There will be little surprise that the lion’s share of headlines and site traffic at The Capitolist in 2020 was dedicated to COVID-19 news, analysis and related policy coverage. But a handful of other storylines managed to generate enough reader interest that they broke into our most trafficked stories of 2020.
Nikki Fried’s Financial Disclosure Problems
A handful of stories spotlighting Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried‘s financial disclosure problems and ethics lapses gained wide readership, in large part because The Capitolist was the only statewide media outlet reporting on the issue, beginning with a 2019 story about how she likely violated the state’s gift ban as an elected official by accepting a $700,000 home from her married boyfriend, Jake Bergmann. Fried later took out a mortgage on the property after Bergmann deeded his interest in the house to her alone.
While Florida’s legacy media ignored the scandal and gushed about Bergmann and Fried’s announced engagement, The Capitolist broke another story that Fried had failed to report her 2018 income as required by state law. This led to one of our highest trafficked stories in late January 2020, when Fried finally filed an amended financial disclosure, but still failed to explain half a million in new wealth:
Nikki Fried finally reports 2018 income, but $530,000 in new wealth remains a mystery
by Brian Burgess | Jan 31, 2020
We wouldn’t learn the source of Fried’s new wealth until months later.
Andrew Gillum’s Fall from Grace
National conservative media personality Candace Owens initially broke the news on Twitter that someone named Andrew Gillum had been involved in a police incident in Miami. The Capitolist’s newsroom jumped into action, with politics reporter Jordan Kirkland chasing the story while the team worked behind the scenes to confirm that the individual in the police report was the same Andrew Gillum who also happened to be the Florida Democratic Party’s 2018 gubernatorial nominee.
Once confirmed, The Capitolist published the story before any other statewide media outlet, making it one of our highest trafficked of the year:
Developing: Andrew Gillum involved in apparent drug-related incident in Miami Beach
by Jordan Kirkland | Mar 13, 2020
The Ongoing Saga of Rebekah Jones
Something seemed fishy from the get-go with the media’s initial coverage of the Rebekah Jones story. Several legacy media outlets, eager to jump on a COVID-19 cover-up, lapped up Rebekah Jones’ tale like a litter of thirsty kittens slurping milk from a bowl. But even on its face, Jones’ story made little sense, and just a small amount digging into the facts revealed the truth: Jones’ sensational claims weren’t backed up by any evidence whatsoever, and the few emails she did release revealed a more mundane disagreement with actual scientists about when and how certain data should be published. That, coupled with Jones’ history of run-ins with law enforcement and others in positions of authority over her, were all red flags that should have been heeded by Florida’s news media.
When we exposed the truth, it became our highest-trafficked non-coronavirus story of the year:
Rebekah Jones’ firing is the COVID clickbait the media dreams of – but it’s all fake
by Brian Burgess | May 20, 2020
COVID-19: Florida vs. New York
Our highest trafficked story came two weeks after the initial coronavirus lockdown, a time when anxiety was running high. The national news, driven largely by the dire situation in New York City, looked rather bleak. In sharp contrast to that narrative, the data coming out of Florida had started to show a break from the national trend. At a time when most people had spent the past two weeks sheltered at home, that tiny sliver of good news was so rare that our story about it prompted thousands of shares on Facebook and other social media sites, easily propelling it to the #1 spot in terms of sheer site traffic this year. There were a number of other COVID-19 related posts on our site that also garnered tens of thousands of page views, but this one beat them all:
Florida posts fourth straight day of flat COVID-19 case growth. Is the curve already bending?
by Brian Burgess | Mar 25, 2020