Florida’s former speaker of the house of representatives spoke at a Governmental Prayer Breakfast Saturday morning. It was a bit ironic, because just last week, he stepped down from his position as speaker of the house amid a grand jury investigation into his relationship with a college in Destin.
Long story short, he accepted an unadvertised six-figure part-time job at the college on the same day he was sworn in as speaker. Many people think it may have been a reward for steering millions of state dollars to the school for construction projects over the last couple years.
Before the breakfast, I spoke with him for several minutes about the controversy. I asked him how he reconciled speaking at a breakfast about “moral and spiritual values in government” while he was under investigation for wrongdoing.
He answered my questions thoughtfully, and I wrote a story about it.
Cue the hate mail.
Quite a few of the attendees at the breakfast were not happy about my story. One of the less insulting e-mails:
Your article in Sunday’s Local section titled “In midst of scandal, Sansom talks ethics” is why I get so disgusted with reporters. It’s call “half-reporting”. Whichever half sounds the worst, print it. …
… No mention in your article is the recipient of the “God In Government” award to Judge Mike Jones. Such an award merits at least a paragraph. If you are going to report on an event, report about the whole event. You totally missed the intention and the meaning of the occasion. …
This is a fair criticism, I think. I had some tough decisions about what to include and what to leave out while writing. But the focus was on Sansom and not on the event.
After I spent a half-dozen paragraphs explaining the controversy that followed Sansom winning the God in Government award last year, it didn’t feel right saying, “By the way, Judge Mike Jones won the award this year.”
We could have written a brief somewhere else in the paper, but that’s not always possible.
On Saturday, I was the sole reporter in the newsroom most of the day. Between writing this story, editing and filing the photos, researching and writing a column, writing the death notices, answering a torrent of phone calls, following up on structure fire calls that came across the police scanner, and trying to catch up from being out of the office on Thursday and Friday I just didn’t have the time.
It’s tough replying to e-mails sometimes. You just want to scream that you’re doing your best with what you’ve got to work with. You’re not trying to upset anyone. No, I’m not a member of the liberal conspiracy. No, I’m not a member of the conservative conspiracy. No, it wasn’t my intention to make someone look bad. Yes, I did go to journalism school. No, I don’t think that a monkey could do this better than me.
You just have to let it roll off your back.
In this case, a smaller story got usurped by a bigger one. I’ll try to make space for both next time.
Thank you for the e-mail,