I've been waiting a bit to drop this post of mine just to see if there was any more secondary coverage of this story about new Florida governor Rick Scott and the expectations, assumptions and presumptions of the Tallahassee-based media that covers the Florida legislature, the governor's office and what passes for Junior Varsity political intrigue and machinations.
I figured I'd give it about a week and a week has come and gone, so here we are.
Excerpt from my email of January 31st titled SunshineStBelow, a variation of the story that received prominent coverage last week in the Miami Herald and the St. Pete Times and several other places around the state, all to little practical effect
ateNews.co m: Gov. Rick Scott, Hero; Press Corps, Zero
You remember, the story about the last-minute dinner at the Governor's Mansion, where the person chosen to be the 'pool reporter' had other plans and said nyet, throwing 'journalism' into a tailspin?
Meanwhile, no matter how many facts and photos I use to persuade South Florida print or TV reporters to express any curiosity at all about a public building in Hallandale Beach -just steps from the beach- that has only been open three times to the public in what will be 42 months on Thursday, and for which hundreds of thousands of Hallandale Beach taxpayer dollars has been spent, and no doubt, wasted, reporters just yawn.
With one exception, Stefan Kamph Hallandale Beach's North Beach Facility Might Finally Open, After Four Years
That, after all this incompetency, the the city manger here has pledged to keep it closed to the taxpayers of this city is the ultimate insult, but to local reporters, they just roll their eyes at this news, one more fact they could care less about.
It's a story which if it happened in Coral Gables or Miami Beach would've been on the front page of the Herald's very loosely-edited State & Local section, perhaps with some critical comments later in the editorial page asking with mock dismay, who elected the unelected City Manger, Mark Antonio, to keep a public building closed to the public?
But because it's not located in those cities, it wasn't the predicate to a zinging editorial that lowered-the-boom on Antonio and HB City Hall.
It's the news story that never happened, the one that so perfectly illustrates the dilemma for Hallandale Beach citizen taxpayers -caught between the longstanding incompetency and anti-democratic nature of HB City Hall officials, pols and their cronies, and a press corps that doesn't even pretend to be curious.
But now, I'm supposed to care about a meal at the governor's mansion, featuring some people I've never heard of?
Scott's media limits upset journalists
By Michelle Morgante Associated Press
January 20, 2011
TALLAHASSEE- Journalists who cover Florida's capital complained to industry leaders Tuesday that the new administration of Gov. Rick Scott is skirting free-press traditions and attempting to control their work by limiting access to events and being slow to provide public records.
Speaking to the board of the Florida Society of News Editors, nine Tallahassee correspondents said Scott's team is imposing an unprecedented level of control over access to Scott and to events that previously would have been considered open. The governor's office also has tried to "cherry-pick'' reporters to provide pooled reports to the rest of the press corps, instead of allowing the journalists to choose.
Bob Rathgeber, senior staff writer for The News-Press of Fort Myers, said Scott, a former healthcare executive, apparently wants to continue operating as if he were still in the private sector, not public office.
"He doesn't care whether we have complaints or not,'' Rathgeber said. "He's from the private sector and he's a private guy.''
The journalists pointed to several examples, including a post-inauguration reception held on the scenic 22nd floor of the state Capitol, where Scott's staff restricted access to a select few.
The event was in a public building and the entire state Legislature had been invited, noted Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald. "That, on its surface, struck me as a public meeting. . . . There's no reason they should be shutting the public out.''
But Klas and others, including an AP reporter, were booted out. The reporters said Scott's staff said a pooled report would be provided and argued that the journalists had accepted the arrangement. She and the other reporters speaking Tuesday said they'd never accepted such a deal. Pool reports typically are only agreed to when space is unavoidably limited, such as aboard an airplane, and the selection of the journalist is made by the participating media groups.
A voice message and an e-mail seeking reaction Tuesday from Scott's communications director, Brian Burgess, were not immediately answered.
The reporters also pointed to an incident last week, when Scott and several lawmakers gathered at the governor's mansion for a dinner. Scott's staff made no announcement about the dinner but, upon deciding the press should be alerted, quickly sought a reporter to provide a pooled report.
Dave Royse, executive editor of the News Service of Florida, said he was invited to be the pool reporter although the dinner was nearly over. He could not accept, but offered a reporter from his staff in his place. When that reporter was rejected, Royse said he declined to participate for ethical reasons.
The party being covered "can't pick and choose the reporter,'' he said. The correspondents said they would consider creating terms for pooled reports, such as an ordered list of reporters to be called on. But Paul Flemming, state editor for Gannett's Florida bureau, cautioned against encouraging greater use of pools: "I think it's dangerous to go down a pool path at all.''
Jim Baltzelle, FSNE president and Florida chief of bureau for The Associated Press, said the incidents raised concern about the freedom of the press. He said FSNE would consider how to formally respond.
Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee bureau chief for the Orlando Sentinel, said he's been given very little access to the governor because during Scott's campaign, his staff considered the newspaper "hostile.'' He said his only recourse has been to make several requests for public records. But the administration, he said, has been slow to respond and, in one case, said it would charge him $400 for printing by an outsourced provider even though Deslatte said the information is available electronically.
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A more realistic view of what transpired -or didn't- with some well-chosen sarcasm, was expressed elsewhere.
Gov. Rick Scott, Hero; Press Corps, Zero
Posted: January 31, 2011 3:55 AM
Thank God we found out Thursday night that the governor and his guests "dined on mesquite grilled swordfish, corn macque choux, and Florida strawberry shortcake."
Or did they?
Can the people of Florida be absolutely sure? What if diners were really inside that mansion chowing down on roast beef, spinach casserole and English trifle?
How might that have torpedoed the ship of state?
Read the rest of this spot-on post at: