Florida public records laws help "Florida man" stories trend

Published: Mar. 22, 2019 at 5:48 PM EDT
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By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News

March 22, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A viral sensation is putting Florida in the spotlight.

the bizarre stories that come out of the sunshine state, by challenging people to Google their birthday and the phrase "Florida man." They are then asked to post the corresponding news story on social media.

The entertaining trend is no surprise to Florida natives.

"Every time we think about it, it's, it must be something in the water, because it's always something crazy coming out of here, as opposed to other states," said FSU student Christian Chambless, whose "Florida man" story described a man who carried a World War 2 grenade into a Taco Bell.

But, it's more than just the water.

The "Florida man" trend lies in part with Florida's broad public records laws.

Under the Sunshine Act, the public and the media are given access to crime reports almost immediately after they happen, like the daily booking report, which is posted almost as soon as a person is booked into jail. That information allows reporters to detail the narratives quickly.

Barbara Petersen, the President of Florida's First Amendment Foundation, said the the easy access partnered with the novelty makes these stories take off.

"It's fun to say 'Florida man,'" she said. "(Both) the fact that we do get access to that information early on, but also the branding."

And although the challenge is bringing some laughs, some people are saying not to overlook the seriousness of the crimes.

"It's only funny if you're reading about it . I'm sure it's not funny if you're the victim. I mean it's scary," said Susanne Wood, who teaches at TCC.

Her Florida man story detailed a man who was harassing people at a south Florida park, yelling racist remarks, with a swastika painted on his chest.

"It's humorous because it's so outrageous, but if that was your kid being threatened by some guy like that, that's a very serious crime," she said.