Shortly after I founded this opinion blog, I realized that I had become everything I once hated.
And that was a good thing.
During my many years of municipal government service, I was often taken to task by those we insiders euphemistically referred to as Cave People – Citizens Against Virtually Everything.
The open criticism infuriated me, mostly because it challenged and humbled my over-sized ego.
Then, when I retired and began writing my opinions on the issues of the day, it dawned on me how important working journalists – and independent bloggers who opine on the issues they uncover – are to the process of keeping government honest.
Trust me – anything that makes our elected and appointed government officials uncomfortable and keeps them on-their-toes is a positive.
It lets them know someone is watching.
Much of what I write on Barker’s View is a riff on the news and civic issues published by the Daytona Beach News-Journal. They do the heavy lifting – then guys like me have the luxury of sitting back and tut-tutting about those who Roosevelt described as, “actually in the arena.”
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of serving on editor Pat Rice’s readers panel, a group assembled to provide feedback during the revamp of the News-Journal’s hard copy and on-line products.
I’m not sure I provided any actionable suggestions, but I did learn quite a bit about the mechanics of putting out a daily newspaper – including the competition of ideas on everything from the front-page layout to editorial content.
I think everyone would agree, like newspapers all over the country, the News-Journal has faced some serious challenges – and the corporate outsourcing of key printing, proofing and publishing services, along with “downsizing” efforts in the newsroom – has not gone unnoticed by those of us who consume the final product.
In my view, the consistent bright spot down on 6th Street is the quality of work produced by the reporters down in the trenches, working hard to bring us the news of the day.
I can tell you from personal experience that police reporter Lyda Longa is the hardest working journalist in the industry.
In addition to being incredibly bright and intuitive, she practices an old-fashioned shoe leather reporting style that goes beyond the canned press releases and spin of government information specialists to get to the meat-and-potatoes of any story she covers.
And she’s a nice person, too.
If anyone has seen it all, it’s Lyda Longa. Yet, somehow, she maintains compassion and respect for the subjects and system she covers.
And if you’re not reading Patricio Balona’s excellent reporting on Wild West Volusia, you’re doing it wrong.
I am also convinced that Dinah Voyles-Pulver’s outstanding coverage of what I politely call the ‘Debacle in DeBary’ is Pulitzer worthy.
Imagine if Ms. Pulver had not doggedly followed the money trail to uncover the critical link between John Miklos and city officials – or been stymied by now disgraced former city manager Dan Parrott’s ham-handed attempts to deny her public information?
She has discovered so many smoking guns in one story that I’m convinced all a prosecutor would need to indict the entire DeBary City Commission is to allow a grand jury to read Ms. Pulver’s articles in order of publication.
Recently, Eileen Zaffiro-Kean wrote an excellent series on the City of Daytona Beach’s shocking plan to pay seven times the just value for two small beachside parking lots.
Rarely am I struck completely dumb, but the barefaced nature of this burgeoning scandal took even a grizzled old government hack like me by surprise.
Thanks to what Eileen so deftly described as the deafening “public outcry” spurred by her reportage, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm was forced to pull the item from the commission agenda, literally at the eleventh hour.
Just remember – there is a reason why government officials made a very real attempt to pay some $862,000 for private property valued at a fraction of that. The “rest of the story” is out there, and I have no doubt that we will learn more about the who, what, why and how of this mushrooming mess in coming days and weeks.
Kudos to these intrepid reporters – and the editors and staff of the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
I understand that the news business is a hard dollar, even on a good day. But on those occasions when the News-Journal allows their best horses to have their head and run free, We, the People, are well-served by the critical information they provide.
At the end of the day, it’s up to us – the silent majority of weary taxpayers – to take that information and let those who accept public funds for service in the public interest know that there is some shit we won’t tolerate – ever.
I’m pretty sure this is how the system is supposed to work.