2019: A year of compelling stories by the Florida Phoenix

December 25, 2019 7:00 am
Florida Capitol

The Historic Capitol, foreground, and Florida Capitol buildings. Photo, Colin Hackley

It was a whirlwind year.

The staff of the Florida Phoenix wrote a wide range of stories, from poignant and sometimes scary to compelling, explanatory and hard-hitting. All the stories were connected to these major topics: The environment, politics and law, health, working & the economy, education, Phoenix investigates, and culture & society.

The stories were written by Editor Diane Rado, Deputy editor Michael Moline, and reporters Lloyd Dunkelberger, Laura Cassels, and Issac Morgan. Former editor Julie Hauserman, and former reporter Mitch Perry, also wrote the stories — they worked at the Florida Phoenix in 2019.

In each topic area, we chose some of our most interesting work.

We also included the extraordinary columns by Lucy Morgan and Diane Roberts.


Legislature’s planned road project could benefit Florida’s richest man

Beloved, tiny FL Key deer would lose protection under new Trump administration recommendation

Florida’s wild cats are showing strange symptoms, state says, and asks for public’s help

Hurricane victims face growing fire threat from ravaged forests; 4,200 acres have burned

Climate talks open amid dire warnings about greenhouse gases; Florida paying the price of inaction

Rescue mission for Florida’s dying corals — a national treasure vanishing before our eyes

Politics & Law

Bringing home the bacon — to the extreme?

In the billion-dollar education industry, lobbyists abound: “Everybody is trying to get a piece of that pie.”

“Let’s not forget they’re children” — lawmaker pushes for minimum arrest age when it comes to kids

Gov. DeSantis’ political allies at home and abroad are beset by scandals, with Israel’s Netanyahu indicted and Trump facing impeachment

Tensions are high as FL Senate judges Broward sheriff accused of incompetence in mass shootings

Trial opens in legal challenge to Florida’s ex-felon voting rights restoration process

“This department is in crisis,” GOP lawmaker says about FL Corrections agency

Gov. DeSantis set to shape a crucial appeals court in Florida with conservative judges

Gov. DeSantis changes statement on Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary after getting criticism for omitting LGBTQ people

FL Dept. of Corrections bans socialist newspaper for inmates; critics protest

The influence of the Federalist Society stretches from the FL Supreme Court to everyday Floridians. But what is it?


Facing mounting deaths and rising cases, Florida’s hepatitis A crisis is ravaging Central Florida

A secretive and scary drug-resistant fungus has landed in Florida and it can kill you fast

Gov. DeSantis on vaping: concurs with Trump on postponing ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Getting cheap and safe Canadian drugs to Floridians is a big unknown

Despite protests, a parental-consent law for minors seeking abortions could become a reality in 2020

Florida’s lack of dental care hurts low-income and rural residents

Jailing the mentally ill: Attorney General Moody looks for solutions

Health care and religion entwined: New Trump policies stoke fear in Florida’s transgender community

Advocates for Maine’s poor say Florida’s new health care chief slashed needed help

Working & the Economy

Hemp hype? Some observers fear the state is setting up small farmers for failure

Citrus growers’ new crisis: They’re producing fruit again but can’t sell it

Keeping Florida’s pension fund financially healthy won’t be cheap

Gov. DeSantis and the war against trial lawyers

Florida’s 27,000 ‘Dreamers’ are living their lives in fear and uncertainty

What’s next in the education world? “Adjunct teachers” on the rise in Florida’s K-12 classrooms

Voting rights for Florida felons? Floridians approved it last fall, but Legislature adds roadblocks

LGBTQ advocates hoping this is the year that workplace discrimination protections will pass Legislature

Paid family leave joins the agenda as FL Legislature prepares to convene next month

Raiding state housing funds hurts disabled Floridians who need homes


When it comes to school safety, the question is: Where are all the school counselors?

FL public schools skew picture of safety and order; intentionally failing to report incidents at schools

Gov. DeSantis pushes for nearly $1 billion for FL public school teacher pay increases. But will it happen?

What the stats reveal about teacher pay: Florida is cheap

Active shooter drills at school: “Some of the kids are scared to death.”

The Legislature inserted groups tied to right-wing donors into Florida’s new law on civics education

Some schools may not be teaching African American history or other courses required by law but there’s no consequences

From a D to an A in one year, and other anomalies in Florida’s grading system for public schools

Only 30 percent of Florida’s 3rd graders can read proficiently, state exam results show

Classroom teachers with guns: FL Legislature passes measure allowing it and sends bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis

Republicans score victory in creating new voucher program: Dems call it unconstitutional

Phoenix Investigates

Are impressive graduation rates in FL for real? State calculations eliminate thousands of kids, boosting results

The Legislature inserted groups tied to right-wing donors into Florida’s new law on civics education

Legislature’s planned road project could benefit Florida’s richest man

Corrections officials investigating another severe inmate beating by prison guards

Florida’s former House speakers and Senate presidents rake in big bucks as lobbyists at the Legislature

Don’t want antibiotics sprayed on your citrus? Sorry – it’s about to expand, big-time

Culture & Society

A “superhighway of hate:” Extremism is flourishing in Florida

Florida man collapses in tears, falls to the ground, after Gov. Ron DeSantis denies pardon

Momentum on Equal Rights Amendment? Some GOP female lawmakers side with Dems on ERA

The Florida Supreme Court: A male bastion with one woman and no African Americans

Public school demographics are changing: Minority students now dominate many school systems

Jailing the mentally ill: Attorney General Moody looks for solutions

Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried: She doesn’t walk in the “same boots” as her predecessors

Does the Legislature reflect the Florida populace? Nope. We crunched the demographic numbers

And here are some of our best columns, both hard-driving and hilarious.

By Lucy Morgan:

Sometimes living in Tallahassee seems like returning to the wild wild west

For the love and pride of libraries, and the stupidity of five commissioners in Citrus County

A newspaper helped victims get justice when it seemed impossible

Get the governor a state plane, already

The public’s right to know is threatened in the Florida Legislature

By Diane Roberts:

Wait, you’re not going to drink that, are you? (Or swim in it or even touch it?)

Outrages on the soul of Florida: Ordinary folks and tourists kicked off the public’s sugary sand

The whiney martyrdom of pale American males led by bellyacher-in-chief Donald Trump

Florida’s leaders love our environment, but they love money more

Let us educators pack some decent heat

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.