As 2015 comes to a close, some Pensacola residents are hoping that next year, local media’s priorities better reflect those of the people.
Thousands of Pensacolians can’t find work. Two thirds of Escambia kindergarten students aren’t ready for school. Inmate deaths are still happening all too often at the Escambia County jail. Yet the local media spent much of the year chasing silly stories and manufactured controversies that the average Pensacolian couldn’t care less about.
How much time was spent talking about an ill-advised email that City Administrator Eric Olson sent to a citizen’s boss? Stupid, for sure, but something that didn’t impact anyone’s life, other than those directly involved.
The latest would-be controversy centers around a radio tower that may or may not have been permitted properly. We’re devoting column inches to a permitting issue? Despite the best efforts of the local media establishment to create a controversy, no one cares, outside of the group of well-to-do, “not in my backyard” North Hill residents who are pushing it. But wait — doesn’t the city need the radio tower land for stormwater purposes? Nope. “Removing the radio tower and excavating the area … would be insignificant in attenuating another April 2014 storm event,” says ATKINS, the city’s engineering consultant.
Forget investigative reporting — it’s much easier to simply comb Sheriff’s Office releases for the latest lurid “leading and bleeding” crime stories. Why put in the hard work when you can throw up silly stories about “witchcraft murders” and give the national press more “Florida man” fodder?
Unfortunately, if left to their own devices, there’s little indication that Pensacola’s local media would change for the better. The city’s daily newspaper is run by a deeply co-opted management team, and the paper’s corporate overlords have pushed out or run off just about everyone with any talent in their never-ending crusade to squeeze every last ounce of profit out of the operation. Conflicts of interest aren’t disclosed, and sacred cows are never criticized. Has anyone told the paper’s tone-deaf editorial board that there’s a whole world outside of Downtown Pensacola?
Then there’s the local bloggers, who largely operate on a “pay for protection” model in which ads or personal services are traded for favorable coverage. “If I don’t pay them, they’ll go after me,” or so we’ve heard, from more than one person. Unfortunately, the unethical way in which they operate taints and overshadows whatever value they provide.
Oh, and if you were hoping to lend your voice to the discussion, well, sorry — neither the daily paper nor the bloggers are particularly interested in public discourse, regularly censoring and deleting comments which don’t align with their editorial slants.
The shortcomings of Pensacola’s establishment media has left a gap, and it’s one of the reasons readers have embraced The Pulse. Since our debut in September, our stories have received more than a quarter-million views and have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media. In fact, this month, we more than doubled last month’s traffic.
Judging from some of the things we’ve seen on social media, some of the establishment media folks are sweating us.
No need. Pensacola is a growing market and there’s room for everyone. We’re just trying to raise the bar a little bit.