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Friday, October 25, 2019

A reporter for a major Florida newspaper is also an operative for the Republican party

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2019 at 5:34 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA DANIELLE ANDERSON/INSTAGRAM
  • Photo via Danielle Anderson/Instagram
An Instagram photo from Oct. 24 shows a woman next to a massive pickup truck with a custom wrap showing President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence giving two enthusiastic thumbs up, along with their re-election campaign slogan, “Keep America Great.” The caption of the Instagram post reads “Meet Danielle Anderson, President of the Flagler County Republican Club.”

Anderson is also a reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a Gatehouse Media property and the area’s largest daily newspaper covering Volusia and Flagler counties.



“As a mom, journalist, activist and community influencer, she’s making strides with the Flagler County Republican Club,” continues the post. “We just don't know how she does it all!”

Anderson’s profile on the Flagler Republican Party website confirms her role as the GOP club president and that she’s the owner of Ella Notorious, LLC, a “public relations and media company.” Her profile page hasn't been updated in over four years. Posts on the GOP site under the same byline as her company include “Flagler Republicans Rock The House for 2020,” a press release for a Trump 2020 rally from last September, and a story from 2014 titled “What Governor Rick Scott Has Done for Florida.” 

Anderson’s most recent story for the Daytona Beach News-Journal is also about Florida politics.

Posted four days ago and headlined “Senator's visit boosts Flagler's Teens-in-Flight program,” Anderson’s piece is essentially a glowing write-up of Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s tour of a local flight program. “On Friday, Flagler County-based Teens-In-Flight received a boost when U.S. Sen. Rick Scott dropped by to visit with students, instructors and board members of the aviation nonprofit,” reads the story.

An accompanying photo, by Anderson, shows a room filled with Republican leaders like Scott, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, and Palm Coast City Councilman Jack Howell.

Nowhere in the article does it mention Anderson’s affiliation with the local GOP, nor that she’s simultaneously covering the same politicians she helps elect. And none of Anderson's other, less political, stories for the paper mention that she owns a PR company.

“Danielle Anderson has been a freelance community correspondent for The Flagler/Palm Coast News-Tribune, a free weekly distributed in Flagler County, since 2012,” tweeted News-Journal editor Nick Klasne. “She does not and has never covered government meetings or politics. Her political views are her own business.”

Other News-Journal reporters also defended Anderson’s dual positions.

“That I've never, before today, noticed Anderson's politics, speaks a lot to her ability to cover w/o visible bias,” tweeted Casmirra M. Harrison. “That I get innumerable emails suggesting we're a leftist rag despite this revelation, says even more. Should she drop a role? Maybe. But it hasn't showed on the pg.”

As others have pointed out, Anderson’s byline is clearly on a Florida political story and while her personal politics are most definitely her own business, working for a political party that you’re supposed to objectively cover for the region’s largest daily newspaper is in fact a giant conflict of interest that readers should be aware of.

"Danielle is a freelance writer who covers community events in Flagler County," said News-Journal editor Pat Rice in an emailed statement. "She doesn't cover the government of Flagler, politics or hard news events. Flagler County is an important part of our market and we want to provide thorough, transparent and unbiased coverage for the benefit of our readers. We are aware of her involvement in Flagler politics, so we limit her assignments to community features and events."

Of course, every paper has their own code of ethics, but most organizations' rules follow the guidelines outlined by the Society of Professional Journalism, which state: Journalists should "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts,” and “avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”

Orlando Weekly was unable to reach Anderson for comment.

“Newspapers have nothing without credibility,” tweeted Scott Travis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with the Sun Sentinel. “Allowing the local Republican (or Democratic) head to write op eds is fine. Paying them to write news stories? I can't even believe we're having this conversation.”

In an email response to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Klasne wouldn’t speak much on the issue, whether other writers have similar conflicts of interest, or if he believes it's the paper's responsibility to disclose information of this nature to the public.

Klasne did however attack this reporter's credibility for tweeting about this story before writing about it, and he also referred to a screenshot of Anderson’s most recent article and the photo of her next to a Trump-themed truck as “unrelated images” and “fact-less nonsense.”

“I repeat: Danielle is NOT and NEVER has been an employee of The News-Journal,” said the editor. “She is a community correspondent — a freelancer — who is paid by the piece and receives no other compensation or benefits from the company.”

Klasne did not say if Anderson will continue to write for the paper in this capacity, but he did take the opportunity to put out a call for new contributors on Twitter.

“If you live in Flagler County and are interested in freelance work, contact me,” tweeted Klasne in the same thread. “We pay freelancers by the piece.”
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