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County survey demonstrates how the commission should vote on Pine Ridge

It’s a Tuesday, but more importantly, flip those calendars because somehow we are in the month of August. July, where did you go? I don’t know. I don’t know. I am home from Buffalo now, caught a flight last evening although I made it sound like we got back yesterday, that’s what magicians call misdirection and the rest of us call…who cares but it is great to be back. I opened the week talking about appreciation and gratitude, and man, I’m a native Floridian having been born and raised in Sarasota, early adulthood in Tampa, mid-20s in Gainesville and now seven years in Citrus, and I gotta say, I’m good. Going elsewhere confirms what I already knew which is my moving days are done. I’ve found a home and I could not be happier with where these Winsler family roots are just starting to grow.

Because this was my nine month old’s first time on an airplane, actually first time leaving the state. She did a lot better than I did even on the turbulent flight up there, our little dare devil, but our flight back last night we got caught up in the air for an additional 40 minutes and then stuck on the ground without a gate for another 20 minutes due to weather and that had all but exhausted her patience which is perfectly understandable.

I got a weird one for you today. I’ll call it a stew show, because much like the soup, it’s just a little bits and pieces of everything thrown in to make something which will hopefully be pretty memorable. The main topic today is going to touch on the county branding survey discussed in Just Wright Citrus this morning and pivot to how this relates to the county commission’s upcoming decision on Pine Ridge – oh yeah – we’re all over the place today.

Normally this would be the time I would comment on the Chronicle’s morning editorial but the newspaper didn’t write one. Instead, they ran a guest editorial from the Tampa Bay Times regarding slavery not being an unpaid internship and I’ll find a way to work that into the main potion of the show today too because, you know, it wouldn’t be a stew without it. The Chronicle shouldn’t be crushed for running a guest piece. Deadlines get thrown off with the new printing, people are human, it happens.

BUT that doesn’t mean the Chronicle is completely without fault. New reporter Steve Steiner, longtime right hand man of new executive editor Jim Gouvellis, wrote a piece about law and order and referred to our Sheriff as Joe Prendergast! Joe! Come on Steve! All reporters know that in journalism school, J school as we call it, you get a zero on an assignment for getting a name wrong, and here’s the kicker, he spelled Prendergast right. But Joe?? Too funny. Okay since I get to crush the Chronicle on that, let me wrap up the intro on a positive note about our paper of record. Publisher Emeritus Gerry Mulligan was rightfully inducted into the Florida Press Hall of Fame and the paper’s staff won numerous other awards and deserve congratulations but I’m going to focus on Gerry for a second – sorry staff but good work. I don’t think Gerry and I agree on anything, and at the core of it all is an insurmountable divide in the philosophical way to run a newspaper. I believe in objective journalism, even for a paper the size of the Chronicle, and that the duty to inform is the bedrock principle for all editorial decisions. Gerry believes in community journalism and that it is a local paper’s responsibility to make editorial decisions based on what the paper feels is best for the community, even if it means becoming an advocate or letting bias influence news reporting decisions. I would imagine that both of us think our approach is the best way to serve the community, and it might seem like a minor distinction, but trust me, the divide between the two philosophies makes the grand canyon look like a crack in the Citrus Springs pavement in comparison.

Here's the important part. That doesn’t mean I wish him ill-will, get upset when he has wins like getting this honor, and I think that’s the part of common humanity that politics is missing now. We don’t just want to win; we want to see the other side punished for trying. I will continue to fight tooth and nail against community journalism as the approach the Chronicle takes and yet if I had been at the ceremony I would have been among the first on my feet to give him a standing ovation. Congratulations on this accomplishment Gerry. Just because I don’t agree with the approach, doesn’t mean I don’t think it wasn’t deserved – which it most certainly was. Okay, let’s brew a stew.

