In The Spotlight: Use of Public Records To Vet Candidates–A Case Study: Terry Norris Renegar

Use Of Public Records To Vet Elected Officials & Candidates for Public Office

A Case Study:  Terry Norris Renegar

Part I:  The Rules

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The vetting of elected officials and candidates for public office has been facilitated by the digitizing of public records.  Without leaving home, a person can search for and secure digitized public records that are on servers located nearby and a word away.  It is no wonder we are in an information age.

The availability of enormous amounts of information should be a consideration for a person thinking about seeking public office.  A person’s past is just a few keystrokes away.  If a candidate has a skeleton in his or her closet, the candidate should be prepared to expose the skeleton early in the run for office or find some other way to occupy his or her time other than seeking public office.

An individual who exposes unpleasant information about a candidate has responsibilities to the candidate.  These responsibilities should be taken seriously.  The goal should always be to inform the public; not to cause injury to the candidate.  The best method for achieving this goal is to stay as close as possible to the public record and not to stray into partisan politics.  Fairness and a factual presentation—these are some of the important characteristics of good journalism.  Whenever possible, the matters being disclosed should be reasonably related to the office being pursued by the candidate.  For example, where integrity and truthfulness would be important traits in a person holding a particular public office, the facts being exposed should somehow relate to these traits.

The journalist is not responsible for the past activities of a candidate.  The journalist is responsible for what is reported and how it is reported.  In reporting past activities about a candidate, the journalist should make a sincere effort to connect the dots:  that is, the activities to the candidate to the office.

The past activities I will in report in Part II relate to Terry Renegar. The activities are clearly related to the office he is seeking:  viz, county commissioner.  I will make every effort to report these activities in a factual way in order to inform voters; not to hurt Renegar.  In this particular case, I indirectly communicated with Renegar to advise him of what will be reported on DavieFirst.  My message indicated that if, prior to publishing my editorial, he reconsidered his decision to run for office, no article would be published.  Based on what I described above, there would be no purpose in reporting events from Renegar’s past if he were not seeking public office.  It will be Renegar’s decision.

In all of my reporting, I will endeavor to identify my source of information and, where possible, enable my reader to link directly to my source so that my reader may independently draw his or her own conclusions—irrespective of what I say.

I will always welcome factual and reasonable responses from one or more individuals involved in my editorials or from others who were not the subject of the editorials.  If a response meets the criteria described above, I will consider publishing the response in its entirety.

Whenever I think some of my readers might feel an editorial will be too long and tedious, I will try to break the editorial into pieces and present the editorial in installments.

 

Jay Mintz, Advance

March 13, 2012

 

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Next In The Spotlight:

 Use Of Public Records To Vet Elected Officials & Candidates for Public Office

Part II:  Secretary of State To Terry Norris Renegar:  “Cease and Desist”

Coming March 16, 2012

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