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Posted on June 22, 2015
Last week Tallahassee Reports wrote about how the Tallahassee Democrat categorized one of their news stories about the Leon County School Board as “Gossip.”
Now, after another school board story on June 19th by the same writer, people are questioning the decision of the Tallahassee Democrat to change the original online headline by using the words “tryst” and “affair” in the print edition headline published one day later.
The story by Jeff Burlew, was about a consensual relationship in 2005 between the then prinicple of Leon High School, Rocky Hanna, and an unnamed teacher.
The subtitle read “Leon County Schools found no wrongdoing in Rocky Hanna’s relationship with teacher.”
The online version was originally published on June 17, 2015.
However the print edition, shown below, published on June 18th, changed the headline to include the word “tryst” and the subtitle included the word “affair.”
The story was on the front page and above the fold.
The word tryst is defined as “an agreement (as between lovers) to meet.” The headline implies a single meeting while the facts are the relationship lasted months.
The use of “affair” in the subtitle appears at best to be misleading and at worst factually incorrect.
Most people interpret the word “affair” to mean someone in a relationship with someone who is married. However, neither Mr. Hanna or the unnamed teacher were married during their relationship.
In fact Mr. Hanna told Tallahassee Reports that he received several phone calls from family and friends questioning him about the headline and asking if “he was dating a married woman.”
The unnamed teacher provided an affidavit to the Leon County School Board in August, 2014 describing the relationship and asked that her statement be included in her personnel file to address future issues that might arise.
The unnamed teacher was clear in not wanting to file a formal complaint and did not send the statement to the media.
Both Rocky Hanna and Jackie Pons were aware of the affidavit and neither provided the affidavit to the media when it was filed or after it was investigated.
The affidavit was provided to the Tallahassee Democrat through a public records request.
Tallahassee Reports received the affidavit and other documents associated with this issue and decided against publishing a report because of the lack of any public documents supporting several specifics of the affidavit and general newsworthiness. A report is being published now to address what Tallahassee Reports views as inaccuracies in the Tallahassee Democrat story.