Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Reporter Plagiarizes Press Releases -- and Dear Abby

The blue circles marked onto the clip of a story bylined Mary Margaret Staik, right center, are not the parts she plagiarized. They are the 45 or so words she didn't plagiarize. The rest of the story -- about veteran's benefits for surviving spouses whose partners die of Lou Gehrig's disease -- starts with Staik's word-for-word pickup of two paragraphs from a Dear Abby item published in her boss's paper last Saturday. The rest of Staik's story is cut-and-paste from two press releases, one from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the other from the ALS foundation.

Staik's plagiarism even taints her local source, a veteran's affairs officer in Lake Placid, into whose mouth she stuffs a quote lifted directly from the "Dear Abby" piece.

The art is too small to read, so the whole sorry mess, including links to the original Web sources, is printed below the fold.

Veteran Services Office Helping Clients, Widows With ALS Claims
By Mary Margaret Staik

On Sept 23 2008, Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, became a presumptive condition under the VA guidelines for all veterans who served in our armed forces for at least 90 days. The result of this change means that the widows of those veterans who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in years past are eligible for the VA widows’ monthly benefit. [this is the section that's word for word from a July 18 Dear Abby column printed in this and other newspapers.]

“From the number of telephone calls our office is receiving”, reports Joseph A. Dionne, Director Veteran Services, “many people are not aware that a veteran’s death due to this disease is now considered service connected”. [the second part of this "quote" is also lifted from the Dear Abby writer and simply attributed to a local spokesman. Except for the parts where Staik leaves the period outside the quote marks.]

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a national registry of veterans with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The registry helps to identify veterans with a diagnosis of this fatal, neurological disorder, regardless of when they served in the military, and track their health status. Word for word from the Feb. 18 2003 VA press release.

ALS kills the brain and spinal cord cells that control muscle movement, resulting in gradual muscle wasting and loss of movement. It is estimated that only 20 percent of ALS patients live beyond five years, and affects as many as 30,000 Americans. The disease usually strikes those between the ages of 40 and 70. There is no known cure, though science is continuing to find better treatment and a possible cure. Word for word from the ALS organization’s press release dated July 10 2003.

In preliminary findings announced by VA in December 2001, ALS was nearly twice as prevalent among veterans who had been deployed to the Persian Gulf region in 1990 and 1991 than among those not deployed. The incidence was especially high among Air Force personnel who served in the conflict
. The VA again

Other research on veterans of Desert Shield and Desert Storm has confirmed they are at higher risk for a mysterious cluster of symptoms known as Gulf War illnesses, involving chronic fatigue, musculoskeletal problems, asthma, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, memory loss and other problems. More from the VA press release.

For the surviving spouse of a veteran who dies with ALS, DIC benefits may be available. Please contact the Veteran Services Office, 402-6623, for an appointment.

Maybe Copying is Better ....

In the same paper in which Mary Margaret plagiarizes, her editor, George Duncan, writes this:
Many conservatives and almost all Libertarians believe the bunk of the federal government is involved in programs and policies that, in effect, it has no constitutional authority. [...Immigration ...] is another indication that the federal government has made a mess of things. So who does anyone want to allow the federal government to handle health care in this nation. Patients will be dying like flies. ...

And basic literacy and logic are on life support.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Charlotte Sun Reporter Ed Scott Slaps his Byline on Press Release

Ed Scott should know better. He's a staff writer at "America's Best Community Daily." The water-management district sent around a news release earlier this week. The ethical reporter has two choices: either call the district for the story behind the prepared statement and write original copy, or run the prepared statement in a way that acknowledges that no one on staff checked it out. Scott did neither. He opted, instead, to put his by-line on the news release and run it as his own. The first four paragraphs of the water authority's communique appear word for word under Scott's byline without quotes and without attribution. That's plagiarism. Ed Scott know it, his bosses know it. And now the World Wide Web knows it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Leave Storytelling to Professionals

Today's rant is inspired by a talented photojournalist, Sarah Coward. She has assembled a knock-your-socks-off web portfolio. One page is “comparisons gallery” at It's a gentle, highly educational “visual rant against the practice of forcing newspaper reporters ... out of their element and into the world of visual storytelling.”

