SANFORD, Florida — The FLORIDA TODAY newspaper, which covers Brevard County on Florida’s Space Coast, has had less opportunity to publish local news stories of national and worldwide importance following the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011.
Then came along the opportunity for FLORIDA TODAY to be in the national spotlight once again with the Trayvon Martin murder trial of George Zimmerman in Sanford which lies in neighboring Seminole County.
“In addition to providing online and print coverage for our readers, FLORIDA TODAY also was tasked with providing reaction coverage for our other Gannett properties throughout the country and for USA Today,” FLORIDA TODAY Executive Editor Bob Stover wrote in his article titled Teamwork, hustle lead to success: Staff reacts quickly after late verdict in Zimmerman trial. “Planning coverage of a big news story is a little like planning a military campaign…Enterprise Editors John McCarthy and Mara Bellaby mapped out a plan that deployed reporters Mackenzie Ryan and Rick Neale and visual journalists Craig Bailey and Breuse Hickman to Sanford.”
“On Saturday, McCarthy was in the newsroom leading the execution of the plan. He was aided by Sara Camodeca, who was coordinating with our wire desk and design studio,” Stover continued. “When the verdict was read just before 10 p.m., our team in Sanford started recording the reactions, producing videos for the Web and writing an article for print…. It was deadline hustle at its best, helped tremendously by good planning. The result of their work is shown here.”
But as military history has shown, some of the most thorough planning can result in disaster with a surprise counter-offensive. And this time, it wasn’t Charlie coming out of the Vietnamese jungle bush. Instead, it was “Howie” attacking from the “Felterbush” that became FLORIDA TODAY’s Waterloo.
Despite a similar prank recently done on San Franciso’s KTVU that misreported the Asiana flight 214’s pilot names, and the large number of FLORIDA TODAY personnel named by Stover who worked on the George Zimmerman story, Crowds react to George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict, the article went out on the Associated Press wires and was published in USA Today and other Gannett publications with the following quote or slight variations:
Howie Felterbush stood on the outskirts of the demonstration crowd, watching. “Justice was rendered,” he said. “That’s why we have trials instead of (verdicts based on) public opinion.” Felterbush was in Orlando earlier in the day and came to the courthouse to offer an opposing view. “That wasn’t to be had,” he said. “There was 95 percent Trayvon supporters.”
The article goes on to read that “The Melbourne resident believes the jury made the right decision, but he didn’t say it very loudly. The 49-year old [Who just punk’d FLORIDA TODAY] declined to be interviewed on video, saying he was uncomfortable because of the “state of things.”
The trick played on the FLORIDA TODAY reporter by a Brevard County resident would come as little surprise to locals who know of the long-term animosity by residents against the paper. Brevard residents, which lean center-right and are comprised of a large number of active and retired military, space, and defense workers with hard science degrees, often view FLORIDA TODAY ‘s editors and reporters as ultra-left, not-so-bright as the residents, or both.