There was a time when you could count on a local paper, even twice a day. It was published locally, sold locally, with localized biases.
Now? Those corporate overlords of the newspaper industry continue to shed weight, all in pursuit of shareholder value and end-of-year bonuses for the C-suite.
This week’s Exhibit A: The Florida Times-Union shed more staff, attrition the increasingly thin sheet can ill afford.
Gannett offered 500 buyouts companywide, and as First Coast News reports, four TU journalists took them.
Editorial Page Editor Mike Clark, Enterprise Reporter Andrew Pantazi, award-winning photographer Will Dickey and reporter Sandy Strickland are all headed out, representing yet another exodus of talent and knowledge with no replacements on deck.
While an editorial page editor’s ultimate utility is debatable, Clark knows the city like few others and is comfortable in any room.
Dickey’s departure leaves the paper even more short-handed for photographs. (Are they cloning Bob Self?)
And Strickland is an institution.
As with most newspapers, the numbers game is an ugly one these days.
“Like a lot of papers, the TU has steadily lost staff over the past decade … Since being acquired by GateHouse Media in Oct. 2017, the newsroom has lost 40 employees and been able to hire just one,” writes FCN’s Anne Schindler. “The newsroom is now down to just 24 positions.”
Those sticking around know what’s lost.
“The Times-Union is losing more than a century of Jacksonville institutional knowledge in this latest round of newsroom cuts,” remarked columnist Nate Monroe on Twitter.
Pantazi, at least, has a new project lined up. He’s setting up a nonprofit online publishing brand to continue reporting on Jacksonville’s poverty issues and is seeking subscribers.
And it may work. There are journalists out there who make it outside of the corporate umbrella. But the loss will be the paper’s.
Pantazi’s deep dives into election data were among some of the finest data work in the state. Who will replace that?
Like that of GateHouse before it, the Gannett model prioritizes economies of scale and believes that regionalism outweighs localism. It is rooted in erosion of place and locality, one rooted in transitory ethics and short-term thinking.
But the bright side? It could be worse. At least for now, they gave the paper the resources to keep publishing seven days a week.
But for those of us with some gray on our temples who can still recall the pros and cons of taking the TU in the morning versus the Jacksonville Journal in the afternoon. We are acutely aware that the corporations who sought to dominate the print industry don’t care enough to sustain it.
In turn, the print sources that once enjoyed functional monopolies, shaping debates of a city and region, are likewise devalued.
This dynamic shows no signs of slowing down, here or anywhere else.
Drinks to go
After the year you’ve had, the region’s newest Senator thinks you need a libation, maybe two.
Sen. Jennifer Bradley of North Central Florida’s Senate District 5 is looking to make takeout mixed drinks a permanent option, she told Florida Politics this week.
“I’m laser-focused on helping our small businesses. To that end, and in an effort to support our restaurants [that] have been running on fumes, I plan to file a bill that allows restaurants to permanently serve mixed drinks as a takeout option. It’s been a long year; Floridians should be able to get a cosmo-to-go,” Bradley said.
Sen. Bradley is replacing her husband in the office, and he’s replacing her in the spouses’ lounge. Those with long-term memories will remember the former Sen. Bradley’s work on personal liberty issues, particularly his push last year to preempt local bans on front-yard vegetable gardens.
Watch, listen, learn
Rep. Sam Garrison talked with Florida Politics about the one-day Organization Session this week. The new legislator from Clay County said that his goal this week “was to watch, listen and learn.”
And he’s learning a lot.
“Even with the challenges presented by COVID-19, the House was able to get the people’s work done safely and efficiently. Speaker Chris Sprowls’ address was an absolute home run. His priorities of support for law enforcement, entrepreneurship and patriotism resonate in Clay County.”
Regarding what he will go with his seven bill slots for 2021, that’s a more open question.
“I haven’t made any final decisions on specific bills, but am committed to doing whatever I can to relieve the huge financial and regulatory burdens that small businesses that have been forced to take on due to the pandemic. That’s a top priority for me after all that small businesses have been through this past year.”
