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Less Local News Means Less Democracy

The office building four blocks from Florida’s state Capitol carries the same name in bold letters that it boasted when it opened in 1988: Florida Press Center.

For the last 30 years, the modest three-story structure with its bland façade has been home to Florida’s statehouse press corps. The building was constructed by a consortium of local newspapers for the single purpose of housing the working media.

As a cub reporter, I can remember when the Press Center was a must-attend stop for any politician hoping to win in Florida. Reporters competed to break stories about agency graft, political favoritism, and cutthroat corruption. The rivalry within the building was so fierce that reporters would hesitate to invite a source to their offices, because they were wary about a competitor getting wind of a scoop.

Today, the hallways of the Florida Press Center are quiet. Few politicians make their way through the building and only seven news organizations are still housed there—two of them digital-only operations that didn’t exist a decade ago.  The new building owner has repurposed the mostly-vacant building to house other businesses that have nothing to do with the media.

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