Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, My

The mayor has taken a liking to press releases, which I must admit are a useful form of information. But using the media for political battling is just inappropriate.

Ray Weaver, the Annapolis Public Information Officer, sent a letter to The Capital that was published on Friday. My experiences (2 emails) with Mr. Weaver have been fairly reasonable, which reinforces my belief that this letter can be reasonably interpreted as the mayor's wishes. You would have to work really hard to persuade me that a senior administration official could write a letter like this on his/her own, without the consent of the mayor.

So let's see what Mr. Weaver has to say:

Regarding a Sources Say item about me:

Had you included the entire text of my e-mail, it would have been clear that the city will always respond to salary requests under the guidelines of the Public Information Act.

You left out: "the specific salaries of city employees are indeed fair game under the Freedom of Information Act...please direct your request to the director of human resources and the guidelines of the...statutes."

I am fine with this so far. If they misquoted you, especially if the quotes resulted in a mis-representation, you can and should correct them.

I do not keep the specific salary of every city employee in my files. These are not elected officials. They filled out a job application, sent in a resume and went to work, just like most other Americans.

A brief aside: I am one of the few Americans who did not do this. I have had the good blessing of being gainfully self-employed since college, and I have never had to send a resume or interview for a job. Except when I was 16 years old--I applied for my first job as a busboy, and the Food and Beverage Manager was a no-nonsense type of gal, so maybe that counts.

With identity theft running rampant and personal privacy rights being co-opted every day, city employees are entitled to the same protection as other citizens. It is a short step from someone's salary being in the newspaper to an email box full of span offering them a bunch of ways to spend their money.

Identity theft? We are just talking about name and salary right? You are correct that city employees have the same right to protection, but they have a slightly less right to privacy because they are public sector employees--i.e., they work for us.

I was a reporter for many years, and would be interested in a story about what management at The Capital makes, as compared to the rank-and-file reporters.

Here is where your letter starts to go array. While such a story may be interesting, it is not anybody's right to know because The Capital is a private company. That is to say, they are a non-public company. (Yes, I just said the same thing twice. It is my understanding that repetition increases comprehension and retention.) The Capital management can make as much as they want. If the employees don't like it, they can quit. If enough of them quit, then the management will have to pay themselves less so they can hire more people. And so private enterprise goes.

As I clearly said in my email, "I respect the law, and will certainly insist that the city follow the Freedom of Information laws to the letter."


You left that out, too.


I have been baffled of late by The Capital's turn toward voyeuristic photos of devastated teenagers on the front page and sensational headlines that have little to do with the stories they trumpet.

I have been baffled as to why you would say this.

Then it hit me; the Weekly World News is no longer being published. I can't wait for your story on Elvis fathering Anna Nicole's baby from the grave.
RAY WEAVER, City Public Information Officer, Annapolis

Those last 2 sentences are more out of place than Jim Carey in a serious movie. This is a public official. FOR GOODNESS SAKE! Mr. Weaver serves the public--he comes from the people to represent the people. This quibbling with The Capital has no place.

When it comes to using the media, public officials should be setting the record straight, AND THAT'S IT.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the best letter to the editor from the past few weeks. I love its mixture of professional coherence with its surprise injection of teenaged petulance. Magnificent!