The Sun Sentinel’s home run for transparency and accountability at Stoneman Douglas
Excerpt: Immediately after 17 people were murdered inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the school district launched a persistent effort to keep people from finding out what went wrong.
For months, Broward schools delayed or withheld records, refused to publicly assess the role of employees, spread misinformation and even sought to jail reporters who published the truth.
New information gathered by the South Florida Sun Sentinel proves that the school district knew far more than it’s saying about a disturbed former student obsessed with death and guns who mowed down staff and students with an assault rifle on Valentine’s Day.
After promising an honest assessment of what led to the shooting, the district instead hired a consultant whose primary goal, according to school records, was preparing a legal defense. Then the district kept most of those findings from the public.
The district also spent untold amounts on lawyers to fight the release of records and nearly $200,000 to pay public relations consultants who advised administrators to clam up, the Sun Sentinel found.
School administrators insist that they have been as transparent as possible; that federal privacy laws prevent them from revealing the school record of gunman Nikolas Cruz; that discussing security in detail would make schools more dangerous; and that answers ultimately will come when a state commission releases its initial findings about the shooting around New Year’s.
Bottom Line: I’m a harsh critic of local media when it’s frequently deserved but I’m also first to speak on behalf of journalism done right. This story, on the ongoing effort by the reporter(s) at the Sentinel to get to the truth on what’s really happened in Broward is the best local journalism I’ve ever come across. When this story is finally concluded it’s possible those behind it will be heroes.
You’ll hear me say the most pervasive form of media bias is omitting information. It’s what’s not reported, what you never know about, that’s often the biggest issue with poor reporting. Sometimes it appears to be deliberate. For example, how hard would it be for other media outlets to pick up on my work regarding the Honduran Caravan being organized via an open borders political organization, Pueblo Sin Fronteras? How hard would it be for them to take my stories depicting the laws broken by both Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher – including those that rise to the level of voter fraud and present the facts to you? What about the actual use of taxpayer money by South Florida’s school districts rather than just endorsing the next tax increase they’ll implore you to vote for despite rapidly rising increases in revenue to local governments/schools without those increases? There are a myriad of examples but let me pick up on what the Sentinel has been working on here...
The Sentinel did a brilliant job demonstrating the extent to which the Broward School District has gone to stone-wall the truth behind the obvious warning signs and failures... The teachers’ reporting of Cruz as desirous of killing people and animals – specifically discussing killing students going all the way back to middle-school – is especially instructive. The school district literally used tax payer money to hire people/organizations to help keep the real information from you – all while asking for yet another tax increase for the schools. Isn’t that special? But here’s the thing. This is especially instructive. While it’s as serious as it gets specific to Stoneman Douglas, it’s also a tactic I’ve experienced for years on the local level cutting across a number of local government entities. In the second part of today's’ story I’ll share the way many South Florida officials attempt to manipulate coverage.