Before national exposé,
local news got there first

Barry Friedman

Editor & Publisher

This week’s chaos around the U.S. House of Representatives’ attempt to select a new speaker has overshadowed the emerging story about  George Santos. He’s the newly elected congressman from New York who fabricated nearly his entire background and hasn’t explained his recent sudden wealth.

His story demonstrates the importance of reporters checking out political candidates but also raises questions about why nobody revealed Santos’ lies and contradictions before he was elected. (The New York Times broke the story on Dec. 19, a month and a half after the election.)

It turns out that somebody did report on the Santos fabrications: The North Shore Leader, which covers some of the wealthy communities on Long Island that Santos will represent, assuming he is sworn into office this week or next.

The story about the Leader, as reported by The Washington Post, shows how a small local news organization that knows its community can uncover stories that fly below the radar of larger newsrooms.

But it also raises questions about why the North Shore Leader’s reporting went unnoticed by those larger newsrooms. Journalism commentators have offered a few possible reasons: The Leader is a small, weekly print newspaper with a less-than-robust web presence and very little social media engagement. The headline on the article undersold the importance of the story.

I’d like to think that a story like the one that the North Shore Leader broke would get more attention if it was reported by a small news organization that focuses on digital, engages with social media, takes care in news presentation and is followed by larger media outlets in a neighboring metro market. Those are all boxes that LkldNow checks. 

But as the Washington Post’s reporting notes, the story also involves the budget cuts plaguing legacy newsrooms. Robert Zimmerman, Santos’ opponent, told The Post: “there were ‘many red flags that were brought to the attention of many folks in the media’ but that ‘frankly a lot of folks in the media are saying they didn’t have the personnel, time or money to delve further’ into the story. ‘This experience has shown me just how important it is for everyone to support local media.’ “

That said, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to our many readers who stepped up and supported LkldNow during our recent NewsMatch fund drive. We exceeded our $30,000 goal, all of which will be matched, and we are exceedingly grateful.

Local Businessmen Want To Resurrect Church Building as a Bar

The plan to transform the now-vacant downtown space into an event venue and bar would need approval from the City Commission.

Police Identify Woman who ‘Intentionally Drove’ into Lake Wire

The 35-year-old Wauchula woman and her two young sons were found dead in her submerged car.

Indie Atlantic Studios Secures Rights to Documentary on Notorious Florida Sheriff

The Lakeland film company landed rights to two books by Gilbert King about Lake County’s Willis McCall.

LHS Football Coach Bill Castle Retires After 52 Years

His Dreadnaughts have won eight state championships, the most recent one last month.

Local Businessmen Want To Resurrect Church Building as a Bar

The plan to transform the now-vacant downtown space into an event venue and bar would need approval from the City Commission.

Monument Honoring American Revolution Proposed for Veterans Park

The tribute would be unveiled on July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Mother, 2 Sons Found Dead in Car Submerged in Lake Wire

Detectives are ‘working to determine why the mother drove into the lake,’ Lakeland’s police chief said.


South Lakeland post office named for the late U.S. Marine Cpl. Ronald R. Payne Jr. | The Ledger

Planned Polk Parkway extensions would connect Winter Lake Road with SR 60 | WUSF News

Sheriff: Two men from Kissimmee kill each other at their business on U.S. 92 near Fish Hatchery Road | News Channel 8

Lakeland nurse practitioner loses 90 pounds and inspires others | ABC Action News

Museum Director’s Tour | Thursday | 6 p.m. | Polk Museum of Art
Dr. Alex Rich takes visitors through the new exhibit, “Edward Hopper and Guy Pène du Bois: Painting the Real.” Learn about the artists’ friendship, careers, and their artworks on display.

Swan Lake | Thursday | 7:30 p.m. | Polk Theatre
The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine presents the ballet “Swan Lake” in two acts with music by Peter Tchaikovsky. Tickets: $37-$77.

COhatch Grand Opening | Friday | 5:30 p.m. | 211 E. Main St.
COhatch, a new coworking and office space, celebrates its grand opening with food and drinks, tours, face painting, a photo booth, community mural, music, and caricatures.

Three Kings Celebration | Friday | 6 p.m. | Munn Park
In conjunction with Downtown Lakeland’s First Friday, Just Cares Inc. hosts a  celebration marking the 12th day of Christmas with a festival including a free concert with Tito Puentes Jr. and his Latin Jazz Ensemble. 

Kimmy Gabriela and Jivanni Grasso displayed immense musical talent last Friday at LkldNow’s News Aid concert, our thank-you to the many people who supported us during our recent NewsMatch fund-raising drive. We exceeded our $30,000 goal and each of those dollars will be matched 100%. The funds will help us expand our nonprofit organization’s efforts to provide quality, independent community-focused news about Lakeland. Kimmy and Jivanni closed out an evening of musical excellence that also included the Sumner Curtis trio and Sister Mister. Check a video of Kimmy and Jivanni performing Kimmy’s song “Moonlight” at News Aid.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.