For eight long, silent years, former Gov. Rick Scott shut the media – and, therefore, Floridians – out of his twice-a-day briefings with emergency managers. That meant that as hurricanes bore down on the state, journalists – and, therefore, Floridians – had to wait longer to get crucial, even lifesaving, information.
Gov. Ron DeSantis put an end to that nonsense. With Hurricane Dorian slow-walking its way west toward Florida, DeSantis resumed including the media in his briefings with emergency managers across the state.
Under Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, the emergency managers’ briefing would be piped into the media room at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. Scott, always media wary and an information control freak, stopped that practice.
Throughout his two terms, as danger loomed, reporters couldn’t hear what was being said and couldn’t ask state emergency managers to explain or comment because Scott, bristling with authority in his Navy cap, was the only one authorized to speak.
(By the way, Scott is still donning that Navy cap, having sent out a press release that he would be at the National Hurricane Center and available for media interviews on Monday. He should hang up the cap, stand down and show DeSantis some respect. He’s governor now and has earned the right to address Floridians as the state’s leader.)
“We hope for the best but we have to keep preparing for the worst,” Scott says about Hurricane Dorian.
DeSantis didn’t know
When the same no-audio practice was in place for the first day of Dorian operations at the EOC, Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas asked the governor afterward why. DeSantis, unaware of Scott’s policy, alerted his staff, who informed journalists that, going forward, they would have audio access to the EOC briefings.
And they have. More important, agency heads and emergency managers are available to reporters, able to share valuable information.
Bravo to Gov. DeSantis. By broadening access to crucial hurricane updates, he is helping the media – and, therefore, Floridians – know sooner what to expect at this wet, soggy and stressful time.
This editorial originally appeared in the Miami Herald.