"Men NOT At Work" is a civics lesson | Community Spirit
Someone skipped their ninth grade civics class.
I know. I caught you. I can tell by some of your Action News 5 Facebook posts and comments on the web version of my Men NOT At Work investigation.
For those of you who missed it, here's the link: http://www.wmctv.com/story/19287600/the-investigators-men-not-at-work-fired. Long story short, Monday and Wednesday, we detailed how we ran hidden camera surveillance on two city code inspectors who wasted days and hours doing nothing in a secluded Frayser back-street. They wasted our time and tax dollars while properties as close as a mile away that have been code violations for months were ignored.
Ultimately, and righteously, Inspectors Burnie Mitchell and John Finley lost their jobs.
Cut-and-dry accountability of city employees. It's been a basic tenet of journalism since reporters wore their press passes in the ribbons of their fedoras.
It's obvious. That's where the story should stop.
But several of you just don't get it.
"Yvonne" on the web story's comment thread wrote, "I think channel 5 is deperate (sic) for stories!!"
Stacie Bowien Riley typed on our Facebook page, "Government officials have taken breaks like this for years. I don't need Andy to tell me about it."
Steven Lackey, on Facebook: "You people not realize the cars are their office? Get off their backs!"
This reminds me of when I was a full-time political reporter in the early 90's, covering the Mississippi legislature.
A veteran state representative from Gautier, MS, came up to me in the halls of the state capitol and said, "You gotta help me."
You see, his constituents were wearing out his state office phone (no e-mail then). 10, 20, 30 calls a day.
Every call, same thing: "Representative, when are you going to come clean on your part in the house check-cashing scandal?"
They were referring to members of the U.S. House of Representatives who were drawing more petty cash from the House Bank than they were entitled to -- at enormous cost to American tax-payers.
Except the beleaguered Mississippi representative they were screaming at -- was a STATE representative. He wasn't a member of Congress.
"They think I'm one of the reps in Washington bouncing checks!" he exclaimed. "You've got to do a story explaining the difference between the state legislature and Congress."
No, I don't. I don't teach remedial civics.
I share that anecdote because not only do some adults -- some with twice my life experience -- not know the difference between state lawmakers and federal lawmakers, but they also don't understand the difference between public and private employees.
Private employers pay and support private employees. Our tax dollars and people we elect to public office support the hiring, appointment and salaries of public employees.
When the opportunity arises for the media to hold such public employees like Inspectors Mitchell and Finley accountable, it is our civic duty to do so.
In short, that is news. In fact, it's the best kind of news.
Never mind the fact that this story was conceived by frustrated Frayser residents (read: voters) who had enough of watching two guys whose salaries they pay for -- sit in cars they pay for -- running gas they pay for -- do nothing.
So they contacted Action News 5 -- because they knew we would do something.
It was their civic duty to report the inspectors' behavior.
It was our civic duty to report the inspectors' behavior.
It is your civic duty to understand the civics of it all.