Scott administration’s lack of openness extends to Hurricane Irma

Email from Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reporter Mary Ellen Klas:

From: Mary Ellen Klas <meklas@miamiherald.com>
Date: Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 10:49 AM
To: “Lewis, McKinley” <Mckinley.Lewis@eog.myflorida.com>, “Schutz, Jackie” <Jackie.Schutz@eog.myflorida.com>, “Moscoso, Alberto” <Alberto.Moscoso@fdc.myflorida.com>
Cc:
“sbousquet@tampabay.com” <sbousquet@tampabay.com>, Kristen Clark <kclark@miamiherald.com>, Dave Wilson <dwilson@miamiherald.com>, Mike Van Sickler <mvansickler@tampabay.com>, Pat Gleason <pat.gleason@myfloridalegal.com>, Barbara Petersen <sunshine@floridafaf.org>
Subject: Questions about public access to information

With the most damaging and dangerous storm rapidly approaching our shores, the ability of the media to provide assistance to help inform the public with realtime and accurate information is more important than ever. It is also easier than ever with the emergence of smart phones, social media, and hardened telecommunications and satellite technology.

At the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, we have every intention of operating through the storm and providing updated and accurate information to the public on our web site and twitter feeds. We have removed our paywalls, deployed staff and resources, fortified our headquarters and are determined to do our job.

The last time Florida was tested to this degree was during the hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2006 and while it was a time with little social media presence, the internet and online news was a constant and important force.

So why would the Scott administration choose to go backwards from the accessibility provided to the public and the media during the Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist administrations?

McKinley asked me to provide my questions in writing. None of these is new to you since we have presented them to McKinley and other administration PIOs over the past few days. Our goal is not to write a story but to get you to open up to a level that was once expected for Florida. I hope we can achieve that.

Meanwhile, please provide us with answers to the following by 3 p.m today:

* Why is the media no longer given audio access to the briefings from key officials in the command center?

* Why have you rejected requests to allow the media to attend the briefings if the audio is not available?

* Why are situation reports not distributed to the public and media in real time? (Please refer to the FLSERT archives for reference of how this was handled during other natural disasters by previous administrations.)

* Why have you rejected requests to have EOC command officials brief the media about issues and updates on a daily basis as previous administrations have done?

* Current and former officials who were actively involved in previous state emergencies speculate there has been no practical change but a leadership change and a change in the philosophy and approach to openness. Please explain what protocols and documentation of events at the EOC have changed since the Bush and Crist administrations?

Thank you.

Mary Ellen Klas
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
Miami Herald Bureau Chief

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