WUSF Public Media, Barancik Foundation Hire Editor to Oversee Regional Journalism Collaborative
WUSF Public Media and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation have announced the selection of Eric Garwood as executive editor to oversee an independent journalism collaboration that will substantially expand coverage of news in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.
Garwood was most recently the managing editor of the Observer Media Group in Sarasota. He will oversee a team of four reporters as part of the Community News Collaborative (CNC). The editing and reporting team is supported through an initiative of nearly $600,000 from Barancik Foundation and will create print, video and audio content for syndication to more than a dozen news outlets across the Gulf Coast.
“I am honored to join this wonderful group of journalists on this project,” Garwood says. “Intentional, focused coverage of news at the local level helps keep our community informed and engaged in the democratic process.”
Prior to joining the Observer Group in 2017, Garwood served in a variety of roles at Florida Today, the Gannett newspaper based in Melbourne on Florida’s east coast. Starting there in 1996, he worked as a planning editor, communities editor, deputy metro editor, assistant sports editor and reporter. He has also held posts at the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. Garwood grew up in Pasco County and holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from the University of South Florida.
The Barancik Foundation created the collaborative in partnership with WUSF after extensive research and discussions with local media representatives. Because media outlets in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties face eroding resources in the news industry, the CNC was created to drive good civic journalism and help local media harness their collective abilities to drive and create coverage. The CNC will provide them with free, comprehensive and impactful content.
“The investment is creating jobs, supporting local journalism, and ensuring residents get the news they need,” Barancik Foundation’s president and CEO Teri A. Hansen says. “Studies have shown that in communities without local news organizations, there are less responsive governments, decreased civic engagement and, in some cases, higher costs of living.”
Since 2004, nearly 2,000 newspapers have closed their doors, and since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, more than 6,000 news workers have lost their jobs, according to a tally by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The work of the collaborative will help counteract that trend with stories on a wide range of topics.
“Our CNC journalists will cover areas that include grassroots school news, health trends, environmental stories and many more,” WUSF general manager JoAnn Urofsky said. “Together, these efforts seek to make Southwest Florida a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Garwood was selected with the help of the CNC Advisory Committee, a team of local professionals and academics who will help oversee the independent newsgathering body.
The committee includes Tim Clarke, a long-time advertising executive and chairman of Sarasota’s Gulfside Bank; William L. “Bill” McComb, former CEO of Fifth & Pacific Companies Inc. and a founding board member of The Marshall Project, an independent non-profit journalism effort reporting on criminal justice around the nation; and Maria Vesperi, a professor of anthropology at New College of Florida who teaches the school’s journalism sequence, serves as faculty liaison with college’s student newspaper, The Catalyst, and who is a former reporter at the Tampa Bay Times and member of the board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the Times.
The CNC team will be based in Sarasota as part of the WUSF newsroom. WUSF 89.7 is the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate licensed to the University of South Florida and is part of WUSF Public Media which also operates Classical WSMR 89.1 and 103.9.
Participating members of CNC presently include Sarasota Magazine, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Observer Media Group, Venice Gondolier/The Daily Sun, The Bradenton Herald, Tempo News, ABC 7 WWSB, WEDU Public Media, WSLR, Solmart Media, iHeart Radio, Sarasota Scene Magazine and West Coast Woman. Other local media organizations are encouraged to participate, as well.