Best Of 2012

"People would just assume we're lockstep on stuff, and we don't agree on a lot of things" —Sue Carlton, w. John Hill.
Photo by Todd Bates
"People would just assume we're lockstep on stuff, and we don't agree on a lot of things" —Sue Carlton, w. John Hill.

John Hill, an editorial writer, and Sue Carlton, a columnist, both work for the Tampa Bay Times. They've been married 22 years, and dated five years before that.

The Times had a nepotism policy back in the late ’80s, when Sue began working there.

Sue: ”The Times tried to hire John first, but they had the nepotism policy and he didn’t want to commit.”

John: “...I started in May or June of 1996, they lifted the policy that spring....”

Sue: "I was an intern there in the late ‘80s… and then I was just coming into Tampa at the time, I began at a bureau in Northdale. Then I became a reporter, a courts reporter, the City Editor for Tampa, an editor for the Floridian, then the editor for Tampa, then came back as a columnist."

They have different bosses, work in different departments. Sue works in News, John in Editorial. Sue answers to news editors and John answers to editorial.

John: "As an editorial writer, I’m not writing a column. This is not my personal opinion. These are things I run by the board, we have full discussions on these issues before they're written and before they're published and many things never get written, and never get published, because we talk them out and we’re not ‘there’ yet. So everything you see in the paper that I write goes thru the board. It’s a board process. I’m a writer, I’m a member of the board, ultimately we’re speaking for the newspaper and not an individual, so I think that, beyond that, we answer to different editors and different sides of the newspaper. I think that’s a big difference. Ours are institutional in approach and style as opposed to columns."

Sue: "Sure we talk about this stuff, because it’s your day and we’re both really interested in local politics, but it’s funny. People would just assume we’re lockstep on stuff and we don’t agree on a lot of things. We don’t agree on what kind of mustard to buy for the house, so you know. We do have fun conversations about things sometimes."

John: "We have different backgrounds. Her background is in the courts. my background is in government, they're different, we have different sources, we use very different sources, it’s not unlike anybody on the news side. We in editorial develop our news sources and do our own interviews…

The Gandy/Friendship Trail bridge

Sue: "I’m a huge believer that that was a wonderful thing that we had here and if there’s a way to save it without making it into an utter boondoggle – and I think there is, and John didn’t like it from the start."

John: "When they decided to take that over and make that into a pedestrian trail, I just didn’t see any ..I saw a lot of loss there, a lot of risk and I agreed that it’s a great asset but you have to make choices and I thought that was one that was going to. A weak business plan and no real vision for it so I haven't’d be great to save but I’ve never really come around on that/’s in worse shape...the initial plan was in terrible shape. It’s gone from an F to a D-."

In April, Hill and his editorial board colleagues (Joni James, Tim Nickens and Robyn Blumner) were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The Pulitzer board said the Times board was nominated "For editorials that examined the policies of a new, inexperienced governor and their impact on the state, using techniques that stretched the typical editorial format and caused the governor to mend some of his ways.”

Hill's editorials generally focus on Tampa, Hillsborough County, the environment and a host of other issues. He's a big soccer fan, and is currently working on a book on former Lake County, Florida Sheriff Willis V. McCall.

People & Politics

Best Anti-James Franco Rant

Metal man artist Frank Strunk posted a photo of a shirtless James Franco in the upcoming film Spring Breakers back in April, along with this rant. The photo got close to 100 responses on Strunk’s Facebook in a matter of minutes: “So this is how our town is being depicted by the movie industry. We work so hard to have what we have here and douchebag filmmakers come down and find the single worst element of our city and represent us with it. Tell me exactly WHY we should be welcoming to these assholes. Nice “727” tattoo dickhead. I don’t care how much “money” they bring to this area, if they are doing it at the expense of our hard work and reputation, they can stay the FUCK where they came from.”

Charlie Justice
Charlie Justice

Two years ago Charlie Justice held the state Senate seat that encompassed both Tampa and St. Pete. He left it to run for Bill Young’s congressional seat and lost. This year, the Democrats failed to field a candidate in the race.

Best attempt to clean up a racist quote from a sports talk show host

After Sileo called three black football players “monkeys” in a passing reference, WDAE 620 announced that they “would like to apologize for Dan Sileo’s ill-chosen on-air remarks earlier this week. He absolutely meant no disrespect to the players and he is sincerely embarrassed and upset that his off-the-cuff remarks might be taken as hateful, disrespectful, or in any way racist. Dan and the station regret any offense to the players; to the Bucs organization; and to the people of the Tampa Bay community.” Shortly thereafter, WDAE canned him.

Kevin Beckner
Kevin Beckner

In one of the most ethically and socially diverse areas in the country, five of the seven Hillsborough County Commissioners are white men. So when they voted to support a Diversity Advisory Council (proposed by the sole gay commissioner, Kevin Beckner, and slated to include a representative from the gay community), some local columnists cheered the new perspective on the board. But wait — isn’t this the same local government that refuses to include the LGBT community in its human rights ordinance, and has a ban on gay pride? “The goal isn’t to promote a GLBT agenda,” said Commission Chair Ken Hagan, who supported the gay pride ban. “This wouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to support gay-pride events. This action does not conflict with that.” Whew. Thank God for that!

Magic Mike
Magic Mike

Who would have guessed that a movie about male strippers would be the best Bay area recruitment film ever made? Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum as a Tampa-based exotic dancer with dreams of hitting the big time in Miami, makes the Bay area look like a tropical paradise chock full of beautiful bodies and scenery. Get past the soft R-rated content (sorry folks, no dongs), and what’s left is a beautiful travelogue of Tampa and St. Pete, complete with glistening beaches and the hip urban cores of Ybor City and downtown St. Pete. Magic Mike will hit DVD right as the weather turns to slush up north, and in addition to inspiring daydreams about abs and ass, the film will surely draw a few new transplants looking for fun in the sun. (Clothing optional, of course.)

Best Beach

Runners-up: St. Pete Beach, Ft. Desoto Beach

Whoa, easy there, baseball fans. Sure, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon might get the boys into the playoff picture, but do you think it will amount to anything more than an early exit, like the last two seasons? Well, we can dream. Bucs fans? I'd sure like to see coach Greg Schiano’s crew bring playoff pigskin back to the Bay. I'm just not sure the former Rutgers top dog (don’t get me started) has had enough time to get his house in order. Leaving us the Bolts, under Guy Boucher, who has captain Vinny Lecavalier supported by alternates Steven Stamkos ("best goal scorer in the world," according to Barry Melrose), Marty St. Louis, Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer. There's your winner.

Best Bill Hicks Comeback

For five and a half years, activist group St. Pete for Peace showed cutting-edge documentaries for free at Cafe Bohemia. The weekly series was cut short after the new owners of the café found themselves shocked and awed by American: The Bill Hicks Story, the animated documentary about the comedian’s life and early death. The film, and Bill Hicks’ potty mouth (or words of wisdom, depending on your taste), got the film series canned (temporarily) until it found a new home at the L Train.