Veteran news reporter airs the issues that matter
According to the Columbia University School of Journalism, local news reporters are more trusted by readers, yet their numbers have declined by 70 percent within the past 20 years. As corporate influence grows, the local news industry continues to collapse. Without journalistic watchdogs, suspected malfeasance goes unchecked, and issues that can negatively impact a region’s quality of life may go underreported. But in Transylvania County, one veteran news journalist has stepped forward to help fill the void.
Dan DeWitt spent nearly 30 years as a reporter and columnist for the Tampa Bay Times — which has won 14 Pulitzer Prizes. He retired, moved to Brevard, and launched Brevard NewsBeat, an online format he describes as “Transylvania County’s only source of in-depth reporting on politics, land use, and the environment.” He did so, he says, because “The existing media outlets covering Brevard and Transylvania County don’t demand documents, don’t ask tough questions, don’t explore political connections, and don’t provide clear explanations of public policy.”
But what personally inspired you to start Brevard NewsBeat?
I missed reporting, and missed knowing what was going on in the community. I encourage anyone who has this kind of news-reporter background to do what I’m doing. I have about 2,500 subscribers now, and one thing I find encouraging is that people seem to appreciate the in-depth stories.
Newspapers no longer budget resources for in-depth journalism.And [local] papers are usually owned by people who are really connected in the community, which can limit the stories they are willing to cover.
Because they don’t want to upset their buddies in positions of power?
Yes — family members, friends, advertisers. But I’ve only been here for five years. I have no ties to people I’m inclined to protect. I’m totally independent. My focus is on expanding readership, rather than on expanding revenue. I’m retired, and my wife still works — otherwise I couldn’t do this. For me it’s more about providing a bigger and broader community service.
What kinds of news do you cover?
It’s a mix keeping up with local elected bodies like the County Commission, the City of Brevard, and the school board. But I don’t write about just anything unless it’s significant. I focus on very thoughtful stories on the big issues. I’ve gotten over 9,000 views on the best of those.
Like what’s going on with [national for-profit company] HCA’s purchase of local hospitals. And people are really interested in what’s happening with short-term rental properties. They are consuming property at a time when working people may no longer be able to afford to live here.
How often is NewsBeat published?
The stories I work the longest on get the most readers, and I’ve averaged about two stories a week since I started in January of 2021. I don’t have a set schedule, and one of the luxuries is I don’t have to meet deadlines.
To learn more, and to read or subscribe to Brevard NewsBeat, visit brevardnewsbeat.substack.com.