Monthly Archives: February 2013

Officials should understand ‘press conference’

Terry Frank

Terry Frank

Some public officials oddly don’t seem to understand what a news conference is.
The latest example is Terry Frank, Anderson County mayor. She called a “full press conference” Monday to refute claims that she was double-dipping on vehicle reimbursements. She then delivered a statement and refused to take any questions from the media.
That’s not a press conference; that’s a speech.

Reader questions report on school survey

Because the News Sentinel’s editorial pages supported a big increase in school funding last year, some readers have questioned the paper’s reporting on a survey released earlier this week showing that the public also supports more resources for schools. The survey was financed by businessman Randy Boyd and five other individuals and was conducted through the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce.
“Obviously the KNS and the Chamber are not disinterested parties on this issue,” wrote reader David Click. “Please release the details of this 900 voter poll. What is the margin of error? How representative are these 900 respondents to the voters of Knox County? How were the questions phrased? Your bias is apparent. How honest is the Chamber’s poll?”
Click makes a good point. The story didn’t include much information about how the poll was conducted. It was done by Bryant Research, a Tennessee company headed by Rebecca Bryant that through the years has done work for the Department of Defense, the University of Tennessee, Knox County Government, Pepsi-Cola, Baptist Health System of East Tennessee, Frito-Lay, Miller Brewing, Philips Consumer Electronics, BI-LO and Home and Garden Television, as well as Boyd’s company, Radio Systems Corporation.
The poll’s margin of error was +/- 3.3 at the 95 percent confidence level. Average length of each interview was 12 minutes and 39 seconds. The 900 respondents were selected randomly from lists of registered voters, with 100 coming from each of the county’s nine commission districts. The chamber has additional information on the breakdown of the respondents.

Y-12, DCS make mockery of transparency

Sometimes you have to wonder how government officials maintain straight faces when they promise transparency. Two examples in the past few days reveal how some bureaucrats really feel about the idea of openness and accountability.
The first involves Y-12, where the National Nuclear Security Administration and B&W Y-12, manager of the nuclear weapons plant, are refusing to tell even the names of the management team overseeing the facility. Such information has been readily available in the past but apparently is top secret now that an 82-year-old nun has shown how easy it is to infilitrate the facility where bomb-grade uranium is stored.
So will Y-12 bosses have to wear hoods or masks whenever they appear in Oak Ridge or Knoxville now?
The second example involves the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, which has been fighting the production of records on the deaths of children it is supposed to be protecting. Led by the Tennessean in Nashville, several media organizations went to court to force the agency to produce the information under the state’s Public Records Act. A chancellor ruled that DCS must release the summary files on 200 children who have died or almost died since 2009 after contact with the agency.
DCS has responded by preparing an estimate of what it will charge the media for production of the records. Among the expenses is the cost of hand-delivering each file from local offices to regional offices then to state headquarters at the rate of $0.47 per mile, so the files can be copied in Nashville. The original files then will be hand-delivered back to the offices where they originated. The total mileage is estimated at 7,102 miles, and, of course, employees will have to accompany the files earning $16.39 an hour on those long drives.
In Nashville, the relevant portions of the files will be extracted and photocopied, then those portions will be redacted using white-out tape. which “unfortunately, can be easily removed,” so the files will have to be copied again. The redaction will take 600 rolls of white-out tape, by the way, at the cost of $0.86/roll.
In all, the state estimates it will take 1,798.5 hours of state labor to provide the public with copies of the 200 summary files, about nine hours per file. The total “good faith” estimate of the cost to the media of the project is $55,884.55.
I guess if more children die, the cost will go up.