Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunshine State News, PR Flak for right wing extremists, takes it on the chin, again … by gimleteye

Sunshine State News is the right-wing blog set to the nonsense from PR flaks employed by the Great Destroyers.

In September 2013, we wrote, "Sunshine State News is like a state affiliate of Fox News. The paper has tried to calm the waters of public opinion, pouring from coastal communities and voters sick of toxic water flooding into the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee. While the solution to Lake Okeechobee pollution is to treat all sources of pollution around the lake at their sources, the obvious "fix" -- to acquire vastly more acres of land around the lake for water treatment puts the focus exactly where the profits of Florida's most powerful campaign contributors are located: the Everglades Agricultural Area owned by Big Sugar billionaires."

Sunshine State News continues to aid the billionaires and their tide of sewage. We care about what happens in counties north of Miami-Dade for many reasons and wished the mainstream media would, too.

Martin County environmental lawyer Virginia Sherlock's reply to a nasty attack.
Yellow Journalist Green with Envy
By Virginia Sherlock

Poor Nancy Smith. The editor of a web-based news outlet operated by political hacks in Tallahassee has worked herself into a frenzy over Martin County’s success in avoiding overdevelopment and economic disaster that has plagued so much of the state.

Smith attacks those who have done what she has been unable to do. She is green with envy that while her rantings and ravings are often ignored and mocked by the policy-makers she wants to influence, Martin County citizens speak up and make ourselves heard by elected representatives who care what we have to say.

Martin County residents are proud of their environmentally and economically robust community. And residents can justifiably claim credit for the success we enjoy. When we see a threat to our quality of life, we take action to protect what we have. We take on All Aboard Florida, Big Sugar and other polluters of our rivers, estuary and lagoon, and developers who want to turn our agriculturally rich western lands into new cities at the expense of local taxpayers.

Smith failed miserably while she was an editor at the Stuart News to convince Martin County residents that wildlife, wetlands, and native vegetation should be replaced by urban development. She now lashes out at her former employer for endorsing the re-election of Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding and uses her on-line blog to bash those she perceives as responsible for her journalistic and political embarrassment.

Smith is a classic yellow journalist. (Yellow journalism presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques include exaggeration, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. – Wikipedia)

Case in point: Smith’s August 11, 2014, blog “Virginia Sherlock, Martin County Litigator de Sade.” Catchy headline. But comparing me to the French writer famous for erotic writings about pornography, violence, and blasphemy against the Catholic Church? Really?

Of course, truth doesn’t matter to the yellow journalist. Provocative headlines, exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering and sensationalism are her currency.

Smith offers no support for her claim that Maggy Hurchalla, Donna Melzer and I “make all the decisions - yes, all of the ones that matter” in Martin County. If that were true, Martin County would not be spending more than a million dollars on a fee-based Customs facility at the local airport. The Customs facility, the most controversial project in Martin County in recent months, was approved by the County Commission, despite the fact that I strongly and publicly opposed it.

Smith complains that prior to almost every Commission meeting, I send e-mails advising Commissioners how to vote “on everything of consequence, from dredging the inlet to airport customs.” She says this as if it were a bad thing for citizens to communicate their thoughts and ideas to elected officials prior to a vote in the hope of influencing the outcome.

Smith implies that I am responsible for firing an undisclosed number of County employees but fails to name a single discharged employee, identifying only a former library director who left the County after a short stint for a higher-paying job in California. Smith also erroneously claims it was “a memo from Sherlock” rather than long-established policy prohibiting the use of County property to distribute advertisements or promote private businesses that deprived the publisher of a giveaway community newspaper of the “right” to use taxpayer- financed facilities like the County Administrative Center to circulate her publication. (Note to Nancy Smith: There is no such thing as “county hall” here in Martin County.)

Smith says “Sherlock’s involvement in (Martin County Conservation) Alliance lawsuits against Martin County is well-known;” however, my law firm has been involved in no such lawsuits and only one administrative petition on behalf of the Alliance in the last 20 years. Perhaps Smith was confused by the fact that my firm now represents the Alliance, 1000 Friends of Florida, and the Indian Riverkeeper in support of the County’s defense of an administrative petition filed by developers challenging Comprehensive Plan amendments approved by the County.

