'The Oviedo Voice' Jumps Into the Fray!
Reports on 'Off Record' Interview with Congressman.
By Brad Friedman on 12/31/2004, 1:36pm PT  

As mentioned on Wednesday, and following in the footsteps of The Seminole Chronicle before them, Tom Feeney's other hometown weekly newspaper has jumped into reporting on the emerging "FeeneyGate" scandal. The previously promised article in their Dec. 30th edition hit the stands yesterday.

While The Oviedo Voice --- the older of the two local newsweeklies --- has a website, we are told they are currently transitioning it and thus it is not being regularly updated. Given the national attention this story is now receiving, however, the editors of the paper have told The BRAD BLOG that they will make an attempt to get their full Feeney article online this coming Monday. We'll update this item to provide a link to it at that time.

For now, we've received a faxed copy of the story, and it represents mostly the "balanced coverage" the paper had promised in their previous week's teaser item.

While chosing to focus, for now, only on the initial Feeney-related allegations in her article (as opposed to the wider-reaching Yang Enterprises, Inc. and Florida Dept. of Transportation related charges), reporter Darla Kinney Scoles writes that her report would "only address those statements made regarding Mr. Feeney."

The result is a mostly even-handed story, though it fails to advance the story-to-date too terribly much.

We are told by the editors, however, that they "intend to continue reporting on this story over the next three to four weeks at least". Encouraging news. And we hope, in the process, that they will be able to investigate more of the specifics in those future pieces now that they've gotten the main meat and potatos of the story out of the way for their readers.

Aside from (note to our former best-friends at crosstown-rival Seminole Chronicle) the appreciated hat tip to The BRAD BLOG for the "over 50 pages" said to have been reviewed by Kinney Scoles in preparing her piece, the most notable point taken from the article is the fact that Feeney himself, who had contacted the paper to offer an interview on the matter, kept his promise, but would not allow the interview to be "on record"!

As reported by Kinney Scoles...

The Oviedo Voice was indeed contacted by Congressman Feeney last week and was able to speak with him concerning these allegations and to gain extensive background information on the long and often complicated story as it has thus far evolved.

What we were not able to do was to interview Feeney ?on record' as we had hoped.

Once again, Feeney continues his now-growing track record of, if not having anything to hide, sure as hell acting like someone who does!

Why did he chose to duck attempts to get comment weeks ago from Oviedo's Seminole Chronicle? Why did he decide to approach The Voice only after The Chronicle published their report on the matter? Why all the "off record" interviews and comments to reporters? Why the apparently coordinated threats of lawsuits against a small local newsweekly for merely reporting on public news of note to their local readers?

And perhaps most notably: Why no such legal threats by Feeney against the actual person, Clint Curtis, making the allegations which Feeney's attorneys have described as "outrageous" and "obviously false and defamatory"?

As all responsible news organizations say: We report, you decide.

A few other items of note from the Voice piece...

We appreciate that Kinney Scoles points out the very plausible reason for the lack --- so far --- of corroborating sources who have been willing to come forward (publicly, via affidavit or at least "on the record" anyway) to confirm some of the details of Curtis' claim that Feeney conspired to create "vote-rigging" software.

On that point, she astutely notes:

In Fairness: Not everyone is willing to give up his or her job, name, etc. for a cause. Perhaps they are also leery of Feeney's connections to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and their subpoena power, which could, in theory, provide him direct access to the names of those who would seek protection before testifying.

It would be nice if other members of the media would recognize that seemingly-obvious point before reporting on a surely-relevant aspect of the story, but doing so without bothering to look particularly closely at the matter.

A point which would be made particularly clear if such reporters actually took the time to examine some of the horrifying things that Curtis claims has happened to him over the years as a result of initially blowing the whistle with these allegations.

For Feeney's part, Kinney Scoles quotes Feeney staffer Shannon Conklin as saying "These claims are too ridiculous to answer. It is irresponsible for anyone to publish allegations without close investigation of all claims."

Such broadly dismissive boilerplate comments from both Feeney and his surrogates have, by now, become all too commonplace and accepted by many of the journalists who have been looking into these matters. Particularly in light of the very "close examination of all claims" that has occurred and continues to occur over these last nearly-four weeks by us and many others. Add to that the "close examination" of many of the related claims made previously in the matter against Feeney in a long series of articles by both The Daytona Beach News-Journal and The Orlando Sentinel back during 2001 and 2002 when the bulk of these charges were first brought to light.

Lastly, the article finishes on a by-now fairly obvious, though no-doubt disconcerting note for Feeney who might have hoped to put out the fire set ablaze in the past few weeks by giving an "off record" interview to a hopefully-friendly hometown paper:

As one source put it, ?We cannot say that where there is smoke there is fire. We do have to say that there is some smoke.? The Oviedo Voice continues to follow that smoke, as do other media outlets.

And with that we are pleased to add The Oviedo Voice to the growing list of news organizations who seem willing to place the public interest ahead of both fear and political cronyism.

At least for now.

AS IT IS SAID...DEVELOPING...