Tallahassee Democrat Columnist Paid by Curtis Richardson Campaign

Tallahassee Democrat Columnist Paid by Curtis Richardson Campaign

Tallahassee Reports has learned that Tallahassee Democrat columnist Gary Yordon is being paid by the Curtis Richardson Campaign. Mr. Richardson is seeking to retain his seat on the City Commission.

On February 1, 2016 the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Gary Yordon “serves as a Florida correspondent for CNN and writes a column for Gannett newspapers.”

On June 29, 2016, a reporter for Tallahassee Democrat wrote “The pages of the Tallahassee Democrat are home to yet another award-winning writer. Columnist Gary Yordon won second place in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest category.”

On July 16, 2016 the Curtis Richardson Campaign for City Commission wrote a check to a company owned by Gary Yordon for $26,090. The campaign reported that the payment was for  “TV Production, Mail Design, TV Buys”

Yordon wrote a column for the Tallahassee Democrat as recent as August 13th, 2016.

This relationship has not been addressed by the the Tallahassee Democrat, and it is has not been reported in the articles written about the race featuring challenger Steven Hougland and Curtis Richardson.

The potential conflicts with the relationship could be significant.

Consider these points.

First, Mr. Yordon was a registered lobbyist for four different companies with the City of Tallahassee as earlier as 2015.

Second, anyone who knows Mr. Yordon will tell you he is a fierce advocate for his campaign clients.

And third, at least one Tallahassee Democrat journalist has used Mr. Yordon as a source in their election coverage.

Given these facts, it appears rather easy to develop scenarios where Yordon could influence the Tallahassee Democrat coverage of the Hougland-Richardson race.

For example, has Mr. Yordon’s time with the Tallahassee Democrat resulted in relationships with reporters that leads to conversations that benefit Yordon’s clients?

Are reporters which have developed a relationship with Yordon reluctant to pursue stories that are critical of his clients because they know they will get a phone call from a “colleague”?

Take for example the issue of campaign contributions and vendors.

The Tallahassee Democrat, through the exhaustive reporting of Jeff Burlew, has published numerous stories over the last two years about the campaign contributions made to Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons by vendors that received contracts to do work with Leon County Schools.

However, when Mr. Rchardson’s opponent highlighted, in a press conference, the curious relationship between Richardson’s votes and campaign contributions of vendors doing work for the City of Tallahassee, Mr. Burlew, the Tallahassee Democrat labeled “watchdog reporter,”  failed to pen one article.

Did Yordon play a role in this decision?  This is unknown. Would he push back on a reporter over this type of story as an advocate for his client? Absolutely.

These questions are why most newspaper ethics policies state employees should strive to avoid even the appearance of conflict.

Several sources, reluctant to go on the record, thought the arrangement provided the opportunity for candidates to question the Tallahassee Democrat’s election coverage given Yordon’s deep ties within the political community.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the group that gave Yordon an award, states on the Code of Conduct section of their website that columnists should “disclose potential conflicts to readers whenever possible.”

The Society of Professional Journalists write that journalists should “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “remain free of associations that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”

19 Responses to "Tallahassee Democrat Columnist Paid by Curtis Richardson Campaign"

  1. I keep wondering why Steve Stewart is so obsessed with Gary Yordon and it finally hit me. He has a man crush on Yordon. That is too cute. Steve loves

  2. The only way to stop this, as I’ve said before, is to stop putting your hard-earned dollars in Gannett’s pockets. if you want to read online, just take “tallahassee” out of the URL and write in another Gannett newspaper’s site name. I’d recommend “freep” from the Detroit paper, as they have no paywall. This works because the Gannett content is all on the same servers.
    http://www.tallahassee.com... becomes

  3. The Democrat has long been a leftist, crony-promoting messaging machine in a poor imitation of a legitimate journalistic publication.
    Even their systemic collusion with city officials and their business cronies is conducted in an amateurish parody of insider corruption. Calling the Democrat a “newspaper” is an insult to the term.

  4. Sadly nothing new here. Last time I was at a Midtown establishment two city commissioners (one up for re-election) were yucking it up over drinks and dessert with a well known Democrat writer. While that’s not illegal by any means it does make one wonder how fair their reporting can be since they are all obviously good friends.

  5. It’s ok. Curtis Richardson will just deny it and say he is outraged just like he did when he said he did not vote for the 27% tax increase.

  6. Yes, Yordon has a disgusting relationship with the Tallahassee Democrat. Remember it was former editor Bob Gabordi who sat on a board at the Leon County Schools that voted to give Yordon a $90k per year job in media. When the public learned of this absurdity the outcry was so fierce that Yordon promptly resigned. During the time when the Tallahassee Democrat under Gabordi should have been concerned and reporting the failings of the CDA that left the community’s safety vulnerable, editor Bob Gabordi had the county reporter Tamaryn Waters do a video story on Gary Yordon preparing a Caesar salad. Voters need to step up and discern for themselves when the media fails us.

      1. Indeed. He disliked TPD – had connections elsewhere apparently – and the way he swayed the Rachel Hoffman coverage was borderline criminal. Daily headline for THREE WEEKS parroting mostly the same stuff but sensationalizing it to vilify TPD as much as possible: “Poor college student forced to do what the cops wouldn’t” etc. etc. That’s what finally caused me to cancel my subscription.

        1. I witnessed Jennifer Portman – the lead reporter on the Hoffman story – hugging Hoffman’s mom at a press conference after “Rachel’s Law” passed. Unethical, IMHO.

          Perhaps if TPD had debited JP’s bank account for the settkement money instead of the tamxpayers…but hey, who cares about ethics anymore?

  7. Would it be ethically acceptable for Richardson to write a check to the Democrat’s editor? Would it be morally OK for Richardson to write a check to a Democrat reporter? How about to Steve Stewart? If he did, all of them could rely on Richardson’s favorite defense, “it’s not illegal.”
    It would be ethically reprehensible for him to write such checks, and for the recipients to accept them.
    I recall a story from a few years back involving a candidate buying the entire stock of Girl Scout cookies from the daughter of the local union boss. The daughter won the sales contest, and the candidate got the union endorsement. That was legal too, but when the story came to light, the voters elected the other guy.
    I don’t recall hearing what happened to all those cookies.

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