TAMPA — On Friday morning, Florida reporters and editors attending the Republican National Convention were packing their laptops and video cameras. Nearly all of them are heading home. Few will be going to North Carolina to cover the Democratic National Convention.
The Palm Beach Post is typical of the change. After sending an editor and three reporters to Tampa, the newspaper will only send a single reporter to Charlotte. WPTV NewsChannel 5 sent two anchors to Tampa, plus an online reporter, a field reporter, a producer, and a videographer. Only one person, an anchor/reporter, will go to Charlotte.
Is the Democratic convention less important than the Republican convention? Florida readers and viewers could be forgiven for thinking that is true. But clearly, Florida news organizations that covered the Tampa convention treated it as a local story, as they should have. And for many of these same news organizations it is simply financially unfeasible to attempt to duplicate the effort in North Carolina.
While the state’s press corps was here, there were certainly some odd moments, including the fact that for most of the week the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun Sentinel kept the convention off its front page—a decision that, to me, is unconscionable. Overall, though, Florida reporters and editors did a good job.
And the final night of the convention offered the Florida media a host of local angles, with Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (who introduced Mitt Romney) all taking the stage Thursday night.
Bush had the most interesting and newsworthy moment of the three when he drifted off script and defended his brother, former President George W. Bush, with a stinging rebuke of President Barack Obama. The Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas captured the moment well:
But before he began his prepared remarks, he said he had to get something off his chest—the defense of his brother, former President George W. Bush.
“He is a man of integrity, courage and honor and during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe,’’ he said to loud applause. “So Mr. President [Obama], Mr. President, it is about time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies. . . . In the fourth year of your presidency, a real leader would accept responsibility for his actions, and you haven’t done it.”
Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida also did a good job with Bush’s off-the-cuff remarks:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday gave a spirited defense of his brother, George W. Bush, during an address to the Republican National Convention—saying President Obama should “stop blaming” the former president for economic problems.
“My brother, well, I love my brother,” Jeb Bush said, detouring from a prepared speech about education policy. “He is a man of integrity, courage and honor. And during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe.”
Bush directly challenged Obama for continuing to remind voters about inheriting a deeply troubled economy from George W. Bush in 2009.
“So Mr. President, it is time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies,” Jeb Bush said. “You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not worked.”
After a spectacular week of exhaustive coverage of the convention, the Tampa Bay Times took a different direction with its reporting about the Bush speech, focusing almost entirely on his well-worn education remarks and nearly burying Bush’s statement about Obama:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday used his first high-profile speaking slot at a Republican National Convention as a platform to discuss his favorite subject, calling the need for better schools “the great moral and economic issue of our time.”
Bush also bashed a favorite target, calling “politically powerful” teacher unions a roadblock to education reforms.
Delivering his first prime-time address to a political convention, Bush concentrated on the issue that marked his two terms as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and remains his top priority as head of a nonprofit foundation.
“The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn’t exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all,” Bush said. “We must stop prejudging children based on their race, ethnicity or household income. We must stop excusing failure in our schools and start rewarding improvement and success.”
During his years as governor, Bush pushed school choice, including taxpayer-financed vouchers that allowed some students to switch from low-performing public schools to private or religious schools. The program was struck down as unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006.
Reporter Steve Bousquet didn’t touch on Bush’s defense of his brother until the final paragraphs of his story:
Only once in his 15-minute appearance did Bush speak directly about President Barack Obama.
“Mr. President, it is time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies,” Bush said. “You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not worked. In the fourth year of your presidency, a real leader would accept responsibility for his actions and you haven’t done it.”
The line was not included in his prepared remarks.
Florida reporters and editors leave here exhausted. Most of them should also leave here proud of the work they did for their readers and viewers.