© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The best Florida Matters episodes of 2023

Four people smile as they pose in a radio studio
Mary Shedden
Joanna Robotham, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art; Matthew Peddie, WUSF; Sarah McNamara, assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University; William Gravely, St. Petersburg resident and business owner.

Florida Matters revisits some favorite episodes from 2023, including conversations about hurricanes and political storms, education, population growth and baseball.

Last summer, we explored how the state’s population boom is affecting our lives in Our Changing State, a radio series and podcast.

In a conversation about culture, host Matthew Peddie spoke with Sarah McNamara, an assistant professor of History at Texas A&M University; Joanna Robotham, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Tampa Museum of Art; and business owner and longtime St. Petersburg resident William Gravely, about how Florida is much more than its stereotypes.

Sarasota County has always been known for its conservative politics. But in recent years, the area has become more socially conservative and has attracted some from the extreme right of the Republican party, such as Michael Flynn, a national security advisor and vocal advocate for former President Trump.

In January, Washington Post reporter Tim Craig joined us via Zoom to talk about his reporting on Flynn and Victor Mellor, the owner of a retreat center in Venice. Called the Hollow, it is billed as a "freedom loving, American-values sanctuary."

Florida Matters also explored the erosion of trust in the media.

According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly one out of four Americans say they have no trust in the news media at all. And as trust in the media declines, researchers say it drops for science, higher education and government as well.

In November, we visited the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, to speak with Alex Mehadevan, director of Mediawise at Poynter, and Joy Mayer, the founder and director of Trusting News, about how trust in media is declining and how news organizations and journalists can win it back.

Beach erosion along Belleair Beach
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Hurricane Idalia caused significant beach erosion along Belleair Beach on Aug. 31, 2023.

In August, storm surge from Hurricane Idalia left Pinellas County beaches badly eroded. The storm's on the coast made an ongoing problem much worse.

Pinellas County Public Works director Kelli Hammer Levy joined Florida Matters via zoom to explain how a standoff over property rights is complicating beach restoration efforts.

Florida's economy is booming and Hispanic-owned businesses are contributing to that growth. We wanted to find out what that means for the greater Tampa Bay region.

So in October, we visited the offices of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Pinellas County. Entrepreneur and chamber secretary Paula Lacy, and president Eli Gonzales talked about the challenges of moving to a new state and the growing opportunities for Hispanic business owners in our region.

The Republican-led legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis made sweeping changes to both public K-12 schools and state universities in 2023. Targets included the teaching of race, gender and sexual orientation and the appropriateness of books available in schools.

At the start of the year, DeSantis appointed six new members to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees. That board quickly removed New College's president and proposed Florida's former education commissioner, as a replacement. Richard Corcoran was confirmed as president in November, nine months after taking the role as interim president.

In February, WUSF reporter Cathy Carter joined Florida Matters to talk about how Corcoran was chosen to lead the small liberal arts college in Sarasota.

And finally, it's been a pivotal year for baseball in Tampa Bay, with a crucial decision to rebuild Tropicana Field and keep the Rays in St. Petersburg. Baseball has a rich history here: for the past 25 years, the region has had its own major-league team: the Tampa Bay Rays. But for many decades before that, the area played host to many of the biggest teams for spring training.

In July, on the eve of the All-Star game, we talked with Rick Vaughn, former communications executive for the Rays and author of "100 Years of Baseball on St. Petersburg's Waterfront: How the Game Helped Shape a City”, along with Alan Rittner, editorial producer with MLB Advanced Media LP and longtime Tampa Bay sports writer Joey Johnston about baseball's legacy in the greater Tampa Bay region.

Subscribe to the Florida Matters podcast for more.

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.