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who is pushing for an ambitious package of incentives from the city for the Lot J development, gave a little to get a little this week.
WOKV notes that Khan, owner of a 1-8 football team with what has been a historic level of futility under his ownership, will donate $5 million to help the Museum of Science and History move from the Southbank to the Shipyards parcel.
“The best downtown districts in the United States include urban parkland and cultural destinations, and we can have that here in Jacksonville with the Museum of Science and History anchoring a new riverfront park,” said Khan. “I’m hoping my contribution to the capital campaign will spark additional commitment from throughout the region so we can get started on a new downtown. I am confident it will because I know I’m not the only person in Jax who believes it’s time to finally meet and even exceed our potential.”
Khan’s goodwill gesture comes as the Council prepares for a “committee of the whole” meeting to discuss the proposal Thursday, its first meeting since a decision last week to cancel meetings of the Council in light of at least one COVID-19 positive test among the commission members.
In all likelihood, that Thursday meeting will see more City Council pushback against the Lot J proposal — if Council President Tommy Hazouri’s comments to the Florida Times-Union mean anything.
“Bottom line, we want a fair deal for both the taxpayers and the developer,” Hazouri said. “Right now, it appears that the developers are getting the uranium mine, and the city is getting the shaft.”
“I do want this deal to work, but that requires transparency at every level and honest negotiations on both sides,” Hazouri said. “As proposed by the administration, this legislation can’t be a one-way street with no exit.”
“As I have continued to say publicly, we will take as long as necessary to get this deal right,” Hazouri said. “This is a very detailed and complex proposal that I feel mandates we take our time, listen to all the principals, as well as the public, and entertain whatever amendments council offers to bring more equity to the project.”
Among those amendments: the Downtown Investment Authority approving the terms.
Now we go to school
The Jacksonville Daily Record reports that the University of North Florida’s Coggin College of Business will offer Master of Business Administration classes and Master of Science in Management courses downtown this spring.
Civic leaders have long sought this downtown activation, and it’s happening at a pivotal time.
The location is in the heart of the core city: the UNF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in The Barnett Building at 112 W. Adams St. Nontraditional students are among the demographic targets for this push.
Apply by Dec. 21 if you want to start up this spring.
Good news for the ongoing quest in Jacksonville for historic preservation.
The Downtown Investment Authority launched its Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program, an intended shot in the arm for the core city, allowing grants of over $100,000 for unoccupied and underutilized buildings in need of TLC.
Council Member Matt Carlucci, who spearheaded the original Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Ordinance, gave a quote.
“I believe this will be one of the best tools to truly expedite restoring Historic downtown buildings while also helping promote the reuse of older buildings — mostly in the Downtown core — which I call the ‘real Downtown,’ Carlucci said. “I truly appreciate the DIA board and executive director Lori Boyer — this will be a game-changer!”
Keeping track of those using the track – The Eco-Counter at Corkscrew Park was officially dedicated this afternoon by the DIA, @DTJax, @jaxparks, & @JTCRunning. These Eco-Counters keep data to show how many pedestrians and cyclists are using a park and how they are using it. pic.twitter.com/DIO8KR8Z4B
— City of Jacksonville (COJ) (@CityofJax) November 17, 2020
A member of the board of directors for the Jacksonville Port Authority has been honored for his service as a U.S. military veteran.
Retired U.S. Navy Captain Daniel Bean was named a recipient of the Seventh Annual RDML Kevin F. Delaney Hall of Fame Award from JAX Chamber. Since 2014, the award has recognized Jacksonville-area veterans for their contributions to the community.
Bean served as a surface warfare officer and judge advocate in the Navy for 25 years. As a captain in the service, he earned the Legion of Merit award. His military service accolades and his current advocacy for veterans’ issues in the Jacksonville area were all reasons for the JAX Chamber honor.
Bean received the award this month during the JAX Chamber’s Veterans Appreciation Breakfast.
Bean is currently the secretary of the JAXPORT board of directors. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the board in 2019.
