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Politicians say this Florida news site lets them buy coverage. Is your state next?

Peter Schorsch has ascended as the state's newsrooms have withered and their reporting ambitions have narrowed. (Tracy J. Lee/NPR)

By Miranda Green and David Folkenflik for Floodlight and NPR

Political strategist Eunic Epstein-Ortiz arrived in Florida from New York in 2017 to help a major labor union turn out voters for the following year. She recalls being pleasantly surprised by the positive coverage the campaign received from Florida Politics.

The website is Florida's answer to Politico: It illuminates developments on politics and policy for insiders and news buffs, and it influences what other outlets report about the state. And it reflects the drive of its founder, Peter Schorsch.

"He will determine whether or not something is news in the state of Florida," Epstein-Ortiz says.

By her telling, her pleasure soon curdled. Schorsch emailed to ask the union to buy advertising on the site. She declined, as the union was not seeking to reach the website's core audience of state lobbyists and political professionals. And then the site abruptly stopped covering the union's campaign. (Another former union official confirms her account.)

"He's only covering the story if you've written a check," Epstein-Ortiz says.

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