|Rep.-elect George Santos|
(Photo via North Shore Leader)
|3rd District, with Leader office marked (Wikipedia map, adapted)|
In October, the Leader said in an editorial, “This newspaper would like to endorse a Republican for U.S. Congress, but the GOP nominee, George Santos, is so bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy that we cannot. … He boasts like an insecure child — but he’s most likely just a fabulist — a fake.” The endorsment went to Democrat Robert Zimmerman, who promised a bipartisan approach like that of retiring Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who lost in this year's primary for governor.
The Post's Ellison writes, "It was the stuff national headlines are supposed to be built on: A hyperlocal outlet like the Leader does the leg work, regional papers verify and amplify the story, and before long an emerging political scandal is being broadcast coast-to-coast. But that system, which has atrophied for decades amid the destruction of news economies, appears to have failed completely this time. Despite a well-heeled and well-connected readership — the Leader’s publisher says it counts among its subscribers Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jesse Watters and several senior people at Newsday, a once-mighty Long Island-based tabloid that has won 19 Pulitzers — no one followed its story before Election Day."
“We expected it to pop a lot more than it did,” owner Grant Lally (who had run for the seat in 1994, 1996 and 2014) told Ellison, adding that Zimmerman didn't make enough of the endorsement and failed to push the Leader's revelations into Newsday or the Times. Zimmerman told Ellison that there were “many red flags that were brought to the attention of many folks in the media” but that “frankly a lot of folks in the media are saying they didn’t have the personnel, time or money to delve further” into the story. “This experience has shown me just how important it is for everyone to support local media.”
The Leader bills itself as "The leading news source for Long Island's Gold Coast," but Ellison reports most of its staff "works part time and holds down other jobs to pay the bills." Lally told her, “Nobody can survive on local papers alone.”