ST PETE TIMES WRITER FIRED OVER RONDA STORMS MYSPACE COMMENTS-Andrew Stelzer

05/05/06

Today both the Tampa Tribune and the ST Petersburg Times reported that TBT arts columnist Gina Vivinetto has resigned from the newspaper after acknowledging that she posted several “contributions� to a phony website that mocked Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms.

Vivinetto has been employed by the St Pete times since 1990….For nearly 6 years she was the paper’s pop music critic, but moved over to the paper’s new tabloid – which began as a weekly a couple of years and more recently into a daily paper.

The comments on the myspace.com profile of Storms were of “mocking Ronda Storms in a somewhat sexual nature “, according to Times Executive Editor Neil Brown.

The Tampa Tribune reported that Brown said that although Vivinetto posted the comments on her own time, Times managers felt they compromised the paper's journalistic integrity

In an email interview on sticksoffire.com Vivinetto noted that she did NOT post the comments under her name, but instead under the name of a gallery she runs. She also did not mention any affiliation with the St. Petersburg Times.

Vivinetto defended her actions by writing: �Ronda is a public figure - as am I - to a degree. I mean, toughen up. Expect people to say they don’t like you. But I didn’t even say that. I (or Bombshell Gallery) said, “You left your panties here.� In another one, I called her “Hot stuff.� The third entry invited A FAKE PROFILE to come see an all-lesbian band playing at my gallery.

She also noted that she was paid by tbt to help write a parody article in September, in which several local celebrities, including Ronda Storms, are characters in MTVs the real world. In that article, which is still available of the St Pete times website, Storms and Debra Lafave have a catfight, Storms kisses general Norman Schwarzkopf, Storms proclaims the phone book "lewd and indecent" and promises to cut funding to Verizon, and Storms is convinced by local artist Sterling Powell to cancel her exorcism and stop wearing leopard print.

Vivinetto writes today “We poked all kinds of fun at Ronda, and I got a paycheck for it! But I can’t do this on my own time, or else I am “compromising my journalistic integrity!�

In another email post She wrote that she viewed the fake Ronda Storms profile as a sort of artistic and political project and by leaving snarky comments I felt I, like many others, was participating in it. “

Vivinetto’s association with a group united against Ronda Storms call for a ban against gay pride was certainly no secret. She organized a concert last fall at Skippers Smokehouse called “BAN this�, a reference to the vote last June by the Hillsborough County Commission banning gay pride events – a vote that led to a major protest through Tampa weeks later.

She was also interviewed by this news program last year when an art show took place at Covivant Gallery called the Family Values Portrait Project.

ACT

In her e-mail, Vivinetto acknowledges that being a journalist requires objectivity. But she said she had a hard time keeping her mouth shut “in the face of evil�

She ended her note by writing that so she’s not a “journalist� in quotes anymore, she’ll always be a writer.

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