Tampa Bay Business Journal’s cheap smear job on Gov. Rick Scott

Photo Credit – Skinny Neckties

As we inch closer and closer to the 2014 election, Gov. Rick Scott can expect to see everything, including the kitchen sink, thrown at him — with the media in Florida only too happy to play its role.

In fact, the whole media-created saga over poor ol’ Reagan, the dog Scott returned to its original owner because it was having trouble adapting to its new environs in Tallahassee, was just a taste of what’s in store.

For a more recent example of how far some are willing to go to turn nothing into instant controversy and paint Scott in a negative light, consider last week’s overblown coverage about what normally would have been seen as an innocuous marketing logo.

Scott, in his role as chairman of Enterprise Florida, unveiled a new campaign Thursday to cast the Sunshine State as an attractive place for commerce. The accompanying logo sports an orange necktie and the slogan, “Florida: The perfect climate for business.”

Florida: The perfect climate for business

The logo prompted Tampa Bay Business Journal reporter Mark Holan to write a column headlined, “Is a men’s tie in business logo offensive to women?” Three businesswomen are quoted in the piece, all agreeing the logo is “offensive” or “insensitive” to women:

“It’s clearly a strong visual that business and men go together.” ~ Susan Stackhouse, CEO of Stellar Partners Inc.

“In 2013? Really? They didn’t think half of the people in the state would be offended by this? Really?” ~ Links Financial President Penny Hulbert

“As a female business owner I am shocked and disappointed the only visual representation in the Enterprise Florida logo is a man’s tie,” ~Colleen Chappell, president and CEO of ChappellRoberts

The story is accompanied by a poll asking:

“Is it bad form for Enterprise Florida to use the typically gender specific icon of a necktie as the main image on its new marketing campaign for the Sunshine State?”

The tone of the article and the poll question’s wording are leading, suggesting that the Scott-led marketing campaign is sexist. But a closer look tells a far different tale, about a reporter and his sourcing, not the governor’s view of women.

The three women Holan quoted disparaging the logo are hardly new to the Tampa Bay Business Journal – together, they’ve been quoted or have been a source in 75 of its articles since 2000.

Seventy-five times! Are they listed under “reliable quote” in the Rolodex? That familiarity would indicate that Holan has a good idea of what he’s going to get when he reaches out to them for commentary.

Holan also knew, as he mentioned in his column, that Chappell’s firm was “one of several Florida companies that vied unsuccessfully last year for the Enterprise Florida branding contract.”

Shouldn’t that alone disqualify her as a biased source on this particular story?

Instead, the person who lost out in the bid to produce the logo is now being asked to critique the winner’s logo?

But far more troublesome is Hulbert, a businesswoman who happens to count former boss, Alex Sink, “amongst her dearest friends and mentors,” according to a profile on the Links-Financial.com website.

This being the same Alex Sink who lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to Scott, the man now unveiling the logo Hulbert found so offensive.

Is it even possible Holan was unaware of Holbert’s close relationship when he asked her to comment on the campaign led by the man who beat her “dear friend” at the polls?

Then, in a follow-up article, Holan seems surprised that poll results in his paper’s sister publication, the Orlando Business Journal, show that only 43 percent of responders were offended by the logo, when a full 57 percent of Tampa Business Journal responders called it an insult.

It’s really not that confusing. There is a big difference in how the question is phrased in the Orlando Business Journal, with no reference to the logo being “gender-specific”:

“Do you think Enterprise Florida’s new branding logo is offensive?”

I’ll tell you what’s offensive: this attempt to smear an otherwise harmless marketing initiative with lazy sourcing and a suggestive poll question. If this is what the Tampa Bay Business Journal calls journalism, we know how low its bar is set.

Holan’s work here is either a sign of sloppy reporting or nothing less than using a position of trust to push a political agenda. Regardless of which conclusion you draw, it’s the height of irresponsibility.

Updated – Glenn Beck’s news web site The Blaze picked up on this story and is running a poll of its own, asking the simple straight forward question: Is this logo sexist?

  • Absolutely! Just look at that tie!
  • I think I’m missing something here.
  • You’re joking, right?


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Tom Tillison


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