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Making Sense of Florida's Reputation for Weird News

Jan 23, 2014

Florida was back in the national headlines  when a man in a Tampa-area movie theater was shot and killed  in an argument over texting during the previews.      

The incident put Florida front-and-center nationally as a state where -- well -- strange things seem to happen... a lot.

Where did Florida get the reputation of being the go to state for weird news?  And does Florida deserve that rep?

"I thing this reputation is well-earned," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project. "Long before the internet became a thing, many newspapers or television stations had a column or a feature called "News of the Weird." And Florida was one of the chief suppliers of information for that feature."

McBride said Florida is a source for oddball news because it's just not like the rest of the country.

"When you look at the rest of the country, we are pretty different," McBride explained. "We have crazy animals like alligators and giant snakes. We have crazy weather. We have big cities with a lot of people and we also have really strange backwater places.  We have Disney World and other theme parks. And a lot of people come to Florida to remake themselves. So it really is a place where a lot of strange information and news evolves."

But, McBride said, Florida could shed it's weird news image.

McBride pointed out that New York did. "New York City used to have a very similar and deserved reputation. And New York is a completely different place now. So, Florida would have to really settle down in order to change it's reputation. Part of the problem now is there's all these people looking for stories to fill that narrative and so I think it's going to be a self-fulfilling prophesy."