Florida man: why so many crazy stories come out of the state


He's not really a person, but rather the trope of all Florida men who made the headlines for doing something … unusual.

And he is now playing in the latest fad of the internet: the Florida Man Challenge, in which you search for "Florida Man" on Google and your birthday to see what crazy news of the state is popping up.

There are several theories:

  • Florida's state archives laws allow journalists to easily report stories of wild crimes
  • The important and varied demography of the state. which is conducive to strange events
  • The weather, which some believe could play a role

But below all that, there is sometimes a deeper element at play in many of these "Florida Man" stories – one, it's not a matter of laughing.

Easy access to public archives

Thanks to Florida's strict laws on public records, also known as Sunshine Laws, it's easy for journalists to get their hands on police incident reports and write reports that attract the attention of the public. # 39; s attention.

"Florida has one of the largest laws on public records in the country," said Barbara Petersen, president of Florida's First Amendment Foundation.

You can access basic information about crime almost in real time, Petersen added.

"As soon as this incident report is filed (by law enforcement), we can go to apply for public record and obtain it."

A huge and diverse population

The crazy headlines could also concern a huge and diverse population that interacts under sometimes suffocating humidity.

"People do not recognize how huge Florida is – the number of people per square kilometer is extremely small," said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, in St. Petersburg, Florida. "When you put more people in one place, you will end up with more crazy stuff."

The population of Florida has more than 21 million inhabitants. In addition, the state had more than 126 million visitors in 2018. And although it is a large state, most of its residents are concentrated along the coast or near large amusement parks. said Florida journalist Craig Pittman, who wrote a book about Florida quirks.

Sunny weather

To top it off, it 's hot and sunny all year round, so people are always out there.

"They will end up chasing each other with machetes and arguing (about) whose dog pooped on the lawn of which," said Pittman.

The real tragedy behind a lot of stories

While the Internet challenge can be fun, history can tell more.

"It's good to laugh at the fun things happening here, but keep in mind the reverse too," said Pittman. "All Florida Man's stories are not funny to laugh at, some have a real tragedy behind them."

When he took up the challenge, said Pittman, all the stories that arose "were sad, really."

Although not applicable in all cases, mental health issues have often played a role, Tompkins said. According to the Florida Policy Institute, mental health is a major problem in Florida, which ranks last in terms of funding for mental health.

"When journalists' work is fundamentally mocking the crime and activities in which no reasonable person would be involved, it is incumbent on us to go beyond laughter, laugh and sneer and look at where there is a problem more. important, "said Tompkins.

"It would be wrong to think that Florida has a crazy crime rate – our rate of violent crime is falling," he said. "What is very high, however, is the mental health epidemic."


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