Skip Foster, the new publisher at the Tallahassee Democrat, was greeted as a liberator in his maiden speech to the Capital Tiger Bay Club.
The gray-haired eminences who make up the Club’s membership know the difference between a good newspaper and a Chamber of Commerce rag. They’re embarrassed that the Times – New York and Tampa Bay — regularly come to town to break stories that were there, sometimes for years, for the Democrat’s taking.
Mike Pate, the last publisher to serve at the Democrat before it was sold to Gannett by Knight-Ridder, set the stage for Foster’s highly anticipated appearance with a series of jokes about Foster’s predecessor, who “few of us ever saw” and the recently departed executive editor who had a disturbing propensity to write about his exercise program.
Foster gave the people what they wanted to hear.
The “sacred mission of holding the powerful accountable.”
A fulltime Capitol reporter.
A strong editorial voice that “may get latched to issues, but not to people.”
Working on it.
Time will tell whether Foster has the clout at Gannett and the competence in the trench to make the Democrat a newspaper that readers can once again trust.
The early signs are not promising.
The day after Foster spoke to Tiger Bay, his paper launched, on its front page, a Russian novel-length series of reports on infant mortality and low-birthweight babies bearing the corporate logo of one of Tallahassee’s two hospitals.
Readers can be forgiven for thinking that this is a business model that is very much “latched to people,” and very much not conducive to “the sacred mission of holding the powerful accountable.”