Smith also writes that I represent Maggy Hurchalla “against Lake Point,” again apparently confused about the basis of the litigation. My firm is defending Maggy in a suit filed against her by Lake Point, the rock pit operated in western Martin County by George Lindemann, the Miami-based heir to a family fortune who served time in federal prison for having his show horse electrocuted to collect insurance proceeds. Lake Point wants Maggy to stop criticizing its environmentally questionable project that has now morphed into a plan to suck water out of Lake Okeechobee and sell it to communities south of Martin County.

Smith portrays me as someone whom “mid-level (County) employees fear” and “upper-level employees yes-m’am.” She concludes that “nobody deigns to cross her,” more accurately describing Smith herself while she ran the Stuart News newsroom. A former reporter sued the Stuart News and its parent company alleging that he “was specifically instructed by Managing Editor Nancy Smith to research and write news stories which reflected negatively on Janet Gettig, a Martin County Commissioner. Smith indicated her displeasure with Gettig and conveyed to (the reporter) her desire that (the reporter) research and write stories which portray Gettig in a negative light to Martin County residents. Because (the reporter) feared for his continued employment with Scripps and News, he attempted to comply with Smith’s directive.”

The lawsuit also alleges that “prior to publication of (a news story written by the reporter), it was altered by Nancy Smith and it was this altered version which was ultimately published by Scripps and the News. Smith’s version of the story contained an error and it was Smith’s error which was wrongfully and pretextually attributed to (the reporter)” and was used to “wrongfully discharge” him. Staff morale is decidedly better since Smith departed the Stuart News, and the level of professionalism also has improved.

Smith demonstrates her lack of understanding of basic journalistic style by attributing specific words to me, placing her own words in quotation marks which she says I used in “a piece” published in a local on-line news letter. (Note to Ms. Smith: The correct use of quotation marks appears in the immediately preceding paragraphs. It is improper to place quotation marks around words of your own choosing rather than words actually used by the person you say you are quoting.) She provided a link to an e-mail that I wrote about a Commission agenda item on the Flash Beach Grille. (Note to Ms. Smith: Advocacy of a particular business has more credibility when you correctly spell the name of the business. It’s Grille with an “e”.)

Smith also falsely accused the Zeus Park newsletter editor of refusing to announce a rally for the business. The announcement was, in fact, distributed electronically to the Zeus Park community.
In an apparently exhaustive Google search, Smith learned that I was an interviewee in the Washington Press Club’s oral history project on Women in Journalism, which is archived at Columbia University in New York City, where I was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press. (Note to Nancy Smith: It’s The AP, with a capital “T”.) I have maintained friendships with many of my former colleagues, who have offered a number of suggestions to help Smith improve her journalistic skills after reading her blog.

Smith shows her lack of basic research and reporting skills by grousing that she is “still looking for the . . . federal form 990" of the Guardians of Martin County, Inc., the venerable non-profit that evolved from an organization set up by former Time magazine publisher Bernie Auer to educate citizens about the importance of the Martin County Comprehensive Plan. Smith’s sloppy reporting and muddy writing suggest that I was a member of the Guardians’ Board of Directors from 2010 to 2014. Florida Division of Corporations records confirm that I was not a director during any of those years. Smith’s failure to locate the Guardians’ tax returns is astounding; it took me less than five minutes to find the returns posted on-line.

I could have given Smith some tips on how to conduct basic internet research, but I haven’t had the opportunity to chat with her. Although she wrote that I “didn’t return any of (her) calls this weekend,” my caller ID and voice mail reflect no calls from Nancy Smith.

The yellow journalist would rather use purple prose and red herrings than facts and good reporting skills to get out a message that most Martin County residents reject. We like our Martin County difference, and we will continue to fight to protect it despite attacks from a Tallahassee blogger who thinks that green is only about envy or money.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ms. Virginia Sherlock and to Eye on Miami for re posting this!