It’s an unusual situation when a governmental agency releasing information to the public is a negative thing from a journalistic perspective, but the manner in which the Tallahassee Police Department did so this week is highly questionable. The department has been under plenty of public fire this year thanks to reports from Fox Sports and The New York Times alleging that they hindered investigations against Florida State football players, and an ESPN freedom of information request was set to bring forth plenty of other documents that portrayed the department in a bad light.
The TPD elected to go on a counteroffensive, damaging what would have been a powerful ESPN exclusive by releasing those documents themselves (on Christmas Eve, a low-traffic day if there ever was one). That’s problematic in its own right, especially when you add in the revelation that they acted to rectify a mistake (not testing DNA in a rape case) before releasing the documents, but even more concerning is how the department included the cell phone number of ESPN reporter Paula Lavigne (who submitted the FOI) in that release, potentially subjecting her to harassment from angry Seminoles fans. Continue>>>