Local news done differently

Magdalynn Pollitt, Staff

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Magdalynn Pollitt
Joshua Santos films John Jacobs for a Tampa News Force interview

It is a typical Friday night in the heart of Tampa, which means there is nothing typical about it. Lights from police cars can be seen outside of the  bar Franklin Manor. Is this just a routine traffic stop, or something more? Most people passing by are curious, but do not stop.

But John Jacobs and Joshua Santos of Tampa News Force are not most people. They have been waiting for this moment, actively driving around hoping to find some police activity. At first, they attempt to speak to several passers-by, hoping to gain information on what happened. This proves largely unsuccessful. But then, the cops exit the building with a man in custody.

Holding nothing back, Jacobs rushes towards them.

“What did you do?” he asks.

“I was hit with brass knuckles,” says the guy being arrested.

“And they’re mad at you?”, Jacobs asks.

This is just a glimpse into the world of Tampa News Force. This bizarre concept for local news was the brainchild of two local comedians with journalism degrees.

According to Santos, “[We] just did a lot of on street interviews with people. [We] came up with a logo because you can’t get much places without a news organization so we have one now.” This has opened many up many opportunities for the duo, including requests to speak on Podcasts and requests to cover real news events.

“It’s just a way for people to know we are legitimate. We’ve been covering whenever we see cops. We just go and see if they’ll talk to us and sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.”

There are plenty of news stories to be found in the Tampa area, but not all of them get covered. Tampa News Force hopes to fix that.

Santos adds, “We live around the Tampa area, and we see tons of things happen that aren’t covered by the news.”  This is where they come in, covering stories that aren’t important enough for television but of great local interest.

Their motto is simply “We do news.” However, the way they do news is just a bit different than how you’d expect. It isn’t exactly satirical. “We just report the news in a funny and joking way,” describes Santos.

This has garnered them a lot of buzz, both positive and negative. On the good side, they receive a flood of messages on their Facebook page, where people invite them to come cover their events. But they also receive a lot of backlash for what they do.

Notably, Howard Altman and Tony Marrero of Tampa Bay Times criticized them on Twitter for their reporting on the Seminole Heights serial killings last year. But Jacobs and Santos would not take this criticism sitting down.  They boldly tracked down the journalists and filmed themselves approaching them in their office. About the meeting, Santos says, “Let’s just say they’re scared of us now and they should be because we’re out here trying to get the real scoop.”

Jacobs and Santos are both very active in their local comedy scene and they can be seen at comedy open mics almost every night, including Thursday nights at The Improv in Centro Ybor. For Tampa News Force content, you can check out their website at tampanewsforce.com. To report any pieces of interest to Tampa News Force, text (813) 433-0267

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