Monday, February 9, 2009

Watchdog journalism page launches today

Watchdog journalism page launches today
Terry Eberle • teberle@ • February 9, 2009

The terrible economy is taking a heavy toll on newspapers across Florida and the U.S.

Newsroom staffs are shrinking at an alarming rate. Great journalists are retiring or leaving for other things.

Newsrooms are cutting beats, trimming state capital coverage, leaving fewer people to do more things.

Doomsayers predict that sometime soon there will be little or no watchdog journalism. Investigative reporting is expensive, it takes time and takes dedicated and talented editors and reporters. They say that governments will get free passes as newspapers do the things that are easier and less controversial.

I don't agree. Watchdog journalism must be the foundation of everything we do here in Lee County.

I believe it so much that Monday we will be launching a new watchdog team with a new Web site and renewed commitment. The Web site address is watchdog.

We will scrutinize, investigate and hold people accountable.

This is a public service and a responsibility of The News-Press.

Sam Cook, a longtime Lee County journalist and renowned columnist, will head the three-person team. He is joined by Tell Mel columnist Melanie Payne and reporter Ryan Lengerich, who most recently covered the Lee County beat.

Cook says the team will involve readers.

"We will know we are successful when we get more and more people involved," he says.

Cook receives about 10 tips a week now and he hopes this grows by three or four times.

The team also will be assisted by a group of 15 retired citizens with a wealth of experience and education. They are retired lawyers, judges, Vietnam veterans. They are real estate brokers, an FBI agent and librarian. They are retired police officers, professors and an oil refinery operator. They all care about Lee County and they all want to identify the waste and the bad guys.

"There are plenty of areas of life in Lee County that beg to be investigated and exposed to the light of day and I would like to help do that," says Louis Marjon, a retired attorney and member of the citizens' group.

Team watchdog's page will have something new everyday. It will have:

• Blogs

• Databases from searchable restaurant reviews to crime stats.

• A spot where people can easily blow the whistle on wrongdoing

• Florida's law outlining your rights to public hearings and public meetings. It also will have sample letters to help you file for public records.

This team already shed light on State Rep. Trudi Williams' many addresses and the dilemma facing Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall because of her relationship with a builder.

We are committed to holding our public figures accountable and following how your tax money is spent. We want to expose the wrongs and make this a better place.

We look forward to hearing from you and working together.

- Terry Eberle is Executive Editor of The News-Press and can be reached at teberle@ or 239-335-0280.
Watchdog journalism page launches today


Is this what journalism is going to come down to, local folks telling local reporters about what is going on the the local area, what will happen to national stories like veterans, the Cold War experiments that have been ignored, the Nuclear veterans, largely forgotten what about the fraud by KBR and other companies related to waste in war spending will those things get covered? What about Blackwater and their large payrolls in areas where they establish training areas? Will the economic boost give them the right to bulldoze thru local zoning laws as they attempted in San Diego last year?

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