In a dozen or so photos that unfold in sequence, Coward shows a general assignment reporter’s snapshot of a news event and then compares how the same subject might be seen through the lens of a visual storyteller. The mini-lesson includes all the bread and butter of small-town journalism – awards, ribbon cuttings, accident scenes, openings, school days. It is is well worth the site-visit to see how far we amateurs have to go to master storytelling with pictures.

Coward’s compare-and-contrast essay was on OWW’s mind this morning when Charlotte Sun’s weekly tab, “Feeling Fit,” slithered from the Sunday sleeve. The big story is an interview with a hospital CEO. It's a puff piece assembled by a “correspondent,” which roughly translates as "untrained." And, knowing Sun Coast Media Group, the title surely indicates an amateur willing to work free for the by-line. Well, readers got exactly what the Sun paid for.

That is, the freelancer who wrote "Hospital CEO talks of healthcare" fails to tell a story. Nothing explains how today is different than yesterday. The "correspondent" gives no hint that the man interviewed is unusual or outstanding (he loves family and job, to paraphrase the several paragraphs devoted to this point). No element engages the emotions, illuminates a national debate, or explains a local condition.

As if that weren't (little) enough, the article is replete with weak grammar, punctuation and spelling. The Sun's paid copy editors must be using their stylebooks and dictionaries as coffee-mug coasters because they clearly aren't using them as references.

OK, that's the rant. For gory details and line-by-line support of the thesis, peek below the fold.

