No News Is Bad News

This paper looks interesting.

Local news is endangered nationwide.

That’s not good news.

Democracy really does die in darkness.

According to a recent report on the state of local news, there are 204 counties in America with no news outlets and 1,562 counties with only one.

The Local News Initiative at Northwestern University reports that 2,900 plus dailies and weeklies have failed since 2005, including 130 in 2023.

Technically, we don’t live in a news desert, but our news diet is full of empty calories.

We have two daily newspapers that are shells of what they once were, and with all due respect to my friends in local TV News, they cover “big” and “visual” stories. They don’t cover the nuts and bolts of cities, the stuff you need to know.

What’s filled the vacuum are anonymous emails, social media posts (that are often way off base) and well-meaning citizen journalists who try, but often fall short for lack of time, reach and resources.

When I moved to South Florida in 1987, the Boca-Delray area enjoyed wall to wall coverage. We had three daily newspapers (the Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Boca News and on big stories the Miami Herald would come to town), the twice weekly Monday Thursday Papers, a few local magazines, a handful of local radio stations (with actual news departments) and three TV stations.

You had to work hard to be uninformed in those days. Reporters were part of the community; we knew our beat reporters and they were often with us for years.

It wasn’t uncommon to see editors at City Hall watching meetings and trying to get the small details right to make their stories better. Today, editors sit in some remote newsroom (or in their living rooms) and my guess is many wouldn’t know Atlantic Avenue from Atlantic Boulevard. Ugh!

If you want to see how out of touch they are, read their political endorsements—utterly clueless. Check that, embarrassingly clueless. I mean pull your hair out, scream at the moon, pinch yourself to see if your hallucinating clueless.

I digress.

Sadly, the internet ate newspapers.

Local journalism is a casualty of technology and frankly some bad decisions by corporate actors who killed papers by the thousands.

Newspapers caused some of their own struggles.  Many failed to invest in their newsrooms and the industry missed the boat on how tech would devastate their bottom lines. Craig’s List and eBay destroyed classified ads, Zillow and the like took away real estate ads and Google took the rest.

Yet, we need journalism.

The loss of local newspapers means we know less about the places where we live and the people who serve us. I believe we’ve lost a great deal of civic engagement because we’ve lost newspapers and because we’ve ceded the public square to those who yell the loudest or those who have an agenda.

Yes, the very notion of community is at risk as we sink into our phones. I was a young reporter in a Delray Beach where reporters competed for scoops, fresh angles and what we called “enterprise” stories that were a little more in-depth than taking dictation at some commission meeting.

I’d like to think the community was better informed and more engaged as a result. More people voted, more people volunteered, and more people turned up at city sponsored charettes. (Remember those?) And if you must look up the word, it’s because we haven’t had a gathering of the community to share ideas in a long time.

We were also building back then, downtown needed CPR, neighborhoods were plagued by crime, there was a sense of urgency to breathe life into the city and to attract investment. These days we wrestle with success. (P.S. I’d much rather manage success than deal with a crack cocaine epidemic.)

So, when I hear candidates vow to solve traffic downtown or complain about leaf blowers, I scratch my head. We worked 25 years to put traffic on Atlantic Avenue. And the only leaves blowing were tumble weeds down our main street.

Want to solve traffic? It’s easy, create places nobody wants to visit.

For the rest of us, if you want to avoid traffic downtown, please use the grid system. Delray has wonderful “bones”—as a result I can zip around town by using the grid. I use Atlantic when I want to see what’s going on. It’s a great street my friends, but if I have get somewhere quick I use our wonderful grid.

But let’s get back to local journalism.

Regardless of where you are in your city’s lifecycle journalism is important. Accurate Information is valuable currency.

So, is there hope? If so, where?

I have some optimism in a nascent effort called “Stet Media.”

“Stet” is an old copy-editing term, lost on a generation of young journalists but the term brings a smile to this former reporter. Stet Media Group provides local news coverage in Palm Beach County.

From their website “ Yep. We’re different.


We don’t chase the story of the day. No car wrecks. No clickbait. (OK, we’ll tell you when a Cheesecake Factory is opening. Because: cheesecake.)


Our passion is public interest journalism. That means the stories we write, how we engage with readers and the events we hold are all guided by one question: How are we serving the community?


In town after town, news has gone dark in Palm Beach County. There are plenty of hardworking reporters, but years of cutbacks have narrowed reporting to fewer topics and fewer towns. Bloggers and smaller news organizations are doing great work, but too many are flying below the radar.

That’s where we come in. We’re writing stories others aren’t. We emphasize context, not just news. We’ll share important documents. We’ll highlight compelling stories from other reporters and show you where you can read more of them.”

Music to my ears.

Stet just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I wish them well. Their reporting is stellar. There’s talent at work here.

They tend to be West Palm/North County focused but maybe as they grow they’ll dedicate some resources to Boca-Delray–we sure have our share of news and misinformation.



Random Thoughts…

Random thoughts on the passing scene…

Last week, I shared that I was invited to be the inaugural speaker for the “Paw Power Hour” at Palm Beach State College’s Boca Raton campus.

What an honor, what a turnout, what a wonderful opportunity to interact with students and faculty.

