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Passion for news drives link-master

A retired auto industry engineer keeps news junkies linked to the latest local and other happenings from his Web site.

By JUSTIN GEORGE
Published April 27, 2004

LECANTO - Each morning, Jim McIntosh awakes to a dog's nudge, reminding him to pick up the newspaper and put something on the Web for the Citrus County gadflies to buzz about.

The 62-year-old retired Ford Motor Co. engineer, who lives in Lecanto, is the wizard behind mcintoshreport.com.

It's a Drudge Report-styled local blog. For the Internet-illiterate, online dictionary Webopedia.com supplies this definition: "A Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual, typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author."

The site's design is minimalist in gray shades, white background and black letters punctuated by sparse red sentences that warn readers of developing or breaking stories. The site links to mostly local news stories around the county and region, including links to the St. Petersburg Times, and is updated daily.

For Citrus County, a Web site promoting instantaneous local news can seem out of place in a sleepy community of 130,000. But the site is another option for voracious news hounds, politicos and well-read retirees and is just one of hundreds of thousands of Web logs that focus on local news and current events, according to one industry expert.

Although online news associations don't track the number of online news sources that have sprung up the Web, a good indicator of its growing popularity is Google News, a real-time digest of world events that scours more than 4,500 online media sources around the world.

Really, Google News is similar to mcintoshreport.com: They both act as hubs that spin readers to other online news stories through headlines that serve as links. But more than occasionally, McIntosh, a government watchdog type with a phone line plugged into the political grapevine, breaks news himself, teasing tips at the top of his Web site before they appear in local papers.

Most recently, McIntosh first reported that members of the Republican Executive Committee of Citrus County were looking to oust Chairman Wes Stow. He also first reported that the county was backing away from a policy that prohibited people from signing petitions in libraries after a First Amendment flap.

He even does his own research, discovering a few months ago that Major League Baseball pitcher Mike Hampton started a baseball training business that might come into play if the Homosassa native's pitch for a large sporting complex in Citrus gets off the ground.

Why does he do it?

"Frankly, you guys miss a lot," he told the Times. "You guys miss major aspects of stories and salient points."

This is his second foray into online publishing. In 2001, he served as editor and creator of Naturecoastreader.com. But McIntosh said he found the site too labor-intensive because it consisted of content he penned or edited. He scrapped the site.

Recently, McIntosh became inspired by drudgereport.com, a Web site that serves as a portal to punchy, powerful and sometimes shocking news stories around the world, spiced by occasional scoops by the site's author, Matt Drudge.

McIntosh said the site is simplistic, almost crude, which makes it easy to navigate, post and update, and a Citrus-specific offshoot of the Drudge Report was born.

"I don't play golf. I don't fish," he said. "This is what I do."

He wakes up at about 5 a.m. after his two Labrador retrievers, Monty and Star, roust him. He lets them out, and Monty carries the newspapers back to the house.

McIntosh scans through the news stories before linking their online versions to his Web site using - but what else - Apple MacIntosh computers bunkered in a third-bedroom he and his wife, Jeanne, use as an office.

Then he peruses other Web sites and puts up stories relevant to Citrus residents as well as links to offbeat stories. "Bustard, world's biggest bird, making a UK comeback" or "Report: Many Mexican candies contain lead" for instance, were posted Monday.

But the meat of his site, updated sometimes three times a day, is political news, McIntosh's forte. He formed the Libertarian Party of Citrus County, ran for county commissioner in 2000 and served as a former president of the Citrus County Council, a political organization that represents local groups.

"The better people are informed," McIntosh said, "the better decisions will be in the county."

Jeanne, 57, serves as a legislative assistant, and is the local co-chair of the campaign to re-elect President Bush.

"Considering he used to do another online newspaper, where instead of linking to the stories, he wrote the stories, that was much more time consuming," Jeanne McIntosh said of her husband. "So this is a lot less time-invasive than the other, so it doesn't impact me.

"If Drudge got famous doing this type of thing, why not him?"

McIntosh's site isn't the only resident-run news-oriented Web site devoted to Citrus County. One site is devoted to combating what its authors perceive as misinformation coming from state and county officials about a disputed need for a Suncoast Parkway extension through Citrus. The toll road, currently running north from Tampa, now stops at the Hernando-Citrus county line.

Another is filled with anonymous authors' rants about what they don't like in the county, as well as a message board for other topics that range from the foul-mouthed and obscene to the bizarre.

But the site also includes smart political discussion pointed toward the younger crowd in Citrus, plus occasional messages linking to informative local news or stories.

To which McIntosh says: "More power to them."

- Justin George can be reached at 860-7309 or jgeorge@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 27, 2004, 01:05:33]

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