03.14.24 Publisher’s Desk

Do the next right thing. That’s a 12-step program mantra. The theory is this: You will make mistakes, but instead of living in that mistake, do the next right thing.

It’s not always clear what the next right thing is, especially when the mistake isn’t yours or you are dealing with perceived mistakes and grievances beyond your control.

Life is messy. Do the best you can and do right by others.

In the news business it’s pretty cut and dry. Give space for people to tell their truth, be unbiased and give others the chance to respond.

It has to be that simple. To complicate it with bias on our part would be unethical and cause more problems than we might think it solves. We can’t provide the space for just anyone. The information we get has to be sourced and corroborated.

There have been many times people have come to us saying something nefarious was happening in our community. Most of these stories never ran in our pages because the sources were either unwilling to go on record or their stories couldn’t be confirmed by others.

As clear as our duty in journalism is, it is especially clear when it comes to stories that shine a bad light on our partners. First, make sure others can corroborate the story. Then, give the storyteller the space, remain unbiased and give the partner the chance to respond.

We have had such stories pop up throughout my 22 years with this news source. In each of these cases we worked with the organizations to make sure all voices were heard, and I am happy to report that our relationships with these organizations are intact and thriving.

I am sad to say that this isn’t always the case. In June of 2023 we had several former Tampa Pride board members come to us with concerns about the organization’s leadership. The concerns were echoed with multiple former board members from multiple age brackets and times served. The story was covered by Axios and the time came for Watermark to share the story of its community by its community.

We reached out several times to the leadership being questioned without response. We used email, phones and Facebook messenger on several occasions. As a longtime sponsor of Tampa Pride, and the creator of every official Tampa Pride Guide, it was important that we gave ample time to our partner to have their voice heard.

Unfortunately, they did not take us up on the offer to tell their story. On June 7, 2023, we ran with the story “Former Tampa Pride board members call for change, new leadership.”

As a result, Watermark’s relationship with Tampa Pride has been strained. I expected some kind of backlash and I don’t begrudge the organization its feelings. The team at Watermark tried everything we could to handle the situation professionally and give everyone equal space while holding true to our mission and duty.

It didn’t surprise me when we were not invited to partner on the official pride guide as we have done since the organization’s inception. I had hoped my attempts to address the board would help mend the bridge, but I do not hold it against them that they decided not work on the project with us.

What saddens me is how far that rift extends. I reached out several times to ask that Watermark be a sponsor of Tampa Pride. Watermark strives to sponsor every pride event across our coverage area. It benefits the organizations, our readers and our community. It’s important we lift each other up in this manner and we have been able to do this every year for every major pride organization and most of the smaller ones.

This is the reason I have decided to tell this story. I want the community in Tampa to know that we support and value you. You will not see our logo on pride marketing material or our name in the parade. It is not by our choice. We will continue to cover the wonderful events the organization has planned as is evident in our Pride in Tampa magazine available this issue in our Tampa Bay distribution and online for everyone. It is important to Watermark that we provide this information to highlight Tampa’s amazing community.

Although our sponsorship was not accepted, I am grateful Tampa Pride accepted our vendor application. I hope that this shows our commitment to Tampa Pride and that it is the beginning of a new chapter for Watermark and the organization.

Communication between us has increased in the past weeks and we are able to share some of Tampa Pride’s response to our aforementioned story in this issue’s Tampa Bay news. I hope to see us reunite as partners moving forward, working together to better the lives of our Tampa siblings.

Watermark doesn’t pick sides. We report the news. The only side we are on is yours, the community that we serve. I hope you have a successful Tampa Pride and I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

More in Opinion

See More