It may be safe to say that grass doesn’t grow under Joseph Clancy’s feet.
We admire the caution (“may”) but wonder why a professional writer would submit a story whose second clause in a trite cliché. Sorry: is there any other kind?
As the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Peace River Regional Medical Center, [...]
Style. Where’s the copy desk? We don’t capitalize “pope” without attaching a man’s name to the title; how does an administrator at the region’s smallest hospital rate what the head of the one true church can’t have?
[...] he spends less time behind a desk and more time visiting each department — getting to know the more than 900 employees that are under his purview — using his personable and unassuming nature to get to know them — taking the pulse of the heart of the hospital that is, he said, its people.
Trite, again, and almost laughable imagery – taking the pulse, people are the heart, etc. If the man really said this, then put it in quotes so OWW won’t blame the writer. And if the writer is putting pretty words in his mouth, the writer missed a second opportunity (the first was the lede) to start telling a story that readers might care about. Of course a new administrator meets and greets staff. If he’s affable and unassuming, a real story teller wouldn’t tell us, a real story teller would show us.
To Clancy, his position is more than a job. For him, it is personal — it is, as he said, “coming home,” to help provide the best medical care possible to the community he and his family hold dear.
Delete the unnecessary comma; more triteness: “more than a job.” Don’t tell us (again), show us. Start chapter 2 in the story. By this time, readers should know why it's important or worthwhile to read this story.
And along with loving his job as CEO, he loves his role as husband and dad and said he tries his best to balance family and career. “They are my pride and joy. I love showing them off,” he said, pulling out pictures of his two children, Carson, 3, and Sophia, 4, of whom he and wife, Tobi, adopted from Guatemala three years ago.
Edit and repair: “of whom.” Professionals (writers, real copy editors) can handle this; amateur “correspondents” need a backstop – or at least a grammar review. The sad part is, any native speaker can hear something's off, and the professional would take time to “look it up,” get a quick grammar review, or simply recast the sentence to avoid the appearance of illiteracy.
“Obviously, this is a very time-consuming job,” he said of his new position. “But, every minute I am not here at work, I spend with them.”
Clarifying “job” as “new position” helps the reader understand the difficult concept here? More importantly, there’s no hint yet of story – just a man who loves his job and his family.
“This is my third stint in Charlotte County,” he said, adding he started his career in medical administration with Health Management Associates, who not only owns Peace River Regional, but Charlotte Regional Medical Center as well.
Not “who.” Reduce wordiness: “not only ... but” phrases create ornate verbosity that says “lookie, I’m a writer.” Meanwhile, readers continue their hunt for a story.
Clancy, who took over the position in May, said that he was handed a facility that is ready to move forward with the goal of improving and expanding services and taking on new challenges. “David [McCormack, former CEO] left me in a good situation in the sense that volume wise, we are doing very well in terms of overall admissions and overall surgeries.”
OK, I believe he actually said this; it’s pure business-ese. But why? The pablum is an invitation for a professional to do some homework and inject some substance: number of beds, dollar volume, procedures performed, years in operation -- recap of the “Standard & Poor's” stuff. And why not a note about the institution’s rank and place in the hospital food chain – a highly competitive market in our area? That's what a professional might write about. So, still no story, not even a note about where poor old Dave went.
The challenges Clancy faces, he said, are industry-wide with a health-care system that may soon undergo the scalpel. “Right now, it is wait and see — to see which plan they move forward with,” he said. “The overall premise of trying to provide insurance for the uninsured and the underinsured in this country — we are all in agreement as healthcare providers that it is needed.”
Wow; this is a hot topic and yet the correspondent is willing to submit as jouranlism a piece that lets the speaker get away with this gobbledygook. We’d overlook the unanchored pronoun, nonexistent copy editing, and unsubstantiated generalizations if we had a story to chew on. What’s the effect of un- and under-insured on this hospital’s inner workings, staff, and ability to serve? If you bring up the subject, you're required to add to the discussion.
In the mean time, Clancy is focusing on the now, working to continue to improve patient satisfaction. “We pride ourselves on providing quality, compassionate care,” he said. “Even if you excel, there is always room for improvement — improving the patient experience,” he said. “That is going to remain one of our big focuses.”
Mean time as two words is quite a different thing than “meantime.” The man’s quotes are more pap and puff. Readers have long since passed the half-way mark in this story -- and still no story. Not one word has been written to tell readers why the world is different today than it was yesterday, why this man is unusual or interesting, why the heart strings might feel a tug, or why this small-town hospital even exists. We haven’t a clue.
Another focus, he said, is moving the county's cardiac care facility from Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda to Peace River Regional. The $16.5 million project will add a two-story, state-of-the-art cardiac tower that is planned to be constructed above the emergency room. “The other option is to renovate the old emergency room.”
Quotes without attribution and missing hypens drive real copy editors up the wall. Correspondents, not so much. Note that it's not "the county's cardiac care facility," it's HMA's.
The new cardiac area will be private inpatient rooms only, something Clancy said is becoming the industry standard.
OK, here’s a bit of hidden news that makes us willing to ignore the awful copy editing: big construction looms. Months of jockeying patients and services are ahead. (Hospital construction and renovations are a masterwork of puzzle pieces as patient care takes place side by side with construction workers and cranes). The correspondent missed a potentially very interesting story, or at least a hook for her unfiltered adulation and mindless quotes. Does the new CEO have a special expertise in hospital construction? What does the planned disruption mean for people in the community? Is moving cardiac services part of a larger HMA plan? You bet it is -- but the correspondent doesn't seem to know the community well enough to think of this.
"I think moving the program from Punta Gorda — a town of 17 thousand, to Port Charlotte that has more than 90 thousand people just makes sense,” he said.
We’ll continue to ignore the awful copy editing (which a professional writer would take care of herself before handing in her story). But, more importantly, readers need a reason to believe that moving the cardiac service “just makes sense.” Locals know Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda are adjacent municipalities and the two hospitals are six miles apart. A journalist would find out why instead of abandoning this assertion to survive on its own.
Construction on the project, he said, should start in the spring of 2010. It is an exciting time, Clancy said, for healthcare in Charlotte County, despite the struggling economy and a healthcare system in flux. “The last year has been tough on this industry, and we are facing many of the same struggles other facilities across the county face,” he said.
More pap and puff. We’re clearly getting to the end of the correspondent’s mini-tape recording.
“Charlotte County will have all the services needed to provide quality healthcare to its residents,” he said, adding he and his family are glad to be home to be a part of it.
Home from where, exactly? Did he go to high school here? And BTW, what's his college and degree? And, really, haven't we heard "quality healthcare" somewhere before? If this were a photo, it would be called a "grip and grin."
While his career has allowed him the opportunity work at various facilities in the country, it is Charlotte County he ultimately longed to return. “Every move in my career, there has always been the goal to come back here,” he said.
We return defective products to the store. We don’t return counties.
"This is the community where I met my wife. This is the community we lived in where my son was born and where we brought our daughter home from Guatemala, and is here I want my children to grow up. This is where we call home.”
So sweet: a nice family man who wanted to come home to where his heart is -- and he did. But, some 30 sentences down the pike, readers are still looking for the story. The moral of this long tale: Assign news features and story telling -- written or visual -- to professionals.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

FSNE Journalism Awards 2009 for the Sun-Herald Newspaper Group: None

The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors recently announced its 2009 choices for excellence in journalism. The local Charlotte Sun has been a presence at the winners table for as long as I’ve been subscribing, so I’ve been watching in vain for the annual “cheers to us” item in the local paper.

