI field offices across the country to cut ties with local branches of CAIR.

The new policy marks a major shift for the FBI, which has long been close to CAIR. The agency has previously invited CAIR to give training sessions for agents and used it as a liaison with the American Muslim community.

I couldn’t find this info on any other news source. Is it because FOX scooped them? Nonetheless, the FBI has distanced itself from the group. And with Iorio weighing a political run in the next several years, if CAIR turned out to be related to Hamas, she’d have an instant attack ad ready for her Republican opponent.

But also recognize this: There are always two or more sides to every story. For example, CAIR claims the FBI deceived them, so the group stopped cooperating in some investigations. Perhaps they are referring to the myriad of informants hovering around that community.

Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

City leaders destroy Central Avenue, now complain about it

600 central

Oh, how St. Petersburg’s city leaders love to ignore history.

I read with interest yesterday’s St. Petersburg Times article on the 600 block of Central Avenue. Basically, city leaders are scrambling over themselves about the sorry state this block is in.

A little memory refresher: This block is the one in downtown St. Pete that has all the vacancies and “No Loitering” spray-painted on the storefront glass. It’s become a haven for some downtown street people, graffiti taggers and hipsters in various states of inebriation after a visit to the Emerald.

So what’s our fair city to do? Well, they want to “revitalize” the block. But they don’t mention that back before 2006, this block was already thriving with unique local small businesses.

There were bohemian joints like the Surreal Bowl and eccentric boutique shops like Woodies Hat Box, all centered around one of the city’s historical treasures, Crislip Arcade.

That is, before another developer — Gerald R. Pacella of 601 Central Ave LLC — came in, bought that part of the block and evicted all the shops to construct a bunch of condos. Condos that never saw the light of day. Another developer, Thomas Gaffney of Oldsmar Land Holding Group, bought the property in 2008. His intentions are not yet known, but some Google sleuthing shows his company likes to hold on to property and then sell it to the highest bidder. He’s already mentioned to the Times that he has no plans to refurbish the storefronts.

While preservationists are calling for, well, preservation and some cultural leaders want, well, cultural space, City Councilmember Leslie Curran is lobbying for art galleries, because you know, she owns one. But she cares a lot about the arts, too, as evidenced by her push for the firing of former city’s cultural affairs manager Ann Wykell.

Oh, and this is the same Leslie Curran who voted for the previous developer’s condo wet dream back in 2006 along with the rest of the City Council at the time. Other city officials and downtown leaders backed that sale, too:

“It’s an evolutionary kind of thing,’’ said Don Shea, director of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. “The uses that evolved in that block in the last few years are not the highest and best.’’

Now, after selling part of Central Avenue’s soul to developers, city officials are once again throwing money at a problem they created:

Last week, the city began removing old benches and pruning trees on the street. In coming weeks, benches with bumps that deter sleeping will be added, along with better lighting. Sidewalks will be cleaned and parking spaces restriped.

This focus on the 600 block of Central is also part of the city’s efforts to “bridge” the different districts of downtown. Curran is leading a workshop this summer on that. Neighborhoods should tell Curran they don’t need any more of her “help,” lest the rest of St. Pete end up like 600 Central Avenue or, perhaps worse, Baywalk.

As for the problem of homeless and graffiti taggers? Just send them on over to the offices of 601 Central LLC and tell those developers to deal with the mess.

(Photo Credit: unprose/Flickr)

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Advice for fellow unemployed journalists at WFLA and the Tampa Tribune

Another round of layoffs for our friends at Media General. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that the company eliminated 17 Tribune positions and six from WFLA. As recently as March, the Tribune let go dozens of employees and those left must take nearly two week vacations this summer.

So welcome to the club, boys and girls. So what the hell are you going to do now?

First, join a community of journalists in a similar situation. Right now, I’m particularly fond of Jilted Journalists. Maybe it’s just because the name sums up my feelings on the whole unemployment thing. (h/t to Virtual Journalist for the link.)

Next, apply for the dole. But figure you’ll only get $300 a week at most.

Then, start looking for jobs. If you’re thinking about government work, I have one piece of advice: Don’t take postal service jobs from private companies promising you sample exams and study guides. With all the layoffs, the feds are seeing more of these scams. Get more info here.

(Oh, and if you’re thinking of moving to some hip town and becoming an alt-weekly writer, I’ve got some bad news.)

