|Collaborative project will recruit reporters to cover wide variety of topics vital to West Florida|
|SARASOTA and TAMPA, Fla. (February 2, 2023) — WUSF Public Media and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation today announced the hiring of Eric Garwood as Executive Editor to oversee an independent journalism collaboration that will substantially expand coverage of news in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.|
Garwood was most recently the managing editor of the Observer Media Group in Sarasota. He will oversee a team of four reporters as part of the Community News Collaborative (CNC). The editing and reporting team is supported through an initiative of nearly $600,000 from Barancik Foundation and will create print, video and audio content for syndication to more than a dozen news outlets across the Gulf Coast.
“I am honored to join this wonderful group of journalists on this project,” Garwood said. “Intentional, focused coverage of news at the local level helps keep our community informed and engaged in the democratic process.”
Barancik Foundation created the collaborative in partnership with WUSF after extensive research and discussions with local media representatives. The aim is to drive good civic journalism in the region of Florida where the foundation focuses.
Media outlets in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties face eroding resources in the news industry. The collaborative aims to provide them with free, comprehensive and impactful journalism, and to help harness their collective abilities to drive and create coverage.
“Every day that goes by, traditional media continues to shrink and has not found a bottom. There are places in the United States that have become news deserts – communities with no entity to tell people what’s going on in their backyard,” Barancik Foundation’s President and CEO Teri A Hansen said. “Studies have shown that creates less responsive governments, leads to less civic engagement and, in some cases, actually leads to a higher cost of living.”
Since 2004, nearly 2,000 newspapers have closed their doors, and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, more than 6,000 news workers have lost their jobs, according to a tally by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The work of the collaborative will help counteract that trend with stories on a wide range of topics.
“Our CNC journalists will cover areas that include grassroots school news, health trends, environmental stories and many more,” WUSF general manager JoAnn Urofsky said. “Together, these efforts seek to make Southwest Florida a better place to live, work and raise a family. We are thrilled for Eric to join and lead this wonderful group.”
Garwood was hired with the help of the help of the Community News Collaborative Advisory Committee, a team of local professionals and academics who will help oversee the independent newsgathering body.
They include Tim Clarke, a long-time advertising executive and chairman of Sarasota’s Gulfside Bank; William L. “Bill” McComb, former CEO of Fifth & Pacific Companies Inc. and a founding board member of The Marshall Project, an independent non-profit journalism effort reporting on criminal justice around the nation; and Maria Vesperi, a professor of anthropology at New College of Florida who teaches the school’s journalism sequence, serves as faculty liaison with college’s student newspaper, The Catalyst, and who is a former reporter at the Tampa Bay Times and member of the board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the Times.
Prior to joining the Observer Group in 2017, Garwood served in a variety of roles at Florida Today, the Gannett newspaper based in Melbourne on Florida’s east coast. Starting there in 1996, he worked as a planning editor, communities editor, deputy metro editor, assistant sports editor and reporter. He has also held posts at the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. Garwood grew up in Pasco County and holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from the University of South Florida.
The CNC news team will be based in Sarasota as part of the WUSF newsroom and provide news articles and multi-media packages to a series of other news outlets across the region. WUSF 89.7 is the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate licensed to the University of South Florida and is part of WUSF Public Media which also operates Classical WSMR 89.1 and 103.9.
NPR is regularly listed among the most trusted news brands in America, and WUSF’s newsroom regularly wins major journalism awards, including a record 16 awards this year from the Society of Professional Journalists in Florida. Member-supported, WUSF already produces outstanding news reports on happenings across the Gulf coast.
Participating members of the collaborative presently include: The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Observer Media Group, Venice Gondolier/The Daily Sun, The Bradenton Herald, Tempo News, ABC 7 WWSB, WEDU Public Media, WSLR, Solmart Media, iHeart Radio, Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota Scene Magazine and West Coast Woman. Beyond this group, other local media organizations are encouraged to participate.
About Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical research. For more information, visit www.barancikfoundation.org.
About WUSF Public MediaWUSF Public Media is a comprehensive media organization that provides media services to the community and businesses through public broadcasting and multi-media production services. Licensed to the University of South Florida, WUSF Public Media serves the public interest through programming, educational outreach and community partnerships. For more information, visit www.wusf.org.