HE’S PROBABLY UNDERSELLING THE STATE…. The fine folks at Mother Jones have flagged perhaps the greatest journalism job announcement in the history of the world, apparently released by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I say “apparently” because I can’t speak to the legitimacy of the announcement — it seems to have gone out over a listserv — but here’s hoping it is true.
We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.
We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble … well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.
For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.
As some who was born and raised in Florida, I think the editor left out a few things. Also note the original anthrax letters appeared in Florida, the Terri Schiavo and Elian Gonzalez fiascos were in Florida, many of the Abramoff deals were in Florida, and the Watergate burglars showed up in D.C. by way of Florida. And while the newspaper referenced the problems with Florida elections in passing, I’d note for emphasis that it was the extraordinary screw-ups in 2000 that led to the Bush presidency, which in turn set the United States into a downward spiral we’re still struggling to reverse.
I’ve long harbored a silly notion that all bad things that happen in this country have an almost direct connection to the Sunshine State, but having said that, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is right that it’s heaven for journalists who can’t get enough of the truly bizarre.