Editorial: No free nation without a free press



Editorial: No free nation without a free press

Michael Gold, Managing Editor
St Augustine FL

Historic City News readers who know me, are not surprised to learn that I have written a “harsh” article, probably half sarcastic and half tongue-in-cheek, about government transparency, fraud, waste and abuse in government, or elected officials who think they are privileged, or show a sense of entitlement above the people.

But, if you are close enough to really know me, you know that although I may write jokingly about politicians or bureaucrats and their behavior, I really don’t think it’s a joke and I am a strong advocate for government and public integrity.

One of my strongest issues is the right to a free press. I often write, and believe, that news should be free and freely available to readers. But, a free press, in the Constitutional sense from which I draw the expression, refers to the freedom of press reporters to gather news and freely publish it, as they see fit, un-edited by self-serving forces — especially the government.

I was a little ticked this week, actually I was pissed off, after St Augustine City Manager John Regan told a Historic City News reader on facebook that I was trying to “sucker” her with a harmless news article, from third party sources, informing the public about a proposal to offer a trolley service between the Visitor Information Center and Riberia Pointe.

Although the defamation of me and Historic City News, that occurred between the City Manager and the reader, was likely seen by hundreds of citizens, that wasn’t what had upset me. It was the written comment he made to me, publicly, saying, “I would appreciate you calling me to discuss before you write articles about the city.”

Of course, after the news broke on historiccity.com, it was picked up by other news reporters, including former mayor, George Gardner, but not the local newspaper — which did not surprise me, given the history of their reporting on local government. Perhaps I should infer from Regan’s remarks and the Record’s past (non)reporting on local politics and government, that they check with him before they do “write articles about the city”.

Our readers may rest assured that Historic City News will always be the ones asking questions. We will never put publication of an article on hold merely because the reporter has not discussed the article with the City Manager, beforehand.

I maintain a collegial relation with John Regan; I like his personality, I think he is well educated, and, I voiced my support for his appointment even before Bill Harriss retired. That hasn’t changed.

But for all of that, if I have to choose between a friendly working relationship, or, a censored, scripted reporting of news from the city government, I will side on the part of the sponsors and advertisers who pay to keep our publication free and for our citizen’s who have the right to enjoy an independent, local free press.

Enough said. Moving on now …