By Tom Tillison
When it comes to the Orlando Sentinel, journalistic integrity seems to have taken a back seat long ago. Further affirmation of this point of view surfaced in the “quiet” news this week that reporter David Damron accepted a position with U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson‘s campaign.
It’s not much of a stretch to wonder if Damron jumping ship is a tell-tale sign of the newspaper’s financial woes, and having spent more than 16 years as a county beat reporter, you can’t fault the guy for considering a career change, but make no mistake about it, it is not by accident that Damron has found a home with the bombastic Democratic congressman.
In many ways, the institutional left in this town owes it’s existence to Susannah Randolph, a former ACORN political director. As much as local resident Bill Phillips is seen as the likely funding source for the hard left, Randolph is, almost certainly, the brain trust behind local community organizing efforts.
If Randolph had a protege, it would definitely be Stephanie Porta — the two are inseparable when it comes to local political activism. Porta is the state director for Organize Now, the de facto successor to ACORN Florida, which re-branded when the national organization was exposed as a criminal enterprise.
(ACORN is an acronym for “Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now,” hence the name “Organize Now” — simplicity at its best.)
I’ve gotten a little lost in the weeds, but the background is important because Randolph is also the “district director” for Congressman Grayson.
And Porta spearheaded the mandatory paid sick leave ballot initiative, an issue that David Damron covered extensively — at last count, he wrote more than 40 articles on paid sick leave, many of which critics would suggest bordered on advocacy.
And he quoted Porta often.
In fact, their relationship goes back to at least 2006. And while Damron frequently sought out her point of view on developments related to the issue, he never availed himself of the opinion of a leading national labor expert who personally offered to provide a countering point of view.
Damron also reported on poll results favorable to paid sick leave, to include quoting Brook Hines, the director of Community Business Association of Central Florida, without reporting that her group commissioned the poll.
Or that CBA was an entity of Organize Now.
We could go on about covert nudges and the exchange of sly smiles between Damron and Randolph when they thought no one was looking, or talk about clear efforts to intimidate opponents of the Randolph/Porta clique, but for those who were paying attention, there is little doubt he was carrying their water.
And while our persistent public criticism of the bias displayed by this reporter eventually resulted in a more balanced effort, amid all the uncertainty in an industry commonly referred to as the “dead tree media,” Damron has found refuge.
Among those who benefited most from his efforts.
Zealots on the left will defend the move, pointing to any number of media personalities who’ve gone on to work for politicians, but this is different. Never mind that it’s another black eye for an already punch drunk Orlando Sentinel, this shows the press can be compromised when ethical behavior is subservient to an agenda.
A dangerous thing indeed when considering the power of the media.