I’ve known Rep. Gaetz for a long time, but I wouldn’t say we are close friends. I still have to wait my turn to talk to him and I have his cell phone number, but he doesn’t always answer my texts. I still have to go through his communication director and his chief of staff, just like anyone else. I believe we have a mutual respect for each other, or it could just be that Matt’s dad, Don, used to be in the newspaper business and he is just tolerating me to humor his dad.
Regardless, Matt is elected to serve our district and our newspapers have a responsibility to report on and seek out information in our areas of coverage and Matt is someone we need to talk to and cover so we can bring our readers the information they need for their daily lives.
In our meeting, Matt was genuinely interested in our recent expansion into Crestview and Milton and even took the time to look through the papers I brought with me and posed for our “On the Road” pictures. Matt is extremely intelligent and fast on his feet when it comes to answering questions (though we were sitting down for our conversation) and answers them insightfully, occasionally with humor. That being, we do not treat Matt or cover him differently than any other politician or elected representative that we cover.
As a refresher, here is our mission statement which is printed in every edition of Crestview News Bulletin:
Our Mission Statement: Our newspaper’s only license to publish is the freedom of the press clause in the Constitution. Crestview News Bulletin is pledged to an aggressive, responsible, and fair pursuit of the truth without fear of any special interest and with favor to none. It is our social responsibility to listen to the voiceless, avoid all acts of arrogance and to face the public politely and candidly.
And, also that being said, sometimes our elected officials are actually constrained to actually be voiceless. They may be in a place of power, but they can be rendered practically defenseless when accusations are hurled at them. If they fight back, they end up being in the mud with the pigs and many choose not to do that. If there is a lawsuit, they can’t say anything until it is over, which can be many years later.
In the meantime, people are walking around thinking that their elected representative is the person that others have portrayed them to be in the media, social media platforms and even billboards. Any one can be accused of anything. Case and point, the “Russia Collusion” accusations against President Donald Trump. He had to endure that for most of his presidency while everything he had ever done was under a microscope only to be vindicated in the end. “Journalists” even won Pulitzer’s writing about the “alleged” Russia Collusion.
When I was Googling Matt, I saw some awful political cartoons that were “caption this” and many were responding making reference to the so far unfounded accusations of his trips with underaged girls. When we posted a few months ago about Matt’s upcoming rally in our county, people were posting, “hide your daughters.” Matt says all of that comes with the territory, and it does but journalists have the responsibility to get to the truth. We don’t have the resources to write every story and do it well, but if the allegations were in our coverage area, we would be on it.
We are thankful that Matt is willing to take the time to talk to his constituents through our publications and have an open door for all our elected representatives to do the same.
“There’s a truth about public service that is often unspoken and rarely understood – that the role of our elected officials is about much more than balancing budgets and ensuring the delivery of essential services.“
J. B. Pritzker (1965- ) An American businessman, philanthropist, and Democrat politician serving as the 43rd governor of Illinois.