When our first Sunshine State News team arrived wide-eyed in Tallahassee in 2010, all hell was about to break loose and we didn't know it.
Gov. Charlie Crist believed he had a lock on a U.S. Senate seat, Attorney General Bill McCollum was riding comfortably toward the governorship and nobody I know had ever heard of multi-millionaire hospital executive Rick Scott.
But, oh, how the rise of the tea party in Florida shattered those expectations. And SSN fit right in with the surprises.
I mention that now because this week is Sunshine State News' eighth anniversary.
It's hard to believe we've been writing about Florida politics and business with a right-of-center edge for two years shy of a decade. Few among the local press corps predicted we'd last past a year. But look at us: still here, still loving what we do and more than anything, we love doing it for you, our readers.
Our anniversary is just an opportunity to say thank you.
We've discovered a lot about you in eight phenomenal years.
We discovered you have a healthy sense of humor. You like the quirky. You can laugh at us and at each other. Our two best-read stories in all this time were "Sen. Mike Bennett Caught Looking at Porn on Senate Floor" on April 29, 2010 (see the video clip on this page); and on Dec. 11, 2013, "John Morgan's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Like I say, quirky and for some odd reason, amusing. Both generated "hits," believe it or not, rising into the millions.
We discovered you like us to get in your bloodstream, go where mainstream reporters generally don't, dig deep on issues that matter and expose hypocrisy wherever it lives. You push us to be better than we thought we could be. Every day.
We discovered a great many of you think of each other as family. You've developed a connection. Your comments beneath stories show us how well you understand each other, even when you don't agree. Sometimes it actually strikes me as if we're all sitting around a dinner table together, having it out over another serving of mashed potatoes.
Most of all, we discovered you have infinite patience and loyalty. We don't do everything right all of the time, God knows. We sometimes are short-handed, we can make bad calls, we can miss stories you want to read, glitches can develop in our system. And you sound off about them, too. But you also give us another chance. You stick with us. You don't throw us away.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for all of it. You're the reason Sunshine State News is here. As we go forward, hopefully for another eight years, please never forget that you are the heart and soul of who we are.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith