Media Check: Democrats, media freak out after Nikki Fried calls out Palm Beach post story as “fake news”

by | Aug 15, 2022

  • Once the darling of the Florida media, the state’s highest ranking Democrat on Sunday night called a Palm Beach Post story “fake news”
  • Fried correctly pointed out that the story, “Black Snow,” was 100 percent funded by activist groups in league with the Sierra Club
  • The Post initially told readers that they had invested “significant resources” to fund an objective, investigative news story about sugar cane harvesting practices
  • But The Capitolist got the Post’s managing editor to admit that the story was paid for by an outside group, later identified as the Knight Foundation, with financial ties to the Sierra Club
  • In response to Fried’s statement, several Florida journalists defended the Palm Beach Post and ganged up on Fried, ignoring the underlying facts of her claim

Several Florida journalists took to social media late Sunday, joined by far-left Democrats and activists in a collective, knee-jerk defense of a fellow media outlet after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried labeled a previously debunked Palm Beach Post story “fake news.”

According to initial news reports, Fried was kicking off her statewide bus tour on Sunday in Leon County when she was apparently confronted by a reporter asking about her environmental record. The reporter cited criticisms by the Sierra Club that Fried hadn’t done enough to curb pre-harvest sugar cane burning – a tactic used by sugar farmers to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Environmentalists have increased their criticisms of the sugar farming practice as part of their larger campaign against the Florida sugar cane farming industry in general.

In response to the reporter’s question, Fried correctly pointed out that funding for the Post’s year-long investigation came from third party sources with ties to the Knight Foundation, which has long-standing relationships and financial connections to South Florida environmental activist groups, including the Sierra Club, the Everglades Foundation, Paul Tudor Jones, and others.

Those ties were first exposed just over a year ago, when The Capitolist also obtained documents showing that Palm Beach Post reporter Lulu Ramadan’s annual salary had been paid in advance using funds that originated from the Knight Foundation, funneled to another left-leaning journalism organization called ProPublica, which ultimately transferred the cash to the Palm Beach Post.

Documents obtained by The Capitolist even show that Ramadan used research tools that were owned in part by a company financed by Tudor Jones, who is one of the largest funders of South Florida environmental activism.

The Post’s executive editor, Rick Christie, then told readers that the newspaper itself had spent a “great deal” of “time and money” on “investigative journalism.” However, The Capitolist caught up with Christie in a phone call, and he later changed his story, admitting that Ramadan’s entire salary had been funded not by the Post, but by outside groups.

The problem, of course, isn’t that the Post received third party dollars to fund its journalism. The problem is that the newspaper and its journalists tried to pass the finished product off to readers as though it was a fair and objective investigation about sugar cane harvesting.

Years ago, journalists had to justify their investigations to their editors by showing that their preliminary hunches might actually lead to something useful or interesting to readers. If convinced, the editors would let the investigation continue, and if not, he or she would pull the plug and assign the reporter to a new story.

That’s the right way to be objective.

But in this case with the Post, the entire concept was pitched in advance, money was awarded as a grant, and from that point forward, Lulu Ramadan and the Palm Beach Post were on the hook to deliver exactly what the Knight Foundation and its political allies had paid them to produce: a hard-hitting “news” story in line with the Sierra Club’s agenda.

And that’s exactly what they got.

So pleased was the Knight Foundation with Ramadan’s work that they later gave her an award – just for delivering exactly the kind of hard-hitting advocacy journalism they paid for up front.

Nikki Fried is right to point out that the Palm Beach Post’s story was fake news, because readers were told the investigation and subsequent series of news stories were conducted objectively and fairly.


  1. Big Joe

    So says Brian Burgess and his “Capitolist” —- the ATM of Florida journalism, bought and paid for with your electric bill courtesy Florida Power & Light’s skullduggery. Spare us your criticism of real media.

    • Rusty22

      Ooooooh, hit a nerve, eh!

    • Brian Burgess

      As usual, you offer no factual refutation of the story. Because the facts are well documented and correct.

      Instead, you attack the Capitolist because you read somewhere like the Palm Beach Post that our site is pro-business and up front about it.

  2. Elizabeth Calvert

    A story is not fake news until someone disproves the facts, in this case, facts about sugar cane burning and lax regulation by the state. Outside funding by a liberal non-profit does not make a news story fake news. The Capitolist’s link to the supposed ‘debunking’ is an opinion piece criticizing outside funding as unethical. Newspapers are pretty up front about outside funding. They all have their own versions of go fund me pages. That’s an ethical issue given that philanthropic donations should not be solicited by spectacularly wealthy owners without full disclosure of the company’s finances (not happening unless they’re publicly held.) But the
    Capitolists tirade about fake news and dark money is kind of absurd, as noted above, given mr burgess’ known opinion that a large utility should secretly take over local newspaper ownership and editorial content whenever the opportunity arises. FPL wryly commented they do not invest in failing industries.

    • Brian Burgess

      Elizabeth- the criticism has multiple angles to it. First, the Post lied about the funding.

      Second, they represented the story as if it were a legitimate investigation even though it was made clear that Lulu Ramadan pitched the project to Pro Publica in advance in exchange for a year’s funding.

      The Post refused to release any documents related to the project’s scope or funding. The fact of the matter is that the Post and Ramadan were paid to produce a story critical of the harvesting practice.

      Do you honestly think there was any chance that Ramadan would have “investigated” for 12 months and then gone back to the funders and said, “Well, we looked for a whole year but we just don’t have any evidence to support a story.”

      That’s hard to imagine. There was a story envisioned and pitched to the funders. They forked over the cash, and the Post then spent a year crafting the narrative and cherry picking anecdotes and data points to support it.

      Finally, Elizabeth, we provided links and information that show that the Post’s methodology, data collection and analysis were badly flawed.

      The story, and all it’s spin-offs, follow-ups and other clickbait attempts to win a Pulitzer, combined with the Knight Foundation’s own fake award, all add up to fake news of the highest order.

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