An investigation by Tallahassee Reports has determined that just one month after he announced he would run for governor of Florida, Mayor Andrew Gillum’s office negotiated with the Tallahassee Democrat to publish ten stories favorable to a Gillum initiative.
The ten stories were written by Tallahassee Democrat journalist TaMaryn Waters and highlighted Gillum’s “Family Friendly Workplace” initiative he began in 2015.
In May 2017, the Mayor’s Office was billed $10,000 for the stories.
The stories appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat during the first two weeks of April 2017, just four weeks after Gillum announced his candidacy for governor.
Journalists Respond to Tallahassee Democrat Partnership with City
The articles did not disclose that the stories were sponsored content paid for by the Mayor’s Office.
Records recovered by TR show that the initial $10,000 bill sent by the Tallahassee Media Group (TMG) was ignored by Gillum’s office until a TMG “collection specialist” intervened in October, 2017.
Ultimately, TMG issued a $2,500 discount and Gillum’s office paid half of the discounted amount on January 8, 2018.
It appears TMG has yet to be paid for the remaining balance.
The investigation began when TR sought an explanation for an expense discovered in the city’s online checkbook for the Mayor’s Office. The expense item indicated that the Mayor’s Office paid the Tallahassee Democrat $3,750 for advertising on January 8th, 2018.
At the time the expense was paid, TR reported that Gillum was in negotiation with the Tallahassee Democrat over another article about his trip to New York with Adam Corey.
After a records request, the City of Tallahassee provided emails, invoices, and when asked about the nature of the expenditure, the Clerks Office provided this statement:
The information regarding the check and invoice was for the Democrat to produce articles about some of our family friendly businesses in 2017.
The articles profiled specific businesses that were deemed to have family friendly work places.
In addition to not disclosing that the articles were paid for by the Mayor’s Office, the profiles do not highlight any relationship with the Mayor’s Office in the title, the branding logo, or in the article.
As seen below, the profile format for the ten stories provides an “About the Series” heading (noted by red star), but does not disclose anything about the relationship between the series and the Mayor’s Office.
While sponsored content has become a part of the media landscape for businesses, the publishing of sponsored content by the Tallahassee Democrat for a gubernatorial candidate during a campaign without disclosure may be a first by a legacy media outlet.
Politico, a global news and information company, labels paid for content before and after the title of the article (see below) and in the beginning and at the end of the article.
Also, Business Insider runs sponsored posts with the disclosure message marked at both the beginning and the end of each article using the word “sponsored.”
A former New York Times employee, Ava Sirrah, recently explained why sponsored content for businesses can be a problem for media organizations.
While the practice is lucrative, it also jeopardizes the editorial independence of newsrooms as journalists become aware of what advertisers want them to discuss. Today, brands are able to work with journalists in unprecedented ways that are difficult to regulate, because very few people know how such partnerships between advertiser and publisher are negotiated.
Tallahassee Reports reviewed each of the 10 profiles and found that the only disclosure is approximately five paragraphs into each profile that states the “series is a partnership between the City of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Democrat that stems from the Family First Initiative launched in 2015 by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (noted by red lines in above image).”
The $10,000 invoice sent by TMG referenced the Mayor’s Office. Also, there is no record of any payment from any City of Tallahassee department other than the Mayor’s Office. See invoice below.
TR will continue to investigate.
what a bunch of hypocrites! As a former Floridian, I’m appalled that the same folks who blame the “leftist fake news media” (for doing what plenty of other outlets do, good or bad) WOULD – and I GUARANTEE IT! excuse or ignore the fraud and “misappropriation” and theft ie conversion of taxpayer $ into campaign $) from the likes of Paul Manafort, Mike Cohen and all the way up to the Don himself… News Maven, you insisted that the FBI follow the money; sorry, but the FBI is a little busy right now following some other money with a much stronger STINK! What a happy day when I got out of Florida
Peter Schorsch just wrote this up at Florida Politics.
The Tally Democrat is an arm of the leftist fake news cabal in our great nation. They are dirty now, they have always been dirty, they always will be dirty. You know this. There is nothing you can do or say to change this. End of story.
Now if you want to make a difference focus on the real story. Your Mayor got the local rag to run his campaign fluff and made the tax payers pay for it.
