News Rants

by Roger Pynn

As a recovering journalist, I understand all too well how hard it must be in these times to stifle personal opinion when covering audacity, but really now, how much longer will the fourth estate have any franchise left if folks like WDBO Radio’s Mike Synan step so far over the line of demarcation that you can’t tell the difference between reporter and commentator?

Don’t know, Mike, but he’s always sounded like an endangered species in the world of radio … a straight-forward news reporter. Until this morning when his coverage of a proposed toll road hike went ballistic and it continues with his blog where he admits as he did on the air that he was out of bounds.

Judge for yourself whether this is journalism or commentary:

“Finally, what type of poor government action can be done without some type of doom and gloom warning? Mike Snyder told County Commissioners last week that if the toll increase does not go through, the people that hold the bonds for Orange County’s roads could come in and take over the agency, then raise the tolls anyway. Now THAT is some serious gall. Have you ever heard of this happening anywhere? Snyder couldn’t give the Orlando Sentinel an example, and they certainly get enough in toll revenue to cover the debt service payments, and keep a good credit rating for the bond market. What he’s talking about is if they continue to borrow the additional 650 million without this toll hike, then they could potentially be in danger. Here’s a tip: Don’t borrow the money! The OOCEA needs to take a step backwards and present this community with a sunset on themselves to go along with any rate increase.”

The question is, “will anyone throw a penalty flag?”

I left the world of news because my heart told me I wanted to participate in the society I was covering … I had a civic streak that said “you can’t just watch the world go by and report on it; you have to be part of what is reported on.” It was a tough decision because I loved the basics of the news business … being there for those who couldn’t and asking the questions they would ask. But I never – NEVER – injected my own feelings in what I wrote.

As a matter of fact, I’ve always regretted the incident that led me to make that decision. The Orlando Sentinel turned to me as a young Vietnam era reporter to pen an editorial in support of lowering the drinking age at a time when young men were being conscripted to fight and die in a very unpopular war. I knew the day the editorial ran that I had lost my credibility. People knew what I thought. Fifteen yards! (By the way, I’ve also regretted that position many times, realizing that drinking and dying wasn’t the issue.)

Nowadays, Mike is just joining the crowd that every day prefaces what is supposed to be a news story with the words “I think,” making me cringe and assuring that people can then approach them appealing to their bias. Not intended bias, just natural bias. We all have it. All reporters have it. The trick is to contain it and not let it creep into the outcome of your coverage.

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