With little fanfare, earlier this month Gannett – the parent company of what remains of our hometown newspaper, The Daytona Beach News-Journal – announced an “evolutionary” change that will drastically cut daily opinion pages across its 45-state, 250-title megamedia portfolio.
The reduction in editorial content comes on the heels of a recent restructuring that split Gannett into two domestic business units – Gannett Media and Digital Marketing Solutions – which senior leadership hopes will drive “sustainable revenue and cash flow growth,” as the massive media conglomerate moves toward its goal of becoming a “…subscription-led and digitally-focused media and marketing solutions company…”
That’s corporate-speak for the transition from a newsgathering organization to a ‘heavy on pap, fluff, and advertising/light on local “news”’ online format as newsprint and independent journalism rapidly goes the way of the buggy whip. . .
I’m no expert – but as a voracious consumer of what passes for “the news” in this foul year 2022 – I worry about the future of print media here on this salty spit of land we call home.
While much of our daily newspaper is now filled with homogenized and regionalized USA Today style crapola – liberally peppered with Gannett’s frequent salvos from the frontlines of the partisan culture wars – we are fortunate to have some of the best local reporters in the business working hard on both sides of the Palmetto Curtain to bring us all the Volusia County news that is fit to print.
So why are these gifted reporters and investigative journalists being squeezed out of the Local section by dreck from the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Today, or some syndicated “news service”?
My fellow News-Journal readers knew something was up last November when former editor Pat Rice sadly announced the departure of opinion editor Krys Fluker as she left for greener pastures at the Orlando Sentinel.
Then came the semi-retirement of the incomparable News-Journal fixture Mark Lane, who cut back to a once-a-week column last month. Now, his always excellent Footnote piece is the first thing I turn to in the Sunday edition.
Instead of filling these editorial voids, last week, we learned that the News-Journal has brought on restaurant and dining writer Caroline Hebert (which a staff report reminded all of us stunted dullard’s who have never been north of Bunnell or west of Deleon Springs is pronounced “A-bear”) whose beat will include Volusia and Flagler counties’ “…rich and varied culinary scenes…”
Wait. Say what?
Look, I want to be among the first to welcome Ms. Hebert to our sandy slice of heaven – and I wish her well as she launches on her gastronomic adventure – navigating the “rich and varied” epicurean delights here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – which she might find slightly ‘different’ than the eclectic offerings in her hometown of New Orleans.
I mean, beyond exploring the subtle differences in our corndogs and chicken wings – reporting on the number of failed health inspections and restaurant closings should keep a professional food journalist busy for, oh, a day or two.
I’m kidding, of course.
We have some of the best family owned and operated restaurants anywhere – and although our hoity-toity ‘fine dining’ options are limited, we have a few – along with enough casual chain restaurants, great fresh seafood offerings, steakhouses, food trucks, craft breweries, pub grub, international fare, donut shops, sandwich counters, and established neighborhood favorites to satisfy the tastes of locals and visitors alike.
In announcing Ms. Hebert’s arrival, the News-Journal asked that locals email her with your dining suggestions at email@example.com.
Gannett’s renewed focus on “empowering communities to thrive” through increased focus on advertising products and local business features is admirable – but who will ensure government accountability by investigating and reporting on the critical issues we face?
I am certainly not a “journalist.”
At best a dilettante polemicist, at worst, a blowhard with internet access. . .
In my view, independent journalism and community-focused editorial content is important to the checks and balances that ensure our elected officials – and those who seek high office – will act in the public interest, rather than feathering the nests of their political benefactors.
With the passing of Big John and Mark Bernier we lost two important voices. Their hyper-local radio forums provided a much-needed salon for the discussion of the issues and politics that affect our lives and livelihoods.
Admittedly, social media can be a daunting place to make your views heard in the politically charged static that often dissolves into ad hominem attacks rather than a competition of differing ideas. While Facebook and the Twitterverse may be ‘everyman’s soapbox,’ it is not for the squeamish.
In most cases, the only winners of these vitriolic online wars are the craven politicians (and those who run interference for them) who understand that when We, The Little People are bickering amongst ourselves – no one is watching them. . .
This election cycle, after you take a moment to direct our new food reporter to your favorite bistro, consider sharing your thoughts in an editorial comment or letter to the editor of a local news outlet like The Daytona Beach News-Journal, West Volusia Beacon, Hometown News, Ask Flagler, Ormond Beach Observer, or FlaglerLive! – then attend a candidate forum, look them in the eye, and let your unique opinions on the issues be heard.
Look beyond the tripe and hype of the ‘glossy mailer.’
I guarantee the election season is the only time those who are desperately groveling for your sacred vote will be listening. . .
In my view, we desperately need more community voices to ask the thought-provoking questions, engage in the authentic debate of competing ideas, and offer the honest criticism that ensures political accountability in a place that desperately needs all three.
12 thoughts on “Food for Thought”
DeLand has excellent restaurants for those that are looking for fine dining in addition to all of the other restaurants you mentioned.
This won’t help with all the other issues with the News Journal, but it might keep Ms. Hebert happy.
