Introducing Hard Candy

I like the enduring qualities of most hard candy and have a marked affinity for Wild Berry Life Savers and Apple Jolly Ranchers. I love that first burst of flavor that almost immediately settles down but sustains itself the longer you worry the candy in your mouth. Once it’s gone you feel like you’ve gotten somewhere. Very high on the candy-gratification scale, hard candy.
We (and by we I mean I) hope this column will function in much the same way. After sitting through countless city council meetings as a reporter for The Gabber and, before that, working in local government, I’ve had some time to learn how government functions. You know what? It’s messed up. Oh, don’t misunderstand, I don’t presume to try and fix it. That’s your job, not mine. But sometimes I read our letters to the editor or comments overheard at council and I think that no one’s talking about the real issues. Then I start to wonder if that’s because no one knows about those issues. Why then, one might wonder, doesn’t The Gabber report on those issues?
It’s simple: reporting should be like Sergeant Joe Friday: just the facts. Oh, I’m not saying that’s what we do. Hell, I’m not saying that’s what any newspaper does. But it’s what we should do, unless we’re giving your our opinion in a column. We don’t always manage that (I believe I tried to quote an eye-roll several years back), and the minute we add our own opinions into the reporting we lose credibility with you. Even worse, some people take our opinions as fact. But there has to be a place for the gray areas in the news, a place to talk about what might be going on or what we suspect. Because we, as reporters, really aren’t smarter than you. We may think we are from time to time, and we often display a shocking level of arrogance, but we’re just like you with one critical exception: we get more exposure. We go to the council meetings, every Friday in our story budget meetings we worry every last issue over and over like a watermelon Jolly Rancher, we pull public records, we make phone calls, we scour agenda packets, and then we have the luxury of a city government that will sit down and talk to us pretty much whenever we want. And then we have the added bonus, the bureaucrat or elected official who tries to tell us things “off the record.” Sitting here right now, without even trying, I can tell you of four elected Gulfport council members who have told me things “off the record.” Did those things show up in The Gabber? Not directly. Did they influence how and what I covered? Absolutely. What’s more, I developed opinions that I couldn’t factor into my reporting, and those opinions – just like a piece of hard candy – stayed with me longer than the nugget of information. So while I may occasionally cover city council from time to time, I don’t feel like I’m the best person for the job. I get too aggravated and tend to make faces when I feel like we, as a city, are wasting our time or puffing ourselves up instead of dealing with real problems.
While that’s not a great state of mind for someone reporting on city business, apparently everyone at The Gabber has grown weary enough of my bitter vituperative that they’ve decided I should let it all out in a column rather than at informal gatherings (my 20-minute riffs about public records go over swimmingly at the company parties.) Hence, Hard Candy. I won’t always write about politics-how boring would that be?- but odds are you’re not going to hear a lot about my new front porch or most recent trip to Key West, either. I think what we’re all hoping for is some sort of balance between something that makes you think and something that makes you laugh, but either way it lasts a little longer than a piece of bubble gum.
Oh, and one last thing: I’m a little in awe that anyone thinks anyone cares what I think. I don’t have gospel on offer here; I only have my opinions. I’m a writer, not a politician, and I do this for money, not love. I don’t want to change the world. I want to go sailing and hang out with my dog. No little girl in the history of the world ever told her first grade teacher that she wanted to write about local politics when she grew up. Don’t take that as complaint but reminder that The Gabber pays me to fill this space and, while I may believe what I write, it’s my job to write something. To quote Douglas Adams, I’d rather be happy than right any day. I am often wrong. I hope this column encourages you to pay attention and go out and think for yourself.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.