It happened in 2012, or at least that’s my opinion. 2012, 11 years ago for those like me who feel like that was actually yesterday, is when the switch got flipped and social media advertising became a growth industry. I can back this opinion up because I graduated the University of Tampa in 2011, and while I knew I was going on to grad school, I also was looking for jobs and social media manager really didn’t exist yet. By 2012, it had. What changed? Lots of things for starters but I’m going to argue one above all. First, the technological. The iPhone was introduced five years earlier in 2007 and using the theory of diffusion of innovation or common sense, we know that five years is enough time to get passed the early adaptors and have smart phones, and the social media apps developed for them, reach the bulk of mainstream users. We can also call this the point where the general populous went from the internet being a place where you logged on to it being a place hard to disconnect. This point in history is colloquially referred to in media academia as the moment when the phone became the last thing you checked at night and the first thing you checked in the morning. 2012 sound right for that?

Three more landmark events led 2012 being not the Mayan apocalypse, but rather the era of big business in social media. In chronological order, the first was the Obama campaign of 2008. This showed that online influence could lead to offline behavior changes such as registering to vote, actually voting, or attending political functions. The second was the start of personalization. Some might know this but there is an actual day when Google published a seemingly innocuous blog post and said from here on out, regardless whether you are logged in or not, we’re going to track you. The reason was simple. Personalization to better serve the consumer. But this took a turn in 2011 when one of the first viral news stories about personalization swept the nation of a father finding out his daughter was pregnant based on the personalization ads he received from Target. Even with these first signs of distrust in what social media ad personalization could do, the last main event that signaled how big of business this could be was Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012. The gram had only 13 employees and sold for $1 billion dollars. The world had still previously been tied to the idea that manpower equals financial output but this deal changed all that. Why? If not manpower, then what is the true value of a 13 person company at $1 billion. It’s trust in other people. That’s the real power of social networks. That’s what brands started to capitalize on because they realized that people only trusted what they saw in ads about a quarter of the time, and that dwindled with personalization, but people trusted what they saw from others that they knew almost three-quarters of the time, and that was a gold mine.

This was a long way of saying the importance of trust cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to branding and interacting with the masses of the general public. I haven’t seen the survey that the public information office of the county put out yet, but going off the post from Just Wright Citrus this morning, trust is part of it. Also kudos to the county public information for conducting this and crowdsourcing the public for buy in, you know why this is good? It builds trust.

Okay, let’s stir this stew all together now. I’ve argued for over a year now that the commission needs to do more to build trust with the public. The context of this has always been in the idea of trying to sell a sales tax raise, something that I think is dead on arrival at the ballot box right now not because it’s necessarily a bad idea but because the county simply doesn’t have the trust in the commission to oversee that the money will go where it says it will and not be splintered off into tangential uses like the gas tax is.

I’ve also heard from numerous listeners who have called or texted to discuss these shows, which I love by the way, that they have no idea what the commission is going to do with the Pine Ridge vote because this board, less than a year into its current form, has been impossible to predict and uncertainty destroys trust rather than builds it.

So here’s what I would do with the Pine Ridge vote if I was a commissioner, which just like I’m thanking my lucky stars I don’t live in Buffalo after my trip, I’m eternally grateful I don’t sit on that board, I would vote against the project. But Bobby! You just argued that it’s a good project in an earlier episode! What about the outloud test? What about seeing the whole board and doing what’s best for the entire county even as one neighborhood protests? Why are you such a hypocrite?

Because a no vote builds trust. Not just in Pine Ridge, but in Sugar Mill, it might again in Meadowcrest who feels burned but now saved by the complex near them falling through, and in every pocket of the county. It also builds consistency. So far, with the exception of the 7-Eleven in Homosassa, this board has said we’re slowing things down. A no vote builds on the Sugar Mill no and with the storage units and other projects the county has shot down, and while that could be painted as anti-business, at least it shows a clear stance about where the county is and that builds trust. I do thank the public information office for putting this out, but counties don’t need brands. They aren’t destination spots. Cities are and cities do have brands from the big apple to small town done right. Don’t worry about building a brand with Citrus. Let’s get the commission focused on building trust.


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