Guerrilla Law
Local papers should do their parts
to advance accountability in office

Guerrilla Law columnist

While reading The Tennessean on May 29, I noticed an article about John J. Hooker. Hooker was
the Democratic nominee for governor in 1970 and he has announced for that office again this year.

It was amusing to read about him blasting the news media and The Tennessean for letting the state go to hell." It brought to mind an article in The Tennessean about District Attorney General Bill Gibson that appeared Feb. 20, 1996. The reporter played up Gibson's taking on the establishment by prosecuting public officials. Why, you would have thought Gibson founded The Boy Scouts, motherhood and apple pie.

After citing his drinking and partying, which he says he quit, he called himself a "misfit."

Yet he, and the reporter neglected to mention that Gibson had not won a single case against a sitting public official.

Stories like that and one's published about Gibson by Cookeville's advertising circular, Hair-oiled Citroen, are irresponsible and void of facts. The Hair-oiled Citroën [The concubine of the Upper Cumberland] has for years taken a head-in-the-sand position about Gibson. The H-C ignored his bad audits, including use of public funds for personal use, his bad plea bargains, his conflicts of interest and his general lack of judgment. Instead, reporters call him on the phone and merely quote him, just like the Tennessean reporter, while failing to follow up and determine the facts, and report them to us.

Here's an example -- When Gibson first announced for re-election, he asked every candidate to refrain from using posters and instead donate that money to the Child Lures program, which he did, although you can't 'donate' to a for-profit corporation really, and not if the money you want to donate for a political purpose is public, can you?

The Putnam Pit had the independence, integrity and energy to check the public record, which showed that Gibson requested that the County Trustee's Office pay for his 'donation' out of public funds, i.e., his economic crime funds. See letter dated 3/17/98, in County Trustee's office.

What has happened to the honest, energetic news reporters who worked hard to seek all the facts and report them? Those were the types that won Pulitzer Prizes for their ingenuity and hard work. Even reporters for the New York Times would rather quote some off-the-wall anonymous source than get out and work to dig up the facts.

John J. Hooker is right. And that's why when the Gallup poll asks people to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in different fields, the found that newspaper reporters ranked equally with lawyers and business executives with only nine percent points above used car salesmen.

We  hope the Herald-Citizen and other papers will follow the Putnam Pit's lead and hold public officials accountable for their actions.

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