If you get your news from a Gannett Corporation owned news source you did not read about Nikki Fried’s discovery of $350,000 in income she failed to report in 2017 and 2018 as required by law.
Fried amended her financial disclosure forms three days before her gubernatorial campaign announcement, as first reported by Tallahassee Reports.
A quick google search reveals that as of June 4, the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times, FloridaPolitics.com, Tallahassee Reports, and Politico-Florida were the only Florida news outlets to cover the story.
How could this happen?
In 2019, a $1.4 billion merger between Gannett and GateHouse Media put 20 daily newspapers under one owner. The merger was a seen as a blow to journalism.
“I think it’s going to have devastating effects,” says Jennifer Proffitt, a professor and the director of the School of Communication at Florida State University.
Penny Muse Abernathy, a former executive at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times who is now the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina, told the the Tampa Bay Times in 2019 the seeing Gannett put publishers in place for multiple newspapers has not been encouraging.
“One of the things that concerns me about chains that are very, very large is that they tend to manage properties in the same way. That reduces the flexibility of someone on the ground to respond to a unique need or unique expectations of the audience and the businesses in that town. You can do it, but you need to have a really loud voice,” said Abernathy.
Her concerns are reflected in the lack of coverage of the Fried story.
The Gannett papers that serve significant population centers and have yet to report on the Fried story include the Palm Beach Post, Florida Times -Union (Jacksonville), Tallahassee Democrat, Herald Tribune (Sarasota), Gainesville Sun, The Ledger (Lakeland), The News-Press (Fort Myers), Florida Today (Brevard County), Panama City News Herald, Pensacola News Journal, Daytona Beach News Journal, and the Ocala Star Banner.
Is the lack of coverage of the Fried story a lack editorial flexibility, political bias, or both?