It’s time to stand up for your rights to free speech and open government

This space is usually reserved for publishing Florida Bulldog’s brand of straightforward watchdog reporting on subjects as diverse as government corruption and conflicts-of-interest, intercity passenger rail service, questionable development and 9/11. We rarely publish opinion, but today we stand publicly with thousands of reporters, editors and others who bring you the news to remind you – our readers – of the crucial work done by journalists on your behalf.

Florida Bulldog is a dues paying member of the Institute for NonProfit News (INN), a network of more than 170 independent news media, all nonprofit, nonpartisan, and dedicated to strengthening the sources of trusted news for thousands of communities. What follows is an important statement from INN Executive Director and CEO Sue Cross:

Dear Friends,

Today, the Institute for Nonprofit News joins journalists across the country in asking you, the public, to stand up for your rights to free speech and an open government.

This started as a campaign by the Boston Globe to ask the President of the United States to knock off attacking the news media. But the President’s attacks on the press aren’t ultimately about the press.

“The press” is just journalists who work as your eyes and ears in places you can’t be. The press is the people you send into rooms to witness what your government is doing and tell you about it.

Dictators and tyrants don’t want you in the room. Dictators throughout the course of history have tried to limit what their people know or create confusion about what is true. By sowing confusion or getting you to limit your information sources, dictators reap power and control.

Don’t be confused.

In the U.S., we are not a dictatorship. We are a democracy. A free, fact-based press was built right into the foundations of that when the First Amendment was adopted in 1791:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Today, verbal and even physical attacks on media, police-state tactics and government secrecy are spreading with impunity throughout the country. In Denver and Milwaukee, police recently detained and harrassed nonprofit reporters and prevented them from doing their jobs. In Wausau, Wisconsin, officials routinely keep public documents out of the public’s hands — your hands. The same happens in East Lansing, San Diego, Oregon — and on and on. We hear reports month in month out, from the 170 nonprofit news media that are part of INN.

Attacks on nonprofit media are particularly cannibalistic. Nonprofit newsrooms are dedicated to public service. Their reporters and editors are public servants, with a mindset cops might find surprisingly close to their own. “Protect and serve” pretty well describes the motivations of most watchdog reporters.

It’s important to know that these attacks aren’t just launched against a national press, a liberal or conservative press, a commercial press.

They are against anyone who works to bring you fair, fact-based, objective accounts so that you have reliable information and can act on your constitutional rights — so that you can voice your stories, cast your votes, be informed, live freely and well.

Criticism of media is fine, and needed. But it’s different when government officials systematically tear down the free press because they don’t like the facts it reports. Then they are working to limit your ability to know what your government is doing.

Thirteen years after we adopted the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Tyler, “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

We’re not going to shut up. We’re going to keep reporting so that you can read what you want, make your own judgments, and question a government that works for you. That’s the basis of our freedom, our economy, our way of life.

So don’t be faked out by claims of fake news. It’s out there, no doubt. But so are many more reliable news sources dedicated to reason and truth. Dozens of public service newsrooms that commit to high ethical standards are listed in the INN member directory. Or commit to your local newspaper, radio newscast, television broadcaster.  If you think an outlet’s coverage is off-base, reach out and question it, contribute news and commentary, point out a mistake when they make one. Reporters and editors want to hear from you.

The “news media” isn’t some monolithic thing. It’s a voice of your community, and you can be part of it. We hope you will. Because a free press doesn’t belong to the President. It belongs to you.

– Sue Cross, executive director and CEO, Institute for Nonprofit News


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Latest comments

  • If any one piece has ever earned a thumbs up it’s this.

  • No Florida reporter has tried harder than Dan C. to hold government accountable in the Sept.11,2001 hijacking of planes and tragedy in NYC and DC and Shenksville,Pa. We all understand that the FBI made serious mistakes along the way and probably so did the CIA. Holding back the records of how relatives of the plot leader were rushed out of this country,etc. or if any funding for the hijackers was exchanged via the relatives in Sarasota is not right. We need a free press to follow the trail no longer how long it takes just as investigators in California only recently found a former Police Officer via DNA as the Golden State killer and evil perp. Fake News is just a campaign ploy and while many Editorial Boards are out of touch at major papers,they are correct to tell readers that supporting good journalism still matters like here at the Bulldog.

