Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Journalism's Second W Stands for "What," as in "What They Said"

The citizenry of Arcadia this morning read that city council persons "put questions" to city-attorney hopefuls last night. As they read deeper, they found out about scheduling, how the questions were provided (written out, ahead of time), and that they "ranged" from here to there.

What readers don't know is what anybody actually said. The reporter provides not one word from his shirt-pocket tape recorder quoting either of the job applicants.

Here's the text; see if you can find one thing that actually informs the community in a meaningful way -- and I don't mean the news that the city recorder read the questions out loud.

ARCADIA — At a special public meeting on Tuesday, the Arcadia City Council put questions to two of the three applicants for the job of city attorney.

The two applicants who were interviewed were Paul Bennett Seusy and James D. Carter Jr.

The third applicant, William S. Galvano, who is the state representative from District 68, was unable to attend the council meeting to interview. The council agreed to try and schedule an interview with Galvano prior to the council’s May 20 meeting, before deciding on an offer to one of the candidates. Galvano was also absent from the April 15 informal meeting between the council and candidates.

Prior to the interview, each applicant was given a copy of the 10 questions to be presented to each candidate. The questions were then read aloud by City Recorder Shelly Baumann and the applicant replied.

First to go before the council was Paul Bennett Seusy, an attorney with an Arcadia law firm who resides in Lake Suzy.

Second to be interviewed was James D. Carter Jr. He has been engaged in private practice in Bradenton since 1996. Carter earned his law degree 1986 from Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

The questions ranged from relations among city, county and school board attorneys, to salary requests and why the applicant would want to be the city attorney.

Present City Attorney David Holloman announced his retirement earlier this year, but agreed to stay on temporarily until his replacement was hired.

The other odd thing about this story is the headline: there was never any intention that this meeting be other than a public Q&A. Did the kid on the copydesk assume the story was about the failure to choose an attorney? If so, he sould have read it.

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