The above headline and subhead are fake. But if you’ve been reading the Florida Times-Union editorial page, you’re forgiven for thinking they’re real.
Ordinarily, my philosophy concerning other news outlets’ editorial decisions is to comment privately, publicly STFU. Even I have my limits, however, and it’s high time to take it to the ‘Are you kidding me with this shit?’ house.
(As long as I’m going there, special shout out to Action News Jax for running this irresponsible, hate-inviting headline on a recent story: “Jacksonville transgender vampire fiction writer running for Congress.” Sure, it’s a true description of Democratic candidate Monica DePaul, but so are “activist,” “first transgender Florida delegate at the Democratic National Convention” and “English professor,” all also true facts the article states. But headlines are the hook, and this one was baited to attract the worst kinds of reactions. I’ve written hundreds of headlines and, believe me, clickbait doesn’t even begin to cover how disgraceful this one was.)
Back to the matter at hand, the T-U’s recent lovefest for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. First, the evidence. Here are some recent editorial board headlines.
June 5: “Cheers to mayor for increasing summer camps”
June 30: “Curry has put together a strong midterm record”
July 6: “Good move by mayor to offer paid parental leave”
July 18: “Curry’s budget offers a bold future for Jacksonville”
If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were getting paid.
Over the last few months, the editorial board has called Curry “effective” and “strong,” written he has the “right stuff to show the way” to revitalize Downtown, and unequivocally taken his side in a kerfuffle with developer Toney Sleiman. After Sleiman went to the media with his frustration over the city’s unwillingness to work with his company on redeveloping The Jacksonville Landing, the board urged Sleiman Enterprises to take a ‘Curry-suggested, T-U-approved’ buyout of the property.
It also scolded Sleiman for “bullying” the mayor by going to the media. Seriously. And I quote: “Taking his negotiations to the public was no way to break the ice with Curry. That was an insult to the mayor.” I can’t be the only one who reads this line and envisions the board as Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, drawling, “Nobody puts Curry in a corner.”
None of this is to say that Lenny Curry doesn’t ever get it right. Even the region’s liberal rag gives him a fistbump now and again. (Case in point: Brickbats & Bouquets on page 4 in this very issue.) Nor am I saying that the T-U’s reporters are doing anything but endeavoring to discover and report the truth, or that the editorial board is always wrong.
The onslaught of pro-mayoral editorials is, in a word, nauseating. In a paper that many believe is biased, especially toward white Republicans, these heaping helpings of atta-boy go a long way to confirm the perception of favoritism. Which isn’t really a great idea unless that’s what you’re going for.
In the 2015 Oscar-winning film, Spotlight, based on the true story of how The Boston Globe exposed the Catholic Church’s long-term, widespread cover-up that enabled pedophile priests to abuse children with impunity, Globe editor Marty Baron says, “…[F]or a paper to best perform its function, it really needs to stand alone.”
By this, I take Baron to mean that a paper should not align itself with local institutions, businesses or figureheads; that it should hold itself apart from the powerbrokers who endeavor to influence its coverage and consider everyone fair game for sharp rebukes. If the T-U editorial board wants a lesson in how this is done, it should look no further than these pages, where A.G. Gancarski regularly gives local politicians the carrot or the stick, depending on which side of the issue he falls. Which is what all good political columnists are supposed to do.
When a city’s largest daily newspaper continually applauds a mayor who may have many fans but, like any politician, does not have universal approval, it communicates to anyone who disagrees—like all the Democrats Curry purged from local boards, or fiscal conservatives opposed to corporate incentives, or advocates for a day resource center for the homeless—that the paper is biased toward the mayor and, if they don’t like it, they should read Folio Weekly instead. Thanks for that, BTW.
As editor of the region’s independent voice, I consume untold quantities of local coverage, including that of the T-U editorial board. So as a reader and a colleague, will y’all please stop drinking the mayor’s Kool-Aid already? Too much sugar will make anyone sick.
If you choose to not follow my advice, I won’t be too surprised. After all, you did endorse Donald Trump for president.