Lake City Reporter publisher
violates basic ethical standards
Columbia County, FL (posted
January 8, 2010)
Lake City Reporter publisher Todd Wilson.
Columbia County Florida's local newspaper, the Lake
City Reporter, has violated basic journalistic ethical
standards by accepting a free trip to North Carolina,
paid for by the taxes of the working families of
Columbia County, sacrificing his
independence and questioning his integrity.
Todd Wilson, the former editor, and now publisher of
the Lake City Reporter, wrote hundreds of words about
the county junket to the North Carolina “Dream Park” in
what surely was a dream, all expense paid trip for him.
exception of such inexpensive, promotional items as
hats, mugs, etc., Poynter faculty and staff do not
accept gifts from individuals or organizations that are
the focus of coverage ... (Go
to ethics guidelines)
The Lake City Reporter, which for years has been a
mouth piece for County Manager Dale Williams and the
County Commission, has never asked the hard questions of
county government and has looked the other way during
all sorts of transgressions, intentionally leaving the
public in the dark about many of the details that a true
news organization would cover and report.
When its reporters do ask the hard questions, most
often, they are red lined out of the story by the
editor's pen. If this happens repeatedly, one stops
asking the hard questions.
Fact checking the remarks of county officials is
something that is difficult to find in the pages of the
LC Reporter and follow up questions are mostly
Todd Wilson is not a stupid man. One can't be and run
His "Dream Park" story was informative, as far as it
Karl Burkhardt, of the Lake City Journal, also accepted
the free trip. Here he is rudely shooting off his flash
in the face of another speaker.
The combined air fare for the Dream Junket was 4,000
dollars. The county paid for its employees and non
county employees to fly to North Carolina and presumably
paid for their meals. Included in this group were two
non county employees and two members of the press, Todd
Wilson, of the LC Reporter and Karl Burkhardt, of the
Lake City Journal, who got sick and couldn't make it.
Neither of these journalists saw anything wrong with
accepting the gratis trip. If they did, they weren't
The LC Reporter's publisher, Todd Wilson, never
reported how much it was going to cost to pay for the
needed upgrades to the county's recreational facilities
to make this "Dream" a reality, if Columbia County was
chosen to be a Dream Park. And he never reported who was
going to pay for it and how it was going to be paid for,
even though it appears that the cost will be in the
These are logical questions.
When one receives an all expense paid trip by the
folks on whom one is reporting, sometimes the logical
questions don't get asked.
If Todd Wilson thought he was acting responsibly by
accepting the free trip, he should have divulged it.
At the conclusion of the January 5th daytime County
Commission meeting, the Observer asked County Manager
Dale Williams, "Do you think that paying for Todd
Wilson's trip affects his impartiality?"
County Manager Williams answered, "Not at all."