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Florida House sends off veteran political journo Bill Cotterell


[Scott Keeler, Times]

The Florida House of Representatives paused Wednesday to recognize Tallahassee Democrat political reporter Bill Cotterell, who is retiring after four decades of statehouse journalism

Cotterell has covered 10 Florida governors, 42 Legislative sessions and thousands of elected officials.

Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, applauded Cotterell for being “friendly and fair, even when you’re writing stories some of us would prefer you’d not write.”

“He was here when Republicans were a rarity, and he’s here when Republicans are everywhere,” said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee. “Bill, you’re one in a million.”

Cotterell, who grew up in Miami and had his first newspaper job as a paper boy with the Miami Herald, has been in Tallahassee since the 1960s, mostly with the Tallahassee Democrat.

“This is an election year, and you hear a lot about media bias,” he said from the floor of the House. “I think the media is biased towards a good story, more than anything else, more than left or right." 

He also thanked the lawmakers for keeping his job interesting.

“I’d like to thank you and your predecessors for a good story,” he said. “It’s been a good 44-year story.”

 From his latest column:

...I've been lucky to have a front-row seat for an era of major change in the South, from the tail end of the civil rights movement to the dawning of all this new media. In the Old Capitol, we had manual typewriters and House or Senate pages, who carried our two or three stories per day to teletype operators in the sub-basement. Last Wednesday, I sent about 20 "tweets," Facebook notes and online updates from the Florida Supreme Court in three hours.

As an old print guy, I'm supposed to disdain the superficial, trivial "content providers" that we've become. Not me. From hot-lead type to Twitter, I think it's gotten better, overall.

Since deciding to hand in my papers at the end of March, I've often recalled a night when I was 13, growing up in Miami. We went to visit my brother, a Marine at Pensacola, and I remember being awakened to see the state Capitol.

I stared until I couldn't see it anymore, figuring I'd never see it again. Oddly, I didn't think of that when I got here 13 years later, as a young reporter. The memory came back just a while ago, driving up Apalachee Parkway.

I'm no longer awed by the Capitol, but I still feel lucky to work there.

Not having to go anywhere in the morning for the first time since 1967 will be weird, at least at first. I hope to keep my building passes and do some writing, maybe continue columnizing.

My retirement plan includes being a grandfather, too. My son in the Navy, and his wife, recently told us they're expecting in August.

Like I said, I'm a lucky guy.