  • To comment about a scenario right here in Ft.Lau concerning local reporters Brittany Wallman & Paula Mcmahon.Great example of protecting free speech and free press.This all started with the school bd.redacted certain info on alleged school shooter Nicholas Cruz.The school bd.Super and school bd.atty.redacted several pieces of info that. local judge Elizabeth Scherer( who is the daughter of very prominent( i .ll give u that) local atty.who has so much influence and connection that i call ” The Grand Wizard” like the wizard in the movie who am i referring to Atty.Bill Scherer).So Judge Scherer orders certain info to be redacted.Runcie and school bd.atty complied.A member of the public notified reporters that doing certain computer procedures could lift the redactions.So the Paper prints the findings etc its its entirety.So because of the shotty software etc the school bd apparently was say hacked, not so much hacked but doing certain manufering could lift redactions.Again this tip came from public.So instead of rectifying proplem what does the Super and bd.atty do they go after the reporters( Wallman, Mcmahon) with filing contempt charge with Judge Scherer.This was a stunt a ploy if u will to basically harass and attempt to punish the reporters.So its showtime yesterday.Papers atty., plus school bd atty go before Scherer.First Scherer is concerned that reporters were a no show.Again with the threat of contempt.This very attractive judge( not surprised since judge ‘mother could stop traffic in NYC) states wheres the reporters.Their atty.stated not necessary since no direct supobea etc for show.Then fiz really squashed when school bd.atty.states our.motive was not to charge reporters with contempt but our only concern( sure) was to notify u judge that redactions were made public.So right away the theater was again squashed.But hold on this judge was not done.U took her fiz away but she wanted to make clear she was basically more than annoyed with Paper action on publishing redactions.Oh she went after paper atty with such energy.Shame on them to actually questioning this atty representing wheres your ethics as an atty.I was so impressed with this atty.She stated what the reporters did was perfectly legal.They were given tip on how to remove redactions and Wallman did just that.No breach of law.What Judge Scherer should have done is come down hard on school bd.atty for having such shitty computers where member of public could reveal redactions.Not insulting papers atty that badically she had no ethics etc.Meanwhile school bd.aty quiter than a mouse.Then judge still wanting to stress she is the boss etv stated in future she will dictate( no u won.t) what the paper will or will not publish innpaper.No judge u will not oversee what the public gets to read.Then have closed door sessions( u can.t).Then the magic marker comparison.Scherer then states this wss no better thsn taking a magic marker and crosding out info and then the reporters finding a lite to reveal redactions.False analogy.Since the reporters didn.t discover redactions uncover, it was member of public.She then stated she would keep under advisement on the contempt charge.Which is a mute point since school bd.stated they were not interested in contempt charge, just merely wanted to inform Scherer of current revelations concerning disclosed redactions.My point free press.Free speech will prevail every time..Although Judge Scherer abd her magic marker anology were wrong.Salt and pepper.Apples and oranges.Then to close to accuse newspaper atty.of having no ethics.Does this judge even remotely think that she would be a sitting judge( at her age) if itwasn.t for her fathers connections( grand wizard) or her mothers impeccable goodlooks- do u possibly think she would be a judge.Ethics huh???

