Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

Columbia County News

Lake City Reporter publisher
violates basic ethical standards

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.

With the 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 nonexistent.

Todd Wilson is not a stupid man. One can't be and run a newspaper.

His "Dream Park" story was informative, as far as it went.

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 talking.

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 millions.

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."