The lack of news sent me to the FSNE Web site to see what’s going on. In fact, nothing happened. A little historical tally, however, draws an interesting picture.

In 2002, the first year I know about, Jeff Langlois won second place for sports writing, Jon Fredin took second place for feature photography, and the staff as a whole earned second place in the business category. Today, neither Langlois nor Fredin is on staff with the Sun.
In 2003: Renee LePere and Mike McLoone carried home trophies. Neither is currently employed with the Sun.
In 2004: Sarah Coward, Malcolm Brenner, James Abraham, Carrie Call, Don Wilkie and Jon Fredin – all award winners, all gone.
In 2005: Sarah Coward, Chris Stolle, Keith Cerniglia – all award winners, all gone.
In 2006: John Haughey, Buddy Martin, Sarah Coward, Jon Fredin, Dana Clausing – all award winners, all gone.
In 2007: Dugan Arnett, Bob Bowden, Janet Boetsch, Denis DeRambo, John Finneran, Buddy Martin, Sarah Coward, Karlie Rose, Alyssa Schnugg – all award winners, all gone.
Last year, in 2008: Just two awards went to the Sun, one for a special one-time section about the Peace River, and another to columnist John Hackworth. He's still with the paper, survivor of what appears to be a staff-wide decimation of award-winning writers and photographers.

So what about this year? This year, there were no FSNE winners at "America's Best Community Daily." All gone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sun Columnist Struggles with "Unpronounceable" African Countries

Dave Morris, Sun-Herald's tireless consumer advocate, let it slip in his column today that he has trouble pronouncing the names of some "foriegner" African nations. Dave has helped so many readers and now Old Word Wolf is willing to turn the tables and help him. Being a fuddy-duddy old teacher, OWW can't idly sit by while when a nice young man feels the urge to turn ignorance into a small (very small) joke. Making ignorance a laughing matter fosters stereotypes and reinforces the sense that others -- even when speaking of their own nations! -- are somehow not up to Dave's linguistic standards. His joke doesn't bridge global understanding or nurture world peace. But OWW can help.

OWW is convinced that Dave can learn there are no unpronounceable names among African nations. To prove this, OWW has arranged a little chart, scaled from "really easy" to more challenging. It's a self-paced tutorial that Dave can take at home. He can start with the familiar and work through to the very manageable -- and enjoyable -- challenges of mastering how to pronounce the names of every African nation.

Level 1 Easiest: These are African countries whose national names are highly Anglicized in the Western lexicon (that is, Americans commonly say and write them using Dave’s native language family). They should pose no trouble at all to a trained journalist:

South Africa ................... Western Sahara .................... Central African Republic
Ivory Coast .................... Canary Islands ...................... Saint Helena
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Level 2 Also pretty easy. These countries have short names, just one or two syllables, which are easily pronounced with the Anglican sound system:
Chad ... Mali ... Niger ... Sudan ... Ghana (silent h)... Gabon
Benin ... Kenya ... Mayotte ... Togo ... Libya ... Egypt
Seyshelles (say shells)

Level 3 Less easy: Country names of three syllables (forcing Dave to make a decision about stressed-unstressed patterns) or names with adjacent vowels or double L’s (requiring Dave to either separate vowels or master a diphthong or blend.) Practice is easier than theory, I promise.

A. Diphthongs and blends: Zaire ..... Guinea ..... Melilla

B. Three syllables: Angola ... .. Botswana ..... Uganda....... Zambia .... . Maderia ..... Tunisia ...Senegal ..... Cameroon ..... Burundi ..... Comoros .... Malawi .....

Level 4. Maybe Dave finds countries of more than one word hard to pronounce. There are only four, and each can be “sounded out” using common English phonemic groups and stress rules.

..... Sierra Leone ..... Guinea Bassu..... Burkina Faso ..... Sao Tome and Principe

Level 5 The Big Words. Even African country names of four or more syllables are easy to master in about 10 minutes by a motivated learner with a dictionary and unimpeded by a speech impairment. First the rhymers because a little song always helps grasp new material:

Nigeria ..... Liberia ... .. Algeria ..... Somalia ..... Ethiopia ..... Namibia ..... Tanzania ..... Mauritania ..... Eritrea ..... Madagascar..... Mozambique .....

