John R. Smith: The Decline and Fall of the Palm Beach Post

There’s no reason for you to believe much of anything you read in the Palm Beach Post if it involves politics or government. Their selection or rejection of stories is tainted.

Active business leaders statewide will almost universally tell you it’s the worst daily newspaper in Florida. Even worse than the Tampa Bay Times or the Tallahassee Democrat.

Their relentless insertion of reporters’ opinions in news stories is rampant. Writers’ views get printed as facts. The placement of stories in prominent vs. back pages is based on the Post’s political agenda, which is one of the most partisan ideological platforms in Palm Beach County. Stories that run counter to their agenda, if posted at all, are buried in the back pages. Stories that agree with the Post’s editorial positions blare loudly in a large-headline typeface.

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Meanwhile, over the years, the number of pages in the Post’s print edition has thinned out as the newspaper doesn’t have enough money to hire an adequate number of “journalists.” The Post continues its dramatic slide downhill on its distributed and internet copies. Approximately 18-20 years ago, I recall, the paper had a daily circulation of about 260,000 copies. The Post tried to scramble to be competitive as the years passed, even as its credibility and influence waned. In 2006, its weekday circulation was 154,078. By 2008, its circulation was 134,350, then dropped to 95,620 by 2011, a decline of 29%. Out of 21 newspapers in Florida, the Post’s decline was the third worst. The numbers for 2021 were atrocious: Paid Print Copies Distributed were 30,627, and total Print and Electronic Copies were 42,809. The latest 2022 daily circulation I saw was 23,454 daily and 31,595 Sunday. Drink all that in for a moment. How the mighty have fallen.

The Post claims it is acting in the best interest of citizens, but there is more evidence that they work to serve their political agenda by dishing out leftist claptrap over the years. During those years, business leaders occasionally told the Post’s leadership what was causing their circulation problems. They paid no attention, instead strapping on the blinders and claiming that the growth of the internet and proliferation of social media were the cause of the Post’s poor performance.

Much of that is true, but that’s not the only reason their business has dwindled, that profits are in the cellar, and that the Post is a relic of the past. The real reason is incompetent management: the Post fails to deliver a sufficiently attractive product to enough potential readers.

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A massive market for conservative news exists. In Palm Beach County, this is a market of perhaps 40%-45% of the population the Post has ignored or thumbed its nose at for 30 years. The Post has turned off tens of thousands of conservative and libertarian readers. This has translated into considerable declines in circulation, influence, and revenues. If the Post were a “paper of the people” instead of a mouthpiece for socialists and leftists, it wouldn’t have become a disregarded platform for the left.

Political candidates make a mistake if they covet the endorsement of the Post because it’s not very helpful. Their endorsement certainly is not necessary for victory at the polls. It’s poison in some sections of the electorate, who refuse to vote for a Post endorsee.

BIZPAC has done some studies and surveys over the years about the power and importance of political endorsements by the Post. The Post’s “win rate” or record of success with its endorsements is unimpressive.

Democrats are far more likely to pay attention to Post endorsements than Republicans, and conservatives of both parties usually do not trust the Post to arrive at objective endorsements. In a GOP primary, a Post endorsement of a Republican often actually hurts the candidate. In a General Election race, when both parties are voting, an endorsement probably helps with Democratic voters, while Republicans (especially those who are politically knowledgeable) pay little heed to it.

While our studies and surveys are interesting and informative, the data makes a conclusive point: the Post’s endorsement is not essential or critical for a candidate to win an election.

Other stories you may want to read:

John R. Smith: The Decline and Fall of the Palm Beach Post

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