Thursday, February 7, 2008

Handing Over the Mike, II

My friends in television news taught me a handy phrase decades ago: when a reporter abdicates all responsiblity as a journalist by letting a source hijack the interview in order to further an agenda, and that clip airs unedited, they called it handing over the mike. That goes on a lot in my little town. And, it happened again yesterday, this time in an editorial.

Our DeSoto Sun opinion maker leads by cheering the good things the county fair does for young and future farmers, and moves on to bemoaning declining fair attendance. But:
[...]there is a larger issue that now needs addressing. According to Vernon Keen, president elect of the DeSoto County Fair Association and DeSoto sheriff, fair attendance dropped, with ticket sales off roughly five percent and the midway sales off about 20 percent. While part of that might have been due to rain and cool weather, there seems to be a pattern of declining attendance. With the changing landscape of Florida and the shifting population demographics, county fairs are not as well-supported in many Florida communities. Given the lower attendance at this year's DeSoto fair, there is cause for conern that the 55-year old county event might be in peril without some foresight and initiative to change things.
Now, OWW allowed her investigative-reporter's association membership to lapse some time ago, but recently became reacquainted with a reliable local source. And, that source has been kind enough to point out how many microphones are being turned over to the suits. We'll start with this one.

Sheriff Keen, several days before the county fair, conducted a sweeping sting (at the height of citrus harvest and unreported in the main sheet) that netted an estimated 250 undocumented workers, according to our source's phone call to the department. Source says the message, "of course," went out in the Mexican community: don't go to the fair; the sheriff will be checking green cards and visas at the gate.

So, attendance wasn't down because of the cool weather -- which was reported at the time as a welcome relief -- or spotty rain -- which, according to the day's newspaper reports "couldn't dampen spirits" that weekend. But, that was the sheriff's spin.

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