While Bean is busy with his JAXPORT duties, he’s heavily involved in other community organizations in Jacksonville. He’s currently board chair for K9s for Warriors, treasurer of the Five Star Veterans Center, and president of the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association.
Public Policy chair
The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy Committee sees some changes as the panel heads toward 2021.
Beth Sweeny has been named the new chair of the committee. She’s replacing Michael Scine in the top slot of the committee.
It was Scine who was one of the founders of the committee in St. Johns County. He helped create the panel in 2016. Scine, of CPA Advisors, chaired the panel from 2019 through the past year.
“I want to thank Michael Scine for leading this group in a tumultuous year,” said Isabelle Renault, president and CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. “Between the epidemic and election, this was a busy year for the Chair and members of the Public Policy Committee. They have laid significant groundwork for a successful next year.”
The Public Policy Committee oversees governmental relations between the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and bodies such as the state Legislature and local governments such as the County Commission. The committee advises the full chamber of governmental and regulatory issues facing local businesses. The panel also makes recommendations for stances by the chamber’s leadership.
Comprising the committee are members from the St. Johns County community who have expertise in areas such as local taxation, public safety, environmental and land use. The panel has taken positions on public debates such as beach renourishment and minimum wage proposals, among other topics.
Sweeny is the director of community and government relations at Flagler College in St. Augustine.
River Report mixed
Researchers from Jacksonville University and several other local colleges in Florida and beyond have issued the 13th annual State of the River Report, a mixed bag of results that point to some improvement in areas of the Lower St. Johns River Basin.
According to Jacksonville University, there are still major concerns for the river’s health, including increased contamination, a growth in algae blooms, and a rise in nonnative species.
The River Report is an analysis of the health of the Lower St. Johns River Basin supported by the Environmental Protection Board of the City of Jacksonville. The main focus is on four principal areas of the river: water quality, fisheries, aquatic life and contaminants. The research team includes professors from Jacksonville University, University of North Florida, Florida Southern College, and West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
The 2020 report reveals that the total nitrogen levels are satisfactory, an improvement from the 2019 River report. There were 85 sanitary sewer overflows — releasing 959,267 gallons — an improvement from 2018. But the report shows some increased contamination levels such as dissolved oxygen levels and the presence of nonnative species. Also rising are concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel and silver.
No moral victories
Moral victories are felt by fans who credit their underdog team with coming close against a superior opponent. An example would be the Jaguars’ narrow 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Coaches preach that there are no moral victories, pointing instead to the reality of the scoreboard. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is the latest to disdain the term.
Like any coach, Marrone is in it to win it, and despite the flood of losses over the past two seasons, each one hurts. During his postgame comments, he was not feeling anything to claim a moral victory. In fact, he was looking and sounding as if he was fighting to keep his emotions in check.
“Every time you play and lose, for me, I’m not going to talk about anybody else; it’s something that’s in my soul that just gets (expletive) ripped out,” Marrone said when asked how much this loss hurts. “So, that’s how I feel. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s this game or the other seven before … and it’s something that you can’t replace. At least that’s how I feel.”
Marrone, the coaching staff and players understood they would need to eliminate mistakes, be fundamentally sound and take advantage of opportunities to pull off a victory against the now 7-2 Packers. While there were good things, “we missed too many things,” Marrone confirmed.
He mentioned going zero for four in third-down conversions in the first half while also praising the play of special teams that included a 90-yard punt return by Keelan Cole, the longest in team history. Marrone also recalled a penalty that took away a touchdown and forced a field goal, a “four-point swing” that represented the margin of defeat.
Marrone also mentioned some positives for running back James Robinson, who rushed for 109 yards and quarterback Jake Luton, making his second career start for the injured Gardner Minshew. Luton had some moments, including a thread-the-needle touchdown pass to Cole to tie the game in the third quarter, but also struggled for much of the game.
It does not get any easier for the Jaguars, who host the 8-0 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at TIAA Bank Stadium. Luton will make his third start at quarterback.