Bartow, Florida – Some people were told in an email and others were told at a meeting. The end result was several people lost their job. The Sun Coast Media Group laid off multiple people on Thursday. The number of layoffs isn’t known, but at least 5 and possibly 10. Not all were full-time employees. Several were contracted with the paper for years. An initial email coming from the local editor of the Lake Wales News and the Frostproof News advised that all employees were laid off except for one.
The Daily Ridge contacted Sun Coast Media Group for comment on Friday, but the newspapers publisher Chris Sexson has not contacted us back yet. Sexson took over in April as the new publisher for Sun Coast Media’s Polk County properties, which includes The Polk County Democrat, Lake Wales News, Fort Meade Leader, Frostproof News and Polk County Sun. The Frostproof News & Fort Meade Leader had been rolled into the Lake Wales News and Polk County Democrat respectively for the last year or so. The Polk County Sun was the self proclaimed largest and newest paper of the Sun Coast Media’s Polk County division. Sexson was the publisher of multiple papers including the Metro Times, Creative Loafing & The Pitch.
One of those people let go was editor Kathy Leigh Berkowitz. A ray of sunshine came into Lake Wales when Kathy started to report for the Lake Wales News, said Daily Ridge Editor, Carl Fish. He first met Kathy Leigh at a open house for the radiology at Lake Wales Medical Center, several years ago. She was energetic, exciting and wrote stories from the heart. She will be greatly missed, said Fish.
The news of the layoffs comes just months after Sun Coast Media Group newspaper founder Derek Dunn-Rankin passes away. Dunn-Rankin’s career in newspapers began at age 11, when he became a delivery boy for the Miami News. He build Sun Coast Media into a group of newspapers published in Charlotte, Sarasota, DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties in Florida. In December 2006, Dunn-Rankin’s group bought three Frisbie-family owned newspapers. Those papers were the Lake Wales News, The Polk County Democrat and Fort Meade Leader. In 2007 the group bought independently owned Frostproof News.
It is difficult to see how the papers would continue to produce weekly content for the 4 cities and the Polk County Sun with a limited staff.
This is a developing story and we will update you as soon as more information is available.