Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

FL loses one of its best reporters

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

If you care about journalism in general, and especially health reporting, I have terrible news for you: Bob LaMendola has finally thrown in the towel.

Bob left the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as of last Friday to work for Broward's HIV Health Services Planning Council. He's taking a week off to rest first, and he's more than earned it.

At 57, he's been reporting on South Florida's crazy health-care system for 16 years. And he never slowed down; he was incredibly prolific, considering that most of his dailies and weekenders showed a depth of research that has become rare.

Look at this article on how employers are now using cash incentives to get workers to health screenings. Count the number of sources he quoted; he probably talked to many more in his information-gathering.

(The Sun-Sentinel published it several days ago, but we couldn't link to it until now because the newspaper now has a paywall that bars non-subscribers. We can publish the link now because it was picked up by the Modesto Bee, which has no paywall.)

Bob's wife Debra Gibbs also used to work for the newspaper. She left about four years ago to work for a non-profit, Care Source, which manages the financial and medical affairs of vulnerable youngsters and disabled or aged adults.

"I just wanted to take a shot at something different," Bob said. "I've always been interested in HIV...this gives me a chance to do something about it."

Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, said she'll miss the long-time reporter, who asked good questions and never misquoted her.

"He has a knack for making complex things easy to understand," she said. "I’ve seen him take the small print of insurance policies and cull what matters, create a table, and let folks compare the seemingly incomparable."

She concluded, "The HIV/AIDS community's gain will be journalism’s loss."

It's true. But journalism has already lost too much; the bleeding is out of control.

We'll fill the gaps that we can. But Bob leaves a gap that no one can fill.

--Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to public-service journalism. Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.