And finally, the Gold Medal for Difficulty is clearly, Djibouti.

The trick is not to let the initial "d" confuse Dave's American sense of what's hard to pronounce. Africans in this eastern continental nation where the local languages are Arabic and Somoli, have not been generally linked to scam letters, which is the context of our helpful columnist's linguistic xenophobia. Djiboutis are, I dare say, just happy if the world just knows they're around and like it when people respect their name enough to say it gracefully. If an American comes calling, they are willing to endure: Jä-BOO-tee.

Dave, if I've overlooked any African nations or if you find one you still can't pronounce, please call and I'll be happy to help. The one that is most commony associated with scam letters is actually among the easiest to pronounce: Ny-jeer-ee-a. Say it and repeat it. You'll get it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DeSoto County School Board Meets Again

This might turn into a saga,"School Board Meeting: Part 2." **

DeSoto County School board held a meaty and important session last night. Its purpose was to set the millage rate for next year’s property tax payers (the millage goes up from 7.210 mills for the current year to 7.45 mills for the upcoming year), but before the board’s unanimous vote to place the legal ads and public notices for this, four of five members present – and the one member of the public who was there – were immersed in a robust, meaty, and highly informative look at the district’s funding prospects for the next fiscal year. It was not a pretty picture; the message was a familiar one -- a small, rural school district having to do more with less, within a state that seems not to believe that education is its most important priority, and doing it in times of great stress for the community and the people in it.

Preliminary figures in the first draft of the 2009-2010 schools budget show last year’s bottom line of $42.5 million is expect to dwindle to $39 million. And even that reduced number is likely to shrink further, pending some final calculations about how much the school district can realistically expect from local taxpayers (the tax base has contracted as property values have declined).

Old Word Wolf is going to post more detail about this, but first a digression. OWW was the one member of the public present. Why? It may be because the school board’s published agenda for the regular meeting made no mention of the budget backgrounder or the millage decision that came up for a vote. The finance director’s presentation came under the heading of “staff report,” without even a sub-title to indicate it was the finance director who would be presenting the show and tell.

That's the boring part: Now the good stuff

The trouble started when OWW went to the podium to ask the board to do two things: make the detailed budget available in the town library, and to publish agendas that revealed more about what would actually be heard, discussed, and voted on. Not even the press, it seems, had been alerted to the depth and breadth of the evening's business and was conspicuously absent.

When the meeting adjourned a few minutes later, Adrian Cline, the superintendent of DeSoto County schools accused OWW of going to the supervisor of elections to dig up information about him, of harassing his staff, and being sarcastic.

The accusations came in the wake of OWW greeting the school board chairman, Rodney Hollingsworth, and gently lobbying him to place a copy of the budget in the public library. Before the chairman could respond or discuss the public-records request, Superintendent Cline interrupted to bellow, “You’re not going to find what you’re looking for!” Since OWW doesn’t know what she is or isn’t looking for, the superintendent’s own clarity on this point was nothing short of amazing in a mentalist-fortune teller sort of way.

Unfortunately, a low-key discussion regarding the availability of a public document fast escalated into a red-faced, eyes-bulging set of snorts and accusations by the superintendent, who was wild to call names and impugn motives.

What's a Citizen to think?

The take-away message is pretty clear: (1) The public is not welcome to know what’s on the school board’s agenda (2) The school board membership's reputation for meekness and acquiescence has a clear reason for being: the superintendent acts like a bully (3) and the superintendent seems unwilling to release even the most public of documents without a boat load of paranoia, suspicion, and nasty name-calling.

** See "Muzzle the Press" of a couple of weeks back.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

DeSoto Property Values Lower: Why? Don't Ask

Important local story today: The property appraiser's annual tally of real estate values adds up to about 10 percent less than last year's value. The story's sub-head includes the words "some skeptical," and the appraiser himself is quoted in the story as saying the tote isn't the 20-percent decline he had expected.

So, does our inquiring reporter ask the nice government official why? After all, it's one of the five W's, and a biggie, at that.

