The Paper and the Politician

The weekend’s Florida Today story online was headlined: SHERIFF IVEY UPSTAGES HURRICANE DORIAN MESSAGING.While it has all the toppings and condiments, there is no burger here. This is a non-story.

Bad move number one- making Sheriff Wayne Ivey a target, especially during a weather emergency.The article adds plenty of flavor with little real substance. And it seems decidedly directed at the sheriff, someone with whom the paper has had a rocky relationship for some time.

Oh, there were legitimate questions to ask and the messaging could be one of them, but to headline it in this form is nothing short of antagonistic.Asking if the sheriff’s messaging was proper, timed right and coordinated with other emergency officials would be perfect.Had there been any real confusion caused by the sheriff’s proclamations might have been another angle, but it was also absent.

If you’ve seen any of Sheriff Ivey’s time in office for any length of time you know his personality is bigger than life and his messaging is very direct and often on social media.We do it in radio, they do it on TV and yes, even Florida Today emphasizes its social media presence.It’s no surprise that the sheriff chose to message the community via social media in the run up to, during and after Dorian’s limited impact on the Space Coast.

It’s my understanding that there are new folks working at Brevard’s Emergency Operations Center.Questions about their familiarity and performance would also be appropriate.At some point the committee that makes decisions for the county decided upon an evacuation to be announced at 8am on Sunday, September first.The shelters, which were announced much later than I have seen in any previous storm, were not to open until noon of that same evacuation day.Somehow I did not see that decision questioned.

After conferring with the County Manager, Sheriff Ivey pre-announced the evacuation the night before it was to take effect.To me, it was a good move giving those wishing to evacuate ample time to prepare and even leave early.If you’ve ever been stuck in evacuation traffic you’ll know why this is a good idea.

The county staff acknowledges confusion on the evacuation order and announcement directives.This is an area to mark for improvement next time.In fact, overall communication is an area for the EOC, the county and the sheriff to improve next time out.

Where the sheriff did err is in letting Florida Today get under his skin.He replied to the paper in an email that he would not answer questions from Florida Today.Just like his deputies don’t get to choose which members of the public they are dealing with in any situation, the elected official doesn’t get to select the media entities covering our region.Florida Today is the only legitimate news agency with a full time presence here and a staff to cover Brevard news.Especially in an emergency or potential disaster situation refusing to address yet another method of communicating with the public that they both serve is wrong.

This public battle between the sheriff and the paper foes neither entity any good and appears rather petty given that the goal should be to clarify the issues in question and move toward corrective action instead of public ridicule.

Yes, the sheriff is wrong in not speaking to Brevard’s only real local news outlet just as the paper is wrong in appearing to pick a fight with an elected official, especially one whose reach on social media may just rival the paper’s.

I hope, for the good of the community, that both sides man-up and step-down the rhetoric and at least tolerate each other for the good of the fine folks of the Space Coast, many of whom rely on both for information when it counts.


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