‘Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means. I believe we can cope.” Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan said these words while addressing a significant world threat, but the sentiment can be applied to nearly any conflict. In the news business conflicts are part of the territory, however, they are best resolved with good and open communication.
The sheriff recently had an issue with the timeliness of a story that was published in the printed edition of the Citrus County Chronicle. In his email to me, the sheriff chose to copy many people in the community, which makes this a very public conversation. We are reprinting his letter in its entirety, along with my response, because I believe the community deserves all the information.
Keeping the citizens of Citrus County informed with accurate and timely local news has been our objective for 127 years and it will continue to be our goal.
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The hard work of our CCSO is appreciated and incredibly important to our county’s safety. As you correctly stated, we have a shared objective to ensure public safety in our community. As the provider of local news to our readers, the Chronicle is constantly working to deliver information to our citizens as timely as possible.
We place a high value on providing the public with news from the sheriff’s department and the court system. This news is so important, we dedicate a tremendous number of resources to gathering, producing, and publishing these stories on our website and in print. In the past 12 months, Citrus County Chronicle has published 650 CCSO news stories as well as nearly 2,500 arrest photos, which is more than any other single category of news content.
The specific story you mention in your letter was unfortunately received too late for publication in the next day’s newspaper. With any level of notice, it could have been possible, but by the hour it was sent the paper was complete for the next day. Knowing Thursday had been missed, the story was published on our website on Thursday morning. Our website Chronicleonline.com receives over 10,000 visitors each day. As you noted, the story did publish in print the following day, on Friday. It was additionally published on our Facebook page early Friday and received over 250 comments, likes, and shares.
In your email to me, and the many others you shared this email with, you state, “… blatantly placing public safety and access to critical information necessary to educate our residents on the very real dangers we are confronting will not be a practice we engage in.” I absolutely refute that statement.
In our ongoing effort to improve communication with your staff, we continue to reach out with questions while getting very little response from your PIOs. In this particular story, (reporter) Buster (Thompson) emailed email@example.com on Tuesday, June 7th at 1:13 pm requesting arrest reports and mug shots for a list of arrests that included Warlick, Hottes, Becerra, Henderson, and Covyaw. A simple response stating that information will be released on Wednesday would have been helpful for us to plan the next day’s paper. Just as you took time and care to ensure we receive the correct information we take that same time in planning our printed newspaper each day.
Breaking news happens and we make sure to get that information to the public as quickly as possible. If we had been notified at any point on Tuesday or even earlier in the day on Wednesday that a significant series of arrests had happened, we could have published the story in print and online on Thursday. You have my personal cell phone number and you know how to reach me.
As you and I have both stated the work performed by the brave men and women of your agency is incredibly important to our community and we have a mutual interest in publishing it accurately and timely. For this story, I wish the flow of information from your team had been better. I wish we had more flexibility when we print the newspaper for household delivery to 20,000 homes. However, since we missed the opportunity for print, we did publish the news online Wednesday morning.
I hope we can continue to improve our communication and processes for the betterment of the community we both love and serve. Communication is a two-way street and I’m more than willing to meet you half-way.
Trina Murphy is publisher of the Chronicle.