I am a Dem for 53 years but that doesnt mean I only vote Dem. This November we are voting all red.Gannett I unsubscribed from the Palm Beach Post and DBNJ a few months ago.I will not be bullied to hate Desantis by this company.You have 3 and 4 day old news and I think your reporters work from home as the DBNJ building on Nova has been closed for years.Very little investigative reporting other than Clayton Park.Gannett buys 240 papers and push their Dem side in all of them and use dem news services.We dont hear from local politicians or debates anymore.I read Mark all the time and miss listening to him. Jarleene Almenas from the Ormond Beach Observer is good for a small local paper.WNDB turned to local trash .I can no longer listen to it in the morning and Berniers afternoon program with all politicians and Chitwood is gone.Keep it going Mark.Time to go back to WELE .
Please please please leave the Hometown News alone and do NOT let it become like all the other politically correct and partisan driven Gannett controlled rags that only print articles and opinion pieces that attempt to sway readers minds to their one-sided way of thinking.
Hometown News….. Please please please do not let the politically bent sway you, no matter how generous their offer of “support” is, to change your format/publishing model.
The Hometown News is truly local, interesting and fun to read including the letters which at times can be very light and entertaining.
Stay true to yourself and us Hometown News! We love you exactly as you are!
I predicted this a few years ago in previous comments. I went through this with the Journal News in New York. Fire everyone except 2 or 3 reporters who only have time to rewrite press releases. Print articles from the other newspapers and editorials written by Gannett central politburo. My address was on a database because I owned a gun. Gannett will advocate for an income tax and any democrat running for office. The endorsement for governor has already been written. Still to come will be lifestyle and exercise advice from Lia Thomas. RIP independent newspapers.
Thank you for your focus on candidates and voting.
If you are under the impression that the scaling back of the editorial section is going to result in a lack of truthful, unbiased information about local, state, and federal elections, and the candidates running for them, you should take note that Mark Harper, the News-Journal’s political editor, is a pretty sharp and canny dude and not much gets by him. If you aren’t familiar with his work from past years, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Your local reporters are doing their best to continue to bring you the most essential news as well as news that readers are actively seeking — hence the restaurant reporter with food and dining being at the very top of what readers are looking for — despite the fact that advertising revenue has moved almost entirely online with the bulk going to Facebook and Google. Gannett has no choice but to shift to a subscription-based model, but you should note that there is no longer a 5-story paywall. With the exception of subscriber-only stories (which make up roughly 10% of the News-Journal’s work) as long as a reader registers on the site, they can read as many stories as they want now!!
Listen, y’all really don’t want to know what happens to a town that has no local news presence (think taxes way up, corruption flourishes and investors go bye-bye with no local watchdog). So if mocking or boycotting your local paper is your way of voicing objection to regionally-sourced state news, we get it, we’re not happy about all the changes either, but I think you’ll be disappointed in what that type of protest gets you.
“I never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” Roger Branigin
So it has been since the printing press was invented in 1440. It used to be that the only opportunity to make our voices heard was to write a letter to ‘the editor’ whoever that was, and hope to be chosen for print. Fifteen years ago this month Steve Jobs stood on a stage and held in his hand what he described as an advanced internet communication device. What an understatement! Twitter was but a year old at that time and Facebook was a novelty at three years old. All of that has given the individual more voice than ever. Never mind that we use it to post a photo of a plate of food more than anything of substance. Newspapers have always been a ‘for profit’ enterprise, and plenty of people have critiqued them when they had more power than they do now. To be clear, they don’t wield nearly the influence that they once did. The customers have voted with their feet. The industry has adapted. Those glossy print flyers that show up in our mailboxes don’t have the impact like they once did. There are far too many places to go for information. So the distribution of information has changed. It’s up to the people to find it and separate the wheat from the chaff.
Yes I used to question the Henry Dynasty for endorsement of Andrew Gillum….
Yes they wanted to find a kindred spirit to off set their HATE and inability to work with Ron DeSantis….
The only Governor I can think who ever rolled up his sleeve to help Daytona was Charlie Christ, when he came to town to Remove Derrick Henry from his Daytona Commission Seat.
Leading to the opening of the door to allow more Henry’s.
Insult to Accident
Since the Henry’s were so flagrant with the Association I truly hope the Long Arm of the Law makes it to Daytona…
Sneak Thieves, sic Sheriff Mike Chitwood
Derrick Henry should never been allowed to run for major .If you google his name the history of voter fraud,being fired and quitting his job is almost all gone.Time to say goodbye to Derrick.Have not seen anymore news about Nikki Fried and her ethics investigation of her hundreds of thoudands of income not reported and he hook up with the marijuana industry as her married fiance of 2 years is a bigshot in Florida in that industry.Mark it is time for you to go on the air.DBNJ IS TRASH OLD NEWS.
Take over the news at WNDB as it is also horrible with UFOs and bigfoot on from 12AM to 6AM.Do interviews like Bernier did with politicians and Chitwood
Wait. No HeadlineDorfer on that list of hometown media websites? But it is award-winning! I mean, with the ever up-to-date articles about professional wrestling and the ongoing 10,000 top news stories from 2021, why go anywhere else!!
Chief: you need take over the afternoon community radio program. Stop this delay. You know you are going to do it.
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Amen Brother, the News Journal is a joke. Can hardly read due to all the pop-up advertising.
First thing you see daily, after the digital copy finally loads. Hometown News is better than the News Urinal for the local scene!
And crazy Fred now wants to be on School Board? Did the governors team fully vet him? I bet not…
Ruben might not thrill me, but at least I can trust what he says. Its as bad as the child Jesse T saying she is qualified for school board because she has kids in the school system. So do a lot of us. Sorry Jessie, that is not an actual leadership skill…New Smyrna can do better