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U.S. 19 Widening, Halls River Questions Not Answered - Media Needs to Standup

The most discussed column people will bring up with me offline is the one about Gerry Mulligan’s retirement, and they all have pretty much the same reaction. Sure the Chronicle wasn’t perfect in its pursuit of pure journalism, all acknowledged citing obvious biases toward certain cities and candidates rather than political parties, but what media outlet is?

Numbers confirm this sentiment. A 2020 Pew research study found that 63% of Americans believe being skeptical of the media is good for society.

A single-digit percentage (9%) of Americans had a great deal of confidence that journalists act in the public interest, although this did almost reach half of Americans (48%) if you include those who had a fair amount of confidence as well. Elected officials, by comparison, were at a paltry 3% and 37% respectively.

The most relevant part of the poll to Citrus County was that more people said the media doesn’t stand up for America than those who said the media does stand up for America (35%-28%) and a much larger margin (53%-23%) separated those who said the media doesn’t care about the people they report on vs. those who said the media does care about the people in their stories.

Readers should feel the Chronicle stands up for Citrus County and they should feel that our local newspaper cares about the people they report on. I feel that way.


But feeling a certain way toward a media outlet has little to do with the quality of information you’re receiving from it. I asserted in the podcast that I feel the Chronicle is a community publication, one that excels at covering longtime wedding anniversaries and albino raccoons, but that it’s not a thought-provoking paper.

This is the niche of the Concurrent. We want you to feel smarter after having picked up the Concurrent, and also to be a little better informed.

Truthfully our feelings toward the information we are receiving from a publication may be more memorable than the information itself simply from the sheer speed in which a newscycle moves. Even at a fairly traditional pace of a daily newspaper (as opposed to a 24-hour cable channel) stories can get shoved out of the newscycle before they’ve had the proper examination by the independent press or gone through the significantly more watchful, albeit less-trained eye of the public.

The stormwater runoff from the U.S. 19 widening project into the Halls River is potentially becoming a victim of an inglorious, far-too-soon exit from the newscycle. I qualify that statement with the word “potentially” because my own time and professional limitations prevent me from doing responsible reporting so I can’t say with certainty how big of a problem this is.

The Concurrent is an opinion-based information outlet, not a hard news source. The correct thing to do would be to talk to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), to representatives from the county, to the elected state delegation, to the former construction company about the plans they received from the state and to the residents of the area. That’s the way I would do it if I was a reporter, which I’m not anymore.

I can as a commentator and former reporter, however, give you my opinion that the catastrophic consequence of ignoring this is worth the effort to keep it relevant until a solution, or at least a reasonable explanation, is obtained.

I don’t like using hyperbolic or sensationalized language like catastrophic consequence, and so I only do in this case sincerely believing the immediacy with which this needs to be addressed.

The photos from the advocacy group Standup 4 the Outstanding - Save the Halls River on Facebook show that the measures taken to stem the runoff right now have been ineffective. SWFWMD compliance officers have told members of the advocacy group that they will be at the site tomorrow to address any direct runoff, according to the Facebook comments in the group.

This is unlikely to solve the problem. What’s worse is the narrative that the problem is already solved.

A misleading headline on the top of Saturday’s front page “FDOT Cleans Faulty Drainage System” suggested as much. An additional follow up about the widening of U.S. 19 that topped yesterday’s front page “FDOT Answers US 19 Questions” quoted the statement from an FDOT spokeswoman that the problem is fixed. It’s not.

More questions need to be asked. The Chronicle needs to stand up for Homosassa.


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