Buddy, the Blog, and the Boot
In his column on Saturday, Buddy Nevins simply informed readers in the final paragraphs that it was his last. "It's been a great run, but the time has come to meet new challenges."
The explanation didn't come until the next day -- from his Sun-Sentinel Editor Earl Maucker. In his Sunday column, Maucker wrote about Nevins' recent speech at a local GOP club, where Buddy announced that he had converted to the Republican Party and told the crowd he'd done it to support Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial primary. Wrote Maucker: "By declaring support for a candidate, he irreparably damaged his credibility as a political reporter. And he damaged the credibility of this newspaper. ... Our readers rely on and trust the Sun-Sentinel and we must protect that bond. We have decided to move Buddy off the political beat permanently because we felt his independence has been compromised."
News of the ouster quickly spread through the little Florida political blogosphere. St. Pete Times political writer Steve Bousquet credited the New Times for breaking the story in the newspaper's Buzz blog. Not quite right. Though I ultimately wrote about Nevins in New Times, the story originated from a different source: this blog. Without the Pulp, the issue almost surely never would have come to light and Nevins would still be on the political beat.
When rumors went around that Buddy had announced his conversion to the Republican Party at a GOP meeting, the only reason I pursued it was because I had, on a whim, just started this media blog. I never would have wasted my time on it otherwise, because it didn't seem to rise to the level of a column or news piece. It was too inside for that. But it seemed like a great blog item, so I wrote about it. The initial posting was published on February 13, when the blog was still at the Blogger locale. That was followed by another and then another and then another. Only after all that did it finally become a column and ultimately prompt what happened this weekend.
It's the power of blogs. They can take an interesting but seemingly not newsworthy item — like say an offhand comment made during a speech by Trent Lott — and bring it out in the open. The best blogs are like journalistic Petri dishes where some experiments die quietly and others take on life in the strangest of ways. Sometimes the results can be beautiful, other times monstrous.
So what about the Nevins saga? Was the result good or bad?
Obviously, I think Maucker's move was the right one and I thought he handled it in a stand-up and admirable way. Instead of scuttling Nevins out the back door, he was upfront with his readers, the way a good newspaper editor should be.
Nevins is an institution in Broward County, but after about 20 years he'd run his course as a political beat writer. Between his coziness with political consultant Ali Waldman and the political group dubbed the "Steel Magnolias," to his son's employment with state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff (which he mentioned in that final column), to that strange and fateful speech at the GOP meeting, it was definitely time. Part of me thinks there should be term limits set on political writers just as there are on many of the elected officials they cover. Call it the Ten-Year Rule.
Still, I wonder if a monster has been created. Buddy, a gnome-like fellow with a wry sense of humor and a clear eye for news, has been unleashed. He could do some extraordinary things outside the vagaries of political reporting. Hope it doesn't come on my turf.