For 14 years, the Independent News has fought for this community. You have watched us grow, change and mature as your advocate. Our voice, style and look have evolved over the years. And I’ve been blessed to work with some very talented, bright and colorful people.
When the Independent News came on the scene, there was nothing like us in print in Northwest Florida. Most tabloid publications were all fluff, marketing and some entertainment.
We did investigative reporting, took stands on issues and refused to cave into advertising and political pressure. We were called a “rag” and “scandal sheet,” but we had a vision for the community we love to be a great place to live for all of us, not just a few.
We dared to point out the “elephants” in the room, to ruffle feathers and to ask questions some people didn’t want to answer. Several times, particularly after Hurricane Ivan, we were on the brink of collapse. Our staff, vision and my hubris kept us publishing and improving.
As more and more of our reporting led to indictments, arrests, election victories and awards, the IN began to garner attention locally, statewide and nationally. Readers trusted our coverage.
We reported on deaths in the jail, lack of opportunity for our young professionals, racism and the sorry state of public education in Escambia County. We stood toe-to-toe with the national media in our coverage of the murders of Bud and Melanie Billings and the BP oil spill.
We have been both thanked and cursed in city council and county commission meetings—which is how we like it. I never want the politicians to get too comfortable, and we do the necessary homework to make sure we tell the stories as best we can. Liars will never go unchallenged by this paper.
Another key to this paper is the editorial mix. Our arts and entertainment coverage, thanks to managing editor Joani Delezen, is cutting-edge and fun. We have developed several annual issues that our readers look forward to reading—Best of the Coast, Rising Stars, Power List, Green Issue and Pet Issue.
I am blessed with having a great team, just as I have been since we started. Samantha Crooke designs the covers and lays out the issues beautifully. Jessica Forbes, Sarah McCartan and Jeremy Morrison provide unique insights into this community. And of course, there is our dynamic team of freelancers who work for little pay to experience the occasional perks.
Then there is me, struggling to put the 500 words I know into a column and occasional article. And somehow pissing off the world.
Thank you for your support.