Focus on what we can do something about and quit fighting windmills by talking about The Democrat.
It’s Mayor Andy … focus!!!
T-Flub has been “writin’ dirty” for almost a decade.
A consummate tool.
My former colleagues are all appalled at this fraudulent scheme.
As a taxpayer, whose taxes were MISAPPROPRIATED in this deception on the public, I demand that Gillum repay the entire invoice to the city. Or be arrested for theft.
It’s even more deceptive then presented. You will see that the City of Tallahassee’s COMMUNICATION Department job as headed by Alison Faris or another section(s) may have overseen (proofread, edited, commented and/or contributed to the writing) portions of some of these articles…..they (COT) have a budgeted line item for advertising through the Democrat. Chase that down. Request all communications via any employees of the Democrat.
I love it. I’m going to start crossing out the balance due on my Bill’s and just make up a number I feel like paying. Thanks Tallahassee!
This latest ethical lapse by the Tallahassee Democrat tops the rest. Many already know the paper engages in investigative journalism only when it has to do so. But this…this calls into question every single story it publishes as news. While the “paid content” is growing in daily, weekly, and monthly publications ethical outlets disclose such “articles’ as paid content. This is appalling. As a frequent critic of the Democrat, even I am shocked by the decision.
I stated it about Fernandez and will say again. When you suspect an employee is dipping into the till, take away their access to the register, checkbook, and safe immediately. If proven, take it out of their last paycheck and send them packing. If false, then no harm done as it was not their money regardless. Simple good business practice. Feelings have nothing to do with accounting. As tax payers, that is our money, not his.
Maybe not a good practice….sponsored content….but widespread. To say this material wasn’t identified as such, or that the Mayor’s office wasn’t identified seems to be a pretty strange interpretation of the text included….which says that the article was done in partnership with the mayor’s office….TR has identified another conspiracy in plain sight?
Where does it say “in partnership with mayor’s office.”?
How nice. Check out Gillum’s contributions. Rick Kearney, CEO of Mainline Information Services, gave Gillum’s campaign a $10,000.00 donation on 1/31/2018.
If you’re still subscribing to that deceptive rag, I can recommend a good phychiatrist to help you.
Meanwhile, I hope Dr. Jackson files legal action against Gillum for his conversion of taxpayer money into campaign funds.
FBI, you following that money?
The partially-paid receipt above should be Exhibit A.
Be assured, FBI following the money!
Keep up the great work! Next up please expose the $600,000 that Rocky Hanna cost taxpayers with his fabrication of lies in his notebook. Please ask for and print the texts from Woody Hilderbrandt to Rocky Hanna and texts from Woody to school board members.
Where will the indescretion end? This individual has absolutely no scruples at all. We continue to pay for this incompenance.
A grass roots effort needs to begin require the resignation of our Mayor
Good comments Tom. Spot on.
If the COT paid the $10,000.00 billing then I would replace “indiscretion” with theft though.
The COT acting City Manager should make it very clear that this is Gillum;s responsibility to pay and demand Gillum pay back the theft ASAP before Gillum’s campaign for Governor accounts fold up and the money becomes untraceable.
Even if COT has not yet paid the billing, Gillum at the very least has displayed intent to steal from the public, by having COT billed for his fluff journalism. Local insider (and Gillum lover) Jack Campbell should bring charges against Gillum ASAP.
Of course we know none of this will happen because hey they love Gillum and it’s just a tiny little indiscretion.
PR reps have taken over for reporting and it is now a shady business. Those elected officials who don’t have humanity, experience, or unable to produce a resume of accomplishments use PR to buy and manufacture such, at the taxpayers expense. Outrageous! It is dishonest..and dangerous and is showing up in the crime rate, economy, etc.
It gives more power to the dishonest which exacerbates the chaos into the stratosphere which were we are at now. It is important that NONE of the current elected officials be re-elected on either side of the street. It is important that honest, smart, and accomplished people step up with the “grass support” of the voters.
Mr. Perrin, Jr….I think you would be a perfect candidate and should consider throwing your hat into the ring to restore the humanity, dignity, and honesty to our city. Please seriously consider this.