Former Jacksonville Mayors Call For Investments In Local Newspaper

Mar 19, 2021

Four previous Jacksonville mayors have signed on to a letter asking Gannett and their parent company to hire more reporters for the city’s daily newspaper.  

Tommy Hazouri, John Peyton, Alvin Brown and John Delaney all asked The Florida Times-Union owners to “approve hiring journalists.”  The mayors say they have seen first-hand the essential role the local newspaper plays in the civic life of Jacksonville.  The Times-Union is a WJCT News partner.

Speaking Friday morning during WJCT News’ First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, Delaney said the mayors are concerned that a newsroom of just 22 employees is covering such a large metropolitan area. 

“I’m stunned that the Times-Union frankly has been able to do as good a job as it has with a fraction of the reporters that it had maybe 20 years ago,” he said. “But it’s a critical part of the government; to check it. And that’s why it’s known as the fourth estate, it’s the fourth branch of government, and it allows the people to really be a functioning part of a democracy.” 

The mayors’ statement is part of a public awareness campaign launched by the Times-Union NewsGuild, the union presenting the newsroom. 

According to research done at University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, between 2005 and 2020, more than 25% of local newspapers went out of business. 

“Simultaneously, half of all local journalists disappeared, as round after round of layoffs have left many surviving papers – the gutsy dailies and weeklies that had won accolades and Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting – mere ‘ghosts,’ or shells of their former selves,” researchers wrote

A subsidiary of New Media Investment Group, Gannett owns just over 100 local newspapers around the country as well as the national outlet USA Today. During the coronavirus pandemic, Gannett has laid off about 500 employees.

Hear the entire interview with John Delaney and the Friday Media Roundtable on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, which encores at 8 p.m. 

Michelle Corum can be reached at mcorum@wjct.org, 904-358-6308 or on Twitter at @MCorumonME.