An Update to the Tampa Times Article, “Shucking, It’s a Living”

Last Monday I posted that I was angry about the article on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Tampa Bay Times

Rather than continue fuming over the issue, I sent an email to the writer, John Woodrow Cox, and he responded very quickly and sent me where he got his statistics. I also sent the same email to the letters page of The Tampa Bay Times but received no reply. I’ve had several people ask me about this issue and rather then forwarding, I’m putting both emails below and making a few comments to close….

My email:

Dear Mr. Cox,

I am a resident of Old Homosassa and was dismayed with the article you wrote in the July 13 edition of the Tampa Bay Times.  It appeared on the front page and featured stereotypical images that this community has worked hard to change.  You would have better served your readership and newspaper by noting a few of the many positive items taking place in our small town on the river.  I’ve listed just a few:

Recently our local paper announced that the Homosassa Elementary School received an “A” rating according to the Florida Department of Education.  The Homosassa Civic Club, a group of local volunteers, awards college scholarships to students in the area.  The Old Mill Tavern holds the mullet toss and a golf tournament to raise funds for the school.  The old fire department has been renovated and will be the Homosassa Learning Center—benefitting both children and adults– when it opens later this year.

Concerned residents are creating a non-profit organization to save the water tower from demolition—this could be an interesting report since most waterfront communities in Florida have a water tower as a landmark. 

Responding to complaints about the overcrowded public boat ramp, the county has two park employees directing traffic and monitoring the situation on weekends and holidays during scallop season.  Sheriff Deputies are on site within a few minutes when called for assistance.

We are getting a desperately needed sidewalk along Yulee drive from Central Ave to US 19, so residents can use the Public Library in Homosassa Springs.  In addition we now have bus service in the area.

The River Alliance, a local organization, and Senator Charlie Dean have been working to save our river and the springs in the county.

Referring to Old Homosassa as a “mostly poor” town and streets known for drug addiction was a low blow. I looked for data from the Census bureau but it didn’t break the information down to just our area.  They did list Homosassa Springs, a much larger region, as having 13,791 with a median annual income of $31,893. listed similar statistics for Homosassa Springs plus listed in 2010 that Homosassa had 2,578 residents and in 2012 the median income was $49,991, almost $5000 more than the FL median income.  City-Data does not list where they get their data, just that “By collecting and analyzing data from numerous sources, we’re able to create detailed, informative profiles of all cities in the United States.”  If I was a reporter I would not use this site since it doesn’t provide references, but I’m not, I’m just an observer.  I’m questioning where you received your data to rate us as a “mostly poor” town

We are a community of people, some poor, some rich, mostly middle-class.  We do have issues, number one—too many boats in our little community and on our river during scallop season.  Perhaps your article referring to our streets known for drug addiction will eliminate a few of those visitors. 


Kathy A. Green
And Mr. Cox’s response:
Hi Ms. Green,

Thank you for your note and for reading the Times. I sincerely appreciate your feedback. The story was written without any malicious intent, and it certainly was not meant to harm residents’ feelings or the local economy.

Per the numbers you referenced, I hope what I’ve written below helps clarify. I also attached copies of the pages from which the data comes:

In Homosassa, according to the US Census, 24.3 percent of the population lives below poverty level. In the more populated area of Homosassa Springs, 22.4 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. The median household incomes are more difficult to determine because the latest census estimates have margins of error in excess of $20,000. The latest hard data from the census was on Homosassa Springs from the years 2008-2012. That indicated the median household income was just below $32,000 a year, which is $15,000 less than the state average. That is not to say the area is without beautiful homes and nice neighborhoods.

The additional descriptions and characterizations in the story came from interviews with people from Homosassa (including those quoted) and from my own experience of reporting in the area while I was a staff writer in Hernando. I have since confirmed the validity of these descriptions with a colleague who frequently visits the area and two reporters who live in Citrus and have reported in the area for decades.

Again, I do appreciate your feedback, and please do not hesitate to reach out again with any other questions or thoughts.

He attached a pdf file with data from the Census Bureau,  which does list the poverty rate as 24.3% and lists the median income as $49,625.  In the same table, the margin of error for household median income is +/-$7,922.  Mr. Cox used the median income of $32,000 for Homosassa Springs for Old Homosassa.  According to the same table, that margin of error is +/- $3,439 for the median income.   He did not sent me data indicating where he came up with the error rate being more than $20,000.  I also question how he can use different areas statistics to justify his reporting.  
Since I’m certainly not an expert on these numbers, I emailed Commissioner JJ Kenney the following:
Dear Commissioner Kenney,
My husband and I attended the “meet and greet” at the Homosassa Civic Club last Wednesday night.  We were the couple that didn’t belong to the River Alliance and left early.  It was a very interesting meeting and I do plan to become more involved in our community.
On Sunday there was an article in the Tampa Bay Times by John Woodrow Cox titled “Shucking:  It’s a Living”.  It was very unpleasant regarding our community.  Mr Cox said that we were a “mainly poor town” and known for it’s “streets of drug addiction”.
I emailed Mr. Cox expressing my dismay and asking for his data.  He sent me a sheet from the Census bureau with the statistic of 24.3% below the poverty level.  Yet, when I went out to the same page, it shows that the median income is $49,625 in 2012.  One of these statistics has to be wrong and Mr. Cox says it is the median income, that it could be off as much as $20,000. 
I thought you might have more insight into this issue.  Perhaps you have a better source that I could base my discussion on with Mr. Cox.
Kathy A. Green
After almost a week, I have had no response from Commissioner JJ Kenney.  Guess he’s working on my sidewalk.
I agree with Mr. Cox that there are poor people here and there is a drug issue.  But I think that’s the situation in most communities across the country.
And it continues!


4 thoughts on “An Update to the Tampa Times Article, “Shucking, It’s a Living”

  1. I notice that Mr. Cox did not address your list of positives for the area. I wonder what Mr. Cox’s agenda is because what purpose does it serve to bad-mouth a town?

  2. Thank you for this very informative article. Being relatively new to this community and already feeling patriotic about Old Homosassa I appreciate the letter you wrote to Tampa Bay Tines and agree with all you had to say. This is a wonderful community with just a couple of bad spots, my kids love Homosassa Elementary and we love being here. A great blog and interesting articles.

    • Thanks for your comments, Wendy. We love living in Homosassa. It’s a unique community and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

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