Monday, August 4, 2008

Freedom of the Press?

Today a former councilman told me to delay publishing a story of his acceptance to work in State College, Pa. as executive director of a downtown improvement district. Apparently the councilman, who has been out of office for over a month, said the story of him leaving town would look bad because he's under investigation by the local ethics board after a resident filed a complaint against him when he was on council.
He wanted me to delay publishing the story, which had been picked up by two papers in State College, until the ethics board rules on the counts against him.
"It would create the impression that I was leaving because of the ethics complaint," he said. "I promise and give you my word that I won't talk to any other newspaper and you'll get the story."
I said I'll run it by my editor first. My editor said we should publish the story and that said former official wasn't in office anymore nor was he taking a job in the private sector. It was a job in a municipal authority, with public accountability. Besides, two other newspapers in Pennsylvania ran the story.
So I told the former official we were going ahead and publish it and I needed a quote from him about his job opportunity in the bucolic splendor of central Pennsylvania and said I wouldn't mention the ethics complaint because it had nothing to do with the story. He didn't budge.
"I'll send you a press release with my comments on it," he said.
I'm only doing my job, and you rebuke me for the story I wrote on the ethics complaint against you by clamming up and trying to get me to yank this new story and publish it at a time when it's politically convenient for you. Does anyone see the problem with this?
Thanks for confirming my theory that politicians, whether they're in office or not, are two-faced scumbags.
If the media bends, even a little, we're not serving the public's best interest by informing them in a timely manner.
I know it's not a colossal, earth-shattering story, but suppressing information based on the whims of a former politician is wrong.
Not that it matters, but the politician in question was a Democrat. You know, the same bunch that says they champion freedoms and individual liberties and call for more open and honest government. Bullshit! They favor exactly what's favorable for their clique and nothing more. It's ego and self-interest before the people's right to know.
Sorry, bitches, but I don't do coverups.
Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle down here. The citizens don't realize how much grief and crap I go through to write the news.
This is not an exotic career; it's like plummeting down an elevator shaft into a pile of live scorpions, except the scorpions get re-elected every four years.

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