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A Decision Inconsistent and Duplicitous, Not Journalistic

Monday will start three commission meetings in a span of just 29 hours. With the summer break, however, it has been since June 22 since the BOCC last met so there’s not much countywide news to update.

Today’s column is once again going to focus on criticism of the Chronicle. The Concurrent did not start as a media critic, and I am going to get back to writing about current affairs soon. However, the Chronicle denied the Concurrent’s request to print our hard copy editions this week citing that the Concurrent is a direct competitor to the Chronicle.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Concurrent is. It does serve as an opportunity to clarify why the Concurrent is not a competitor as well as demonstrate why the Chronicle at times doesn’t behave like a newspaper.

Before we get any further, I have to say that this isn’t censorship or cancel culture or any other phrase thrown around as popularly as it is carelessly when an outlet that leans conservative is met with denial by established media.

A private business has a right to refuse service, one that should be respected, so the decision not to publish is well within their right. But it is curious.

Five years ago the Chronicle published some editions of the Suncoast Standard, a publication that much more directly competed with the Chronicle. The Standard had paying subscribers, printed on broadsheet with a fold, had original reporting and had a higher publication frequency than monthly - all things the Concurrent does not do but that would make the Standard more of a direct competitor.

This means the policy is applied inconsistently. The Chronicle was under different ownership then, so maybe Paxton Media Group changed the rules. Maybe.

We do both compete for local ads, so their claim of competition makes business sense, right? Again, maybe. The Concurrent would be paying for use of the press.

If the Chronicle believed this start-up publication unknown to the masses could steal more advertiser money from the oldest business in Citrus County than what the Concurrent would be paying the Chronicle to print, then yes, the competitor claim makes business sense. I’m flattered at the implication but humble enough to know this seems like an unlikely outcome.

What if their reasoning is they just don’t like me? I have been highly critical of them so what did I expect to have happen? This is where their decision goes from inconsistent to duplicitous. An essential quality of duplicity is deceit.

If the decision was made from a journalistic perspective, publication would be a sure thing. The journalism industry is highly competitive, papers in the same area like the Tampa Bay (formally St. Petersburg) Times and the Tampa Tribune battled for decades until there was a winner, but it’s also collaborative because the mission is to investigate what others cannot and host the public forum for debate. This is how we get the Associated Press, the News Service of Florida and any other press collaboration societies.

If the decision was made from a business standpoint, publication would also be welcomed for the reason outlined above. So if the decision wasn’t to uphold a journalistic mission and wasn’t made for good business, then what motivated it?

A desire to control the conversation. This is where the Chronicle ceases to act like a newspaper and starts to look like something else. Journalists report the news and welcome the conversation. Public relations entities try to control it.

The Chronicle is an excellent community newspaper, something we say often, and we are incredibly thankful for the journalists and staff who work tirelessly to find the stories that reflect our unrivaled hometown charm.

Infrequently, though not insignificantly, the editorial leadership will use this overwhelming goodwill generated by its superb community coverage as a social capital shield against shady practices, usually ones that resemble PR more than journalism. It’s a subtle distinction but with great duplicitous implications for its audience.

My gripe is not with the media or newspapers or even the Chronicle as a publication. I take a position on any individual who interjects a personal agenda using the weight of their organization as collateral contrary to that organization’s greater mission or purpose. I’m against it.

I saw it happen last election cycle from several offenders. It’s going to continue. Media is meant to be a watchdog; to speak truth to power. That’s an impossible standard to uphold when you become the mouthpiece.


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