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 online story headline as of June 19, 2015 – seen below- was “Teacher, principal romance part of ongoing school saga.”
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.
So why was the “unnamed teacher” not named? We seem to be throwing everybody else is getting named dropped except one.
The paper is built at the Nashville Design Center every night, along with about 15-20 other papers. That’s where I suspect the headline was generated. Gannett has 5 design centers that build all 80 or so of their papers every night, then FTPs the pages back to the presses assigned to print them. (Many Gannett papers outsource their printing too, so the pages don’t always go back to the city on the masthead. The copy editor jobs migrated to the design centers approx. 4 years ago, a corporate decision that eliminated about 365 jobs nationwide, if I recall correctly. (You can search the archived Gannettblog.com site if you need the details.)
Several thoughts. A story about me years ago called me a contrarian. The writer,when asked, swore it was not his word but rather that of his editor. We don’t know where these words come from Democrat staff so blame it on the “paper” rather than staff especially in such incidents as here where the words are changed.