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LIVE 8pm Tampa Bay Rowdies Soccer Podcast with "The Unused Substitutes"
FRI; 8:15a, 12:15p, 5:15p St. Pete Catalyst "Exit Interview" Mark Puente
As a three-time Pulizer Prize nominated reporter, Mark Puente’s specialty is accountability. When Puente made his return to the Tampa Bay Times in 2016, he wasn’t looking to step back into his previous beat, covering real estate or St. Petersburg City Hall. He was fresh off his investigative reporting job at the Baltimore Sun, where he uncovered rampant police brutality in the Baltimore Police Department. It was his 2014 story “Undue Force” that the nation turned to when riots exploded in Baltimore the following year, to understand the history of police and community relations in Baltimore.
Puente didn’t know what he would find here. What he had was one mandate from his editors: to look at agencies and boards that the Times had not yet touched, the places where no one was looking, and see what he could find. So, when Puente had to be escorted into his first Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board meeting, when they questioned who he was and who sent him, his journalistic alarm bells sounded. Puente started digging.
The result of that digging was a four-part series on corruption in the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, which had no oversight and was failing to hold fraudulent contractors accountable. Thanks to his stories, the state legislature passed legislation that eventually abolished the board in 2018.
That’s what justice for the readers looks like, according to Puente. “The public officials grew outraged when they learned this stuff,” he remembered. “They got rid of some of the board members, they changed the state law. Now it’s in the hands of the county and there’s oversight.”
Puente was also responsible for a series of stories that uncovered over-inflated job placement reporting and misuse of tax payer dollars at Career Source Pinellas. His series led to multiple investigations eventually taken over by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office. The investigations are still underway.
Investigative reporting, or “accountability reporting” as Puente prefers to call it, is no easy task in an era when some public officials make cries of “fake news.” He lives – and writes – by public record. “If it’s not in a document, I don’t write it,” he explained. That rule makes it a lot easier to battle claims of misinformation. According to Puente, on both a local and national level, often “it’s fake news because you don’t want to hear the news.”
Puente’s background has made him particularly suited for the bitter climate that investigative reports must inhabit. Journalism is his second career. He spent his first 15 years in the working world as a truck driver, a Teamster, raising three kids before going back to school to become a journalist. “I have thick skin,” Puente said. “Growing up in the midwest, blue collar community, blue collar background.”
During his Teamster days, few probably would have expected that blue collar kid to be in the running for Pulitzers, or that decades later, he’d be on his way to the Los Angeles Times. Puente announced last week that he’d be leaving the Tampa Bay Times for the LA Times, where he’ll have the colossal job of covering the Los Angeles Police Department as an accountability reporter.
As for the Tampa Bay Times, Puente says he’s leaving the community is in good hands. He hopes his colleagues will continue his work, especially in Pinellas County, to shine a light on the many small boards and agencies that operate “in the shadows” with little public oversight.
FRI; LIVE TBA "Race of The Day" Tampa Bay Downs "Bob's Picks" air at 8:10 and 12:10pm
Sponsored every Race Day by The Stanford Insurance Group of Tampa. Horse Racing FLA.com handicapper Bob Bauer with legendary track announcer Richard Grunder on the live race call.
LIVE 4pm "Music Tampa Bay" with Rick Crandall Live from "The Zoo Studios" downtown.
All Tampa Bay musicians and all original music every week day afternoon on RadioStPete.com. 24 hours a day online at Music Tampa Bay.com and on air downtown at 96.7FM.
FRI; LIVE 6pm "Mark O Radio Happy Hour Show" Live from RadioStPete's Seminole Studios
FRI; 10pm ET Game 5 1940 World Series 10-9-49 Red Barber along with Mel Allen
Our spring training salute to the great baseball broadcasters continues with another classic World Series broadcast on NBC for the Gillette Safety Razor Company. Ebbet's Field is the backdrop as "The Old Red Head," Red Barber, joins "Voice of the Yankees' Mel Allen for this "subway series" tilt between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees.