In Florida, there is a group known as the First Amendment Foundation, which ostensibly stands up for the First Amendment and the state’s Sunshine Laws.
With half its impressive board of trustees made up of representatives from Florida’s media outlets – the Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel, Capitol News Service, Florida Times Union, Florida Press Association, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Miami Herald, Daytona Beach News-Journal, WTSP-TV, State House News Service, and The Sarasota Observer — you’d think the foundation would be laser-focused on its mission, as stated on its website:
“The Foundation monitors the Legislature, state agencies, the courts, and, when possible, local governments, for actions and issues related to open government, alerting its members through periodic reports of all open government activity.”
You would be wrong.
The foundation’s Twitter account, offers an interesting series of attacks on the Second Amendment and direct engagement in partisan politics.
Does anyone remember that Barbara Petersen, the foundation’s executive director, resigned from Integrity Florida after that organization accepted money for research?
“I found myself in the uncomfortable situation of being asked by citizen groups and the media to justify recent decisions by Integrity Florida that, to some, inaccurately folded [the First Amendment Foundation] into Integrity Florida’s decision-making process,” Petersen said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “This put me in a very difficult position and I decided it would be best if I resigned.”
The research in question was sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, an organization that elicits a Pavlovian response from the left. It did not matter that the research was accurate, only that it was paid for by a conservative group. Freedom of speech indeed.
Naturally, Petersen didn’t mention the dirty secret of the research world: All research is paid for by someone, but the media never attacks a study when its conclusions support their predetermined point of view.
Despite all the newspapers on the First Amendment Foundation’s board, not a single one has noticed that the First Amendment watchdog is attacking the Second Amendment, or that it’s engaging in partisan politics. Since I am not a lawyer, perhaps one of the many lawyers on the foundation’s board can weigh in on the legal merits of a nonprofit formally endorsing a political candidate.
While it’s easy to bash the media for bias or failure to report, we can chalk it up to an observation noted in the so-called “Hanlon’s razor” adage: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
No matter how low the bar has sunk for “journalism,” Florida’s primary media outlets find a way to slither under it. I’d like to believe people saw the questionable politics waged on the foundation’s Twitter feed, and ignored it. But the reality is that probably not one of the state’s “trusted” media outlets serving on the foundation’s board even noticed the tweets.
So the question for these “fine” media representatives is: What will you do about it? It’s not like there was just a one errant post slamming the Second Amendment. There was one each on April 19, 22 and 24. There were even tweets touting the candidacy of Paula (Dockery?) for governor in 2014.
The tweets were subsequently deleted, but were captured in screen shots seen below.
Is this why the First Amendment Foundation has missed the boat on some bills crafted and debated this legislative session that would curb government transparency? If a perceived conflict of political agendas merits resignation, where does failure to perform your basic responsibilities rate in the hierarchy of problems? Or potential legal violations?
Is this organization capable of the public trust it aspires to anymore? I have a hard time believing anyone connected to the First Amendment Foundation will do a single thing about the stink surrounding it, including issuing a perfunctory “we’re sorry if you’re offended” apology or blaming it on an over-zealous intern.
The once-esteemed fourth estate, is licking President Obama’s hand for a few kind pats on the head, instead of asking the tough questions. These same watchdogs, meanwhile, are busy pushing for political candidates, or attacking the Second Amendment, and failing to do the job they have appointed themselves to do.
Your move, First Amendment Foundation. All that is at stake is your integrity, and that of your board of trustees.