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Earl Rynerson: Either a Citizen Journalist or Another Gadfly With a Website

Rynerson: the face of the new media.
Earl Rynerson knows a rumor circulating around Fort Lauderdale City Hall. It has to do with Mayor Jack Seiler supposedly pressuring the Sun-Sentinel into making a personnel change. It's almost certainly not true, but Rynerson wonders if people ought to know about it anyway.

"Just to ask the question, in my mind, is good journalism," Rynerson says.

No, not really. At least not by traditional journalism ethics. But then, Rynerson is far from the mainstream media. He publishes a blog at abetterftlauderdale.com, a site that's indicative of "the new media." He's a citizen journalist who can set his own ethical boundaries and report the news with his spin.

Rynerson often assumes the role of contrarian, mostly criticizing Seiler, who beat him

handily in in the 2009 mayoral race. Since then, Rynerson says he publishes his blog to "show a view the elected officials are not showing."

His articles are often missives -- Rynerson's opinions about a new city spending project or political proposal. Take his item from September 22 titled "Is Seiler Bankrupting Fort Lauderdale? (Part 3 of 3)". Instead of answering the question, Rynerson proposes a multipart plan to buy open land from developers whose projects have stalled. It's a $16 million proposal that seems to contradict Rynerson's typical fiscal conservative bent and the original question he asked in the headline.

But his posts have also garnered discussions beyond his site. Rynerson was the first to report on the decidedly ugly fences installed along the canals on Las Olas Boulevard. After outcry from residents, the Sun-Sentinel followed the story.

That blog item came from a reader's tip, Rynerson says, and that shows people are paying attention to the blog, coming to him instead of TV stations or newspapers. He says his site has received just shy of 1,000 reader comments in the past year and averages 70 pageviews on a slow day and up to 700 for a busy post. That's not bad considering he says he spends about five to ten hours a day week writing the blogs.

Rynerson says he will never sell ads on the site and doesn't plan for it to make money. "No, no, no," Rynerson says, when asked if he'll ever turn a profit on the venture. "It has nothing to do with making money."

So, what's his motivation? The site initially seemed like an outlet for political retribution after Seiler's victory in the mayoral race, especially considering Rynerson spent $87,000 of his own money on the campaign. Rynerson had a lot of reason to be angry after the election. Questionable details about his past, including multiple lawsuits for refusing to pay bills, were the least of his worries. A story by Fox News on January 26, 2009, topped off a campaign of bad press. It began with:

"Earl Rynerson is an openly gay businessman with a history of curious legal problems and an apparent penchant for bondage pornography. And he thinks he's just the man to be your mayor."

But his blog has survived beyond any interest in political retribution, and Rynerson says the goal isn't his own political future -- although that's not out of the question either.

When asked if he'd run again, Rynerson was hesitant. "I hope... I would rather not run again. But if things continue they way they are, somebody needs to present the alternative."

Either way, it appears he'll continue to write articles with an alternative bent, like this recent item: "Another stupid idea from our dysfunctional City Government:  More homeless Feeding Centers!"

You won't see that in the mainstream media.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton

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