Picking up on where I left off from the Sun Sentinel’s brilliant reporting on the Broward School District’s stonewalling efforts, this is how I’ve witnessed local officials attempting to control media accountability and coverage.
Here’s the simplistic way it works. It happens in three ways:
- Provide favorable coverage and have access to public officials
- Provide objective coverage and risk losing access to public officials
- Provide critical coverage – even if balanced and justified and lose access
This isn’t true of all public officials in South Florida, but many. At best what will happen is that they will ask for questions in advance, which frankly is nonsense, to begin with. They are public officials that work for us and should be willing to address the good, bad and indifferent in the day-to-day. If they don’t like where the questions are going they’re not available. Funny how that works. That’s been increasingly true in Broward after Stoneman Douglas. No surprise sadly.
However, here’s the real tragedy. Imagine that you’re a reporter covering category X for a news organization. Now let's say the official(s) cut off access to you. What happens to your career? That’s how many of your public officials manipulate coverage. I’ve seen it for well over a decade in South Florida and occasionally it manifests itself in ways you would not even imagine.
The officials change but the tactics remain. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to support us, those who are willing to do the difficult thing and attempt accountability at the local level, to be supported by you. Otherwise, you’ll never get the truth. Kudos to the Sentinel for some of the best work I’ve ever seen. Fingers crossed truth, transparency and accountability occur.
Photo by: MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images