Tuesday, October 04, 2005

'Voices' Part One: Otto & Troxler

Every newspaper has a “voice.” (If it doesn’t, it should buy, cultivate, create or steal one.) Often the “voice” emanates from the editorial section of the paper, but not always. The St. Petersburg Times and The Tampa Tribune have multiple voices, and a talented bunch they are.

But, editorially, they lack something --- hmmmmmmmm, warmth, maybe? Passion? Humanity? Perhaps it’s the curse of editorial departments that they speak from "on high" with a detached and antiseptic manner at best – and at worst?

Well, the Trib sometimes seems tentative, like it’s looking over its shoulder at “Mother” Media General in Virginia; and with the Times, you feel like . . . well, you feel like you’re being lectured to by “the smartest kid in class.” (“West Wing” fans, take note.)

So who, really, is a better “voice” choice, someone with real heart and soul who embodies the best each paper has to offer.

TBM’s response: Steve Otto and Howard Troxler.

Otto works for the Trib; Troxler, for the Times. Each is a columnist, respectively, for their newspaper’s “metro” section. Otto is a good ol’ boy, chili-eatin’ Cracker about town; Troxler is a cherubic intellectual, bow-tied imp o’ the world, whose recent full beard makes him look older than age 30 for the first time in his life.

Otto was a columnist for The Tampa Times (no relation to the St. Pete Times) – the “sister” afternoon paper to The Tampa Tribune. The two papers merged circa 1982, having shared a building and presses, though little else. The Trib’s features department (named Part IV, then Tampa Bay Today, and now called BayLife, which was the name of The Tampa Times features department, prior to it folding) absorbed Otto (no mean feat) before he was transferred to the metro section, where he is now.

Ironically, Troxler used to be a metro reporter for the Trib, before (eventually) crossing the Bay to write for the St. Pete Times. (Howard was probably the first reporter in the area to own a Macintosh, including carrying case, back when those computers were the size of a microwave . . . talk about “hip.”)

These two columnists are existentially essential examples of their craft and their papers.

TBM suggests you go to the library (or online) and scan the work of these two veteran scribes. You’ll note that Steve tends to ramble (blame his editors); that Howard sometimes thinks he’s as smart as he sounds (blame Howard), but, by and large, you’ll hear “voice” – something true readers savor, like fine wine.

Btw, Daniel Ruth (Trib) used to be the best writer in the area – before he went to Chicago, and returned “urbane.” Too bad. He was that good. (“What's wrong, Superman? Got your cape caught in a typewriter, did ya?”)

* * *

If you’re new to Tampa Bay, you missed two great sports icons; giants, really: Tom McEwen (Trib) and Hubert Mizell (Times). In TBM’s opinion, they were the true baritone “voices” of the Bay, great and respected, giving us a national presence before we deserved it – but let’s save that discussion for another day.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Jim,

This is great insight for those of us new to the area!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005 9:32:00 PM  
Anonymous The Big Guava said...

Emjoyed your piece. Knowing me really well I am a ramblin man. I'd be careful about the good ol boy part. Just because you eat chili...without beans...only means you have a soul. And cherubic Howard is more than he appears behind a bow tie. Whenever you work for someone else you have to follow some rules, but I would suggest Dan, Howard and our own Judy Hill are their own persons. This area has been blessed with some real writing talent over the years, including St. Pete's Mary Jo Melone and former Tampa Times columnist Charlie Robins. I would stack this bunch up with any market in the country.

Thursday, October 06, 2005 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I agree re "This area has been blessed with some real writing talent over the years" -- and, I had forgotten all about Charlie Robins. A real gem. (Thanks for windin’ up the way-back machine on that one.) Also, I'd forgotten to mention columnist David Grimes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a fella I've enjoyed reading for years, and whose sense of humor (though sometimes dry as a dust bunny) is still a joy to read.

Thursday, October 06, 2005 8:48:00 PM  

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