  • As far as free speech and freedom of speech right here in Ft.Lau speaks volumes.This concerns the court proceedings involving the Parkland shooter and material the judge presiding over wanted certain info redacted.Next you have the local paper reporters Brittany Wallman and Paula Mcmahon covering.It was discovered by a member of the public gave these reporters a tip on how to lift the redactions.They then published redacted info in its entirety in the paper.School bd.super and school bd.atty.then decide to teach these two reporters a lesson and petition judge( who is daughter of prominent atty.Bill( grand wizard” ) Scherer.Follow the dots.So its showtime yestetday when both school bd.atty and reporters atty went before Judge Scherer.First she ( judge) questioned why reporters were not in her court room.U could here the fizzle dissolve like flat soda.Simply put they didn.t have to be there( no direct subpoena was issued).So here we go.First school bd.emphasised ( creating even more flat soda) that it was never their intention to have Wallman and Mcmahon held in contempt( sure) but merely to make judge scherer aware that redacted info was released.Right away here Judge should have come down hard on school bd.atty.for having such shitty computers where members of public could easily uncover redacted info.No judge decides to keep it up quizzing reporters atty that this was not unlawful( should have been done right there) but unethical.First we don.t preach ethics from bench.Second.The reporters did nothing wrong- esp to say they were in contempt was shear bogus and violating free press.These reporters were notified on hownto lift redactions.They were simply going by a tip from public.To say this was wrong or an ethics breach was plain stupid.Then if that wasn.t enough then Judge Scherer gives reporters atty lesson on ethics which not warranted.Considering at her young age, the only reason she is sitting on that bench is her fathers connections and her mothers good looks.We don.t muzzle or jeopardize frredom of the press.Nor do we lecture ethics from the bench, considering it it wasn.t for moommy and Daddy i hardly think at your young age u would be a sitting judge.Kudos.However, u r the last person to give lecture on ethics from the bench.Then if that wasn.t enough she went on to say with this false analogy that if the judge used a magic marker and they had a special device to lift redaction.Unreal.That is not what happened here.Public gave reporters tip to lift redactions.They responded to tip.No more no less.Then to state u will take contempt under advisement was shocking.No contempt here.School bd.atty even stated not her objection s(ure after the bd.members were disgusted with u).So lesson learned this was school bd lousy computers not crafted up by reporters.And for this judge to preach ethics for if it were not for Daddy warbucks and her mothers looks that could stop traffic in Nyc she would be some ambulance chaser searching for accident victims..

  • Correction to the article: “We are a Constitutional Republic”, not a Democracy.

  • We are not a democracy…. we were a republic, but we didn’t keep it.

  • Just say todays Sun- Sentinel with full front page article addressing previous above posts.Guys at the Paper you did great in court the other day.To rub in Judge Scherer face- be careful.I can say what i want and with merit but be careful guys make no mistake Scherer is a judge etc and she can very easily put these reporters in jail for this bs.contempt.Yes.again remember Judge Scherer stated she would take it( contempt) under advisement.Meaning she could come back and give you 1 day.10 day 30 day etc.So word to the wise lets move on now.And no disrepect to Judge Scherer.Its just my point and assessment is different than hers.There is no flies on this woman.Plus with the Grand Wizard( father) backing her, plus her mother- again lets move on.Ps.Tell u one thing this Judge lets just say whenever im in front of a judge usually there fat and ugly.looking.If nothing else she very attractive.Pss.can u see me at the Blue Martini asking her to dance.Again move on….

  • Wow.The Grand Wizard working his magic or should making the rounds.First of all your daughter is a sitting judge.How she got there, she got there.I also understand that your daughter could indeed put both reporters sentenced to the county jail for as long as she sees fit.Also in regards that according to both reporters a member of the public tipped them off in regards to revealing say court ordered redactions.Im being told threw will call her the surrogate who states baloney there is no tipster from the public your gal pal and her colleague discovered how to lift the redactions.My turn.As far as your daughter she is a judge.Good for her.I wish her well.I also know full well the perimeters that she has the full authorization to lock any body.up if she finds them guilty of contempt.Now on to if the duped me and indeed ir was made up.Meaning they are the source.The reporters discovered the lifting of the redactments.So what.The SS atty.stated that even if they the reporters discovered the lifting of the redactments its still perfectly legal and wirthin their boundaries to publish.Now however if Judge Scherer demands to know the source and they the reporters lie to her, than thats perjury and your going to jail.My point.If you 2 reporters are the source then why lie and state it was a member of the public???

  • Ok after my own due diligence i have confirmed with reporter Brittany Wallman that she was tipped off from someone on Facebook.Nice try some of you.I was concerned i didn.t want Brittany caught in a pickle in regards to Judge Scherer demanding to reveal source.Brittany can name the source.All bases covered.However, if yoy think Judge Scherer was livid after todays feature front page story regarding her entire background she is now beyound pissed.I would lay off this redactment story it still very much concerned Scherer could lock both reporters up.Im now confident, more than confident the reporters will prevail.To Judge Scherer since u use your maiden name on the bench i just asdumed you will single.The cutesy dig about asking u to dance at some.night club was inappropriate.Apology to your husband.This being stated i back Brittany 100% after i confirmed through her there is indeed the source and or tipster.No perjury..

  • the term fake news is misleading, rather the correct name is yellow journalism, been around for a while….. I guess the old adage that if you want a free press you had better own the paper is still true. lol

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