The nice reporter asks a nice real estate broker first. She says, "it's a great time to sell your property and buy another. " Not really helpful or even on topic, except if you're pressed into writing a dozen paragraphs in three days. The reporter's next attempt at relevance is a second real estate broker, who edges closer to the meat of the matter ("I can tell you in the real life, the housing market is down more than 10 percent"). But our government watchdog isn't watching. Most people, even folks who aren't trained reporters, would return to the property appraiser and ask, "Why? If the market's down a lot more than 10 percent, why don't your valuations seem to relfect that?"

Now, the property appraiser might explain to an inquiring citizen that so-called homestead properties have been enjoying a 3-percent cap on tax-value hikes for the last 15 years or so (ever since Florida voters approved the so-called SOS amendment to the state constitution that capped annual homestead valuation increases to 3 percent). Even in down-market years, those properties' valuations for tax purposes are allowed to rise a full 3 percent until taxable value catches up with market value. DeSoto has a high percentage of homesteaded properties; it's not a vacation land populated with second homes that would have been unaffected by the artificially low tax values awarded to homesteads.

Or, the inquiring reporter himself might have looked into a sampling of homes sold in the last year or so (but that would require genuine curiosity and a willingness to work at one's chosen profession). If the number of properties sold last year and the year before were relatively few, it is conceivable that there has been little impact on market price calculations. Again, this is not a hot real estate market and turnover might be historically low (I don't know this; but if I were a sharp reporter, I'd certainly ask).

Or -- there are certainly three or four additional factors that go into the fairly complex (but not opaque or unknowable) property valuation system. A real reporter, rather than a spokesman for his friends in government, would help taxpayers and readers understand how the system works: --->

The story fails to serve readers due simply to laziness and amateurism.

A real reporter might use this story to launch the yearly millage-rate explanation -- especially in light of a county commissioner's nearly meaningless quote: "I will not support a millage increase..." Now, the good commissioner is about to discover that when values go down, he can't use the same millage as last year to generate an equal amount this year. In order to maintain a flat level of spending on lower values, the millage must increase. It's a law of arithmetic, or something. Are taxpayers going to understand this? Not by reading John Lawhorne. That's the lazy part.

The amateurish part is, once again (this is becoming a habit), the reporter doesn't tell readers when this news broke. When did the property appraiser finish his tally? Was that Monday when there was "no paper?" or last Friday? This sloppy omission is doubly curious because the lede describes the property appraiser "working under the pressure of a 10-day extension." Ten days from when is not reported; who issued the extension is not reported; why the extension had been requested and granted is not reported. How the delay affects the work and timeframes available to the school board, county, and other taxing districts is not reported.

And, to make things sloppier and lazier, it looks like the reporter didn't bother doing the math. If last year's taxable value in the county was $1.8 billion and this year's is $1.6 billion, the $200 million difference is 11 percent less than last year's figure, not 10 percent as reported. Likewise, if the City of Arcadia's taxable value last year was $232 million and this year's is $218 million, then the $14 million difference is 6 percent less than last year's figure, not the 10 percent reported.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Say When: It's One of the Five W's

In their continuing struggle with the fundamentals of news writing, Charlotte Sun editors this morning published a story submitted by a “correspondent,” and the kids on the copy desk slapped on the headline, “Feds offering new immigration check system.”

“Nine Florida counties have been added to the list of law enforcement agencies using the federal government new secure communities and immigration check program....” reads the opener. Which prompts the reader to wonder what new system are we talking about? Was it new yesterday? New earlier this week? New last month? The correspondent never corresponds on this point -- and as it turns out, he can’t because the system isn’t new. The new parts (or better, “recent” ) are the nine counties joining.

A quick Web search uncovers that the “correspondent” has paraphrased (you know, changed word here, changed a word there) a June 19 government press release that does not call the program new. The program has been around a while. The writer doesn’t directly tell readers this; they must make a reasonable inference based on his last graf:

“Since it [database access] was issued to Florida law enforcement agencies, 8,407 matches have come through, including 787 Level 1 offenders, or aggravated felons.” Again, since when? Would that be 8,407 since yesterday? Earlier this week? Last month?

This story is a great example of a “correspondent” who has failed to take his journalism seriously enough to strive for a modicum of objectivity. Like a used car salesman, he’s trying to sell the almost-new old buggy. We expect the hype at the lemon lot, not the newspaper.