We talked about leadership in difficult times, careers, education, entrepreneurship, and the challenges facing students (and educators) in a high-priced economy that is challenging for everyone.

Provost Van Williams is striving to build a special culture on the south campus and based on the people I met, it’s working.

I love the mission of state colleges and believe they perform an essential role in our society.

If you have a chance, visit the campus, sign up for a course and tell our legislators that we need to support the men and women who are educating our future workforce.

These types of institutions often fly under the radar, but places like Palm Beach State College are the backbone of our community.

I was grateful for the opportunity to learn and share a little of my story.

I was also thrilled to learn about the existence of the Kimmel Leadership Academy.

A group of 27 students recently went through the program thanks to a generous gift from the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Family Foundation.

The Kimmel’s live in Delray. They are wonderful contributors and philanthropists.

The curriculum for the Kimmel Leadership Academy, based on the Social Change Model of Leadership, was developed by Dr. Kalisha Waldon, a professor at the PBSC Boca Raton campus. It emphasizes seven key values that individuals, groups and communities should strive for to create change through leadership.

The participants were picked from nearly 100 applicants. During the academy, students learned about team building, personal branding, understanding their values, etiquette, and other topics. Each student also received a $1,000 scholarship and were  recognized at a campus awards banquet.

This is the kind of effort we need to build our next generation of leaders.

PBSC is doing their part and it’s so exciting.

The Vital Role of Local News

I’ve long been passionate about the importance of local journalism.

So I’ve been pouring through new research released by the Democracy Fund that shows the power of local news done right.

Some of the takeaways to ponder:

  • Strong local journalism = more people turning out to vote. 


  • Weak local journalism = fewer people vote.


  • Thorough local journalism helps people be less biased when considering candidates for office.


  • Quality local journalism can counter divisive national narratives that contribute to polarization.


  • Every dollar spent on local news produces hundreds of dollars in public benefit by exposing corruption and monitoring government spending. 


  • People feel a stronger sense of community in places that have strong local journalism.


  • Local news keeps communities informed during times of upheaval, like disasters, protests, and pandemics — when people need critical information to engage their communities and leaders.
  • Important to remember: Local news isn’t inherently good for communities just because it’s local. It needs to be good local journalism.

I’ve long felt we’ve been underserved and ill-served by some of our local media—sorry guys. TV news does a good job with weather stories but lacks enterprise or investigative journalism and print has dried up.

The lack of a local water cooler—so to speak—gives rise to lots of misinformation on the Internet and social media that can be very harmful to a community.

In Delray, we have seen voter turnout crater. That’s not the sign of a healthy community. Local government matters and those who get elected can and do have an outsize impact on our quality of life.

Back in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, locals had a rich diet of local news: The Monday-Thursday papers, Boca/Delray News, Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel and even the Miami Herald (on big stories) covered all aspects of local government. People were informed and involved. It made a difference.


Which leads me to Friends of Delray.

For a long time, I stayed away. I was rooting for them and I supported the mission of bringing the community together, promoting transparency and good government, but I’ve seen prior efforts fizzle and quite frankly I’m exhausted. It’s time for a new generation of leadership to step up and right the ship.
Seeing a once independent and successful CRA taken over by politicians in the middle of the night and Old School Square evicted from the campus it created, loved and supported for 30 plus years takes the wind out your sails. Life is just too short.

But I like this group. We haven’t had this spirit here  in quite some time.  Their work is needed. so I will do my part.  I hope you will check them out and if you like what you see. maybe you can help too. They need the community behind them.

Their website, e-blasts, social media posts and now podcast/videos are not traditional journalism per se. There is a point of view, but from where I sit that point of view is to promote local non-profits, urge citizen involvement, strive for transparency in government and dialogue among neighbors. They seem very reasonable and we can sure use reason.

Check it out and make up your own mind. Here’s a link to their site which includes articles and a link to their newly launched podcast.

Goodbye and thank you Fed

He never did play the Delray Open.


But that’s about the only gap in Roger Federer’s resume.

The tennis legend announced his retirement last week thanks to age and a balky knee.

What a career!

What a gentleman!

Fed has been the best ambassador for his sport imaginable and leaves behind an unforgettable legacy and is a case study in grace and class.

So, whether you play tennis at Path Reef Park or Pickleball at Pompey Park you may want to channel your inner Federer and see where it leads.

He will be missed.

Reading List

I’m on a reading tear lately and I thought I would share some of the books that are well worth your time.

“Saved by a Song” by singer Mary Gauthier is an honest, emotional and raw autobiography of an artist I have grown to love and admire.

Music is so powerful and such a restorative force in our lives. Mary’s song “Mercy Now” should be an anthem for our time. It’s certainly an antidote for some of the poison and hatred in the air these days. She’s coming to the Broward Center in January and we got tickets. I can’t wait.

“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott has long been on my radar. As someone who loves to write, I’ve been told that Lamott’s book was a must read. I finally got around to it and she delivered. A great treatise on the joy and difficulties of the writing life told by a sensitive soul.

“Like a Rolling Stone” by Jann Wenner is a tome and I just started it but can’t put it down. The founder of Rolling Stone magazine has met all of my heroes and he’s a terrific storyteller. What a life…


Until next week.