Now you need some extra money. Check out the latest list of class-action lawsuits. You, too, could get a few bucks in the mail.

In the meantime, you’re going to need to save some money. So, join one of those food warehouse memberships for a 60-day free trial and spend your severance on snacks for the next year. You’re gonna need it.

Finally, join the blogosphere! Come on, all the other reporters are doing it! Believe me, there’s nothing like embracing the technology that destroyed your life’s career. Good luck!

Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

Another Sunday, another Bill Maxwell column about the homeless

Jesus, will someone please remove Bill Maxwell’s foot from his mouth?

The St. Petersburg Times columnist is back at it again this week with another tirade about the homeless. Well, I guess it’s less a “tirade” then a little piece of self-congratulatory nonsense.

For those of you that remember his last column (memory refresher here), Maxwell has his undies in a wad over the homeless folks in his neighborhood doing all sorts of nasty homeless things like giving mean looks and living out their cars. He was especially mad at the Salvation Army for allowing these bums anywhere near his neighbors, as if the Salvation Army could ring a bell and bring back its patrons.

Anywho, judging from the first few paragraphs of his new column, Maxwell got reamed by the city’s citizens for being such a heartless asshole. Nonetheless, Maxwell is taking some credit for getting the ball moving on some new changes at the Salvation Army:

Here are three specific changes that will begin on July 2: Individuals no longer will be permitted to take up residence outside the building; the 100 beds in the shelter will be available only those people who show need; and those who seek help must indicate that they want to be “more productive members of society.”

The latter change is a huge leap for the Salvation Army. It is known for aiding all comers. Some officials believe the time has come to stop enabling individuals who have no intention of improving their lives.

I find all that very interesting in light of a recent conversation I had with another Salvation Army neighbor. My source, who I have no reason to doubt, said he talked to Major George Patterson about these issues right after Maxwell’s column, and the Major mentioned that Maxwell had never approached the Salvation Army before writing that first article. Only after publishing the article did Maxwell set up a meeting with the Salvation Army director.

But for this latest column, Maxwell did talk to Mayor Rick Baker and Police Chief Chuck Harmon, who — by all accounts — are the most sympathetic homeless advocates in the city. In fact, these two men thought that homeless people living in tents was so horrible and undignified, that they ordered the police and city workers to slash those tents!

But don’t be dissuaded, Maxwell says, those tent slashing days are over. We’re in the age of legal manuevers that just make it a crime to hang out on the streets if you have no where else to go.

Ironically, and maybe he was going for that, Maxwell makes reference to a recent federal lawsuit that accuses the city of trampling on the constitutional rights of the area’s homeless. Here’s part of the press release I received a few days ago:

Southern Legal Counsel (SLC), Florida Institutional Legal Services (FILS), and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday on behalf of a class of homeless plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of a number of ordinances and practices that target homeless individuals living in St. Petersburg.


Since early 2007, St. Petersburg has passed six ordinances that target homeless individuals, including four different ones that make it unlawful to sleep, lie down or recline outside at various locations throughout the city and prohibiting the use of temporary shelters. The other ordinances outlaw panhandling throughout most of downtown and prohibit the storage of personal belongings on public property.

“The City of St. Petersburg has essentially turned the issue of homelessness over to the criminal justice system. Subjecting homeless individuals to an endless cycle of arrest, incarceration and homelessness under these city ordinances and practices wastes valuable city and county resources and is ineffective in addressing the root causes of homelessness,” said Kirsten Clanton, a staff attorney at SLC.

I wrote about these ordinances here and here. The latter article is appropriately headlined, “Don’t sleep so close to me.” And really that’s what this is about. People who are uncomfortable about those on society’s fringes, and instead of dealing with the problem, human-to-human, they try to solve them through “sweeping” laws that invariably hurt those who least can afford it.

So, when the city of St. Petersburg spends $100,000 or $1 million defending against this lawsuit, and your precious little parks don’t get mowed or you have to pay more in parking fines, remember Bill Maxwell and the rest of the ‘burg who thought it easier to criminalize homelessness than tackle this difficult problem with some sort of tact and compassion. Not to mention, legality.

UPDATE #1: Peter Schorsch is reporting that, per one of his sources at the SPT, Maxwell may retire. We could only hope …

UPDATE #2: Some folks who actually have conversations with the homeless in their neighborhoods have recently written me (and the Times) with much more eloquent arguments against Maxwell’s article. Here they are after the jump: