January 20, 2021

With President Donald Trump’s departure from the White House today to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida comes a new phase in the coverage of him — especially for The Palm Beach Post.

Antonio Fins, the Post’s politics editor who also oversees Trump coverage, spoke to Poynter late Wednesday morning as reporters in Florida waited for Trump’s return to the Sunshine State.

“For much of South Florida, he has become a major story since he started running for president,” Fins said.

Over the past 30 years, he said, Trump has been a major story to both The Palm Beach Post and its sister paper, The Palm Beach Daily News, in two areas: business and social life in the island of Palm Beach.

Fins broke the newspaper’s upcoming focus on Trump’s post-presidency coverage into three areas:

  1. Business. “Mar-a-Lago is a club, but it has been a very important player in the philanthropy social season circuit,” Fins said, adding that organizations like the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have held events there. With Trump leaving the presidency, Fins said his businesses will continue to be a major focus. “In particular Mar-a-Lago because of the way it’s become this place where political entities go to have their fundraising events,” he added.
  2. Trump’s political might. Fins said that, despite the way Trump is leaving office (as an impeached president) and despite sources who spoke to the newspaper admitting that these past two weeks have somewhat politically damaged him, Florida is a state where he remains extremely popular with Republicans. “He will continue to be a major player in politics,” Fins said. “He will continue to be a major player, a major factor, in the political life of Florida and the country.”
  3. Far-right extremism. “Palm Beach County, where we are, has become this magnet for far-right extremists,” Fins said. “Laura Loomer ran for Congress, won the Republican nomination, in a Palm Beach County congressional seat … and the Proud Boys are big in Palm Beach County.”

Fins said his newsroom has been preparing for Trump’s return to Florida when it was certain that he had lost the election to Joe Biden. There have been internal calls and Zoom meetings to discuss coverage. Fins works closely with Christine Stapleton, a senior reporter who covers Trump and politics, and senior political reporter Wendy Rhodes.

Rhodes has been reporting near Mar-a-Lago since this morning. In a brief phone call with Poynter late Wednesday morning, she described a lot of anger from Trump supporters at the scene.

“There’s a lot of talk about a stolen election. There’s a lot of vitriol, anger and threats towards the media,” said Rhodes, adding that law enforcement didn’t seem to do much to dissuade the situation. “It’s very tense.”

Rhodes said that, fortunately, there was a huge media presence and a lot of cameras, which she thought probably kept things a little calmer than they might be otherwise.

“(For) the rest of the country, it’s a new day,” Fins said. “But for us, I think (with) Trump here that our role in coverage of all of these issues is only going to grow potentially. It’s going to be a much bigger deal right now for us.”

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Amaris Castillo is a writing/research assistant for the NPR Public Editor and a contributor to Poynter.org. She’s also the creator of Bodega Stories and a…
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