The City Council’s Recording of a Phone Call with the Editor of a Tampa Sun Sentinel

Granderson: City council members’ recording isn’t just offensive. It’s also illuminating

Editor’s note: Paul A. Gigot, who is also the editor of the Sun Sentinel, is the director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. He began as a journalist for WLRN in Orlando in 1983 before moving to the Sun-Sentinel and serving as editor and publisher from 1987 to 2002. In 2000, he became the newspaper’s managing editor, becoming the newspaper’s first African-American managing editor.

On Dec. 5, a group of four city council members recorded their own phone calls with the editor of a newspaper that supports the city’s right-to-die law — one of the toughest in the nation.

“There is no reason for you as an editor to continue to support this bill,” one council member, who asked to be identified only as Councilman Bob Lamm by name, told the editor.

Later in the same call, Lamm added: “You shouldn’t be a reporter for that newspaper.”

The audio file has been removed, but this recording of a four-person voicemail message from the editor has been posted for review by The Tampa Bay Times. The recording, which was played Wednesday for The Times in its entirety, is more than two minutes long. Read it in full:

City council president Jane Castor, vice president of business operations Ron Neeples, and two other council members listened to the recording at a town hall meeting at Tampa City Hall. None of them were identified as the three women who spoke during the call.

It was the first time the recording was publicly heard and reported on.

What the council heard was hardly evidence of the kind of editorializing that has previously characterized debate on a bill seeking to legalize physician-assisted death. Instead, the call was a chilling glimpse into how the members of Tampa’s City Council deal with reporters, and especially those who appear with them on the street.

A day later, a Sun Sentinel editor told The Times that the recording was “entirely accurate,” adding: “The recordings are not of editorial comment, but of the conversation taking place with the editor at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday.”

The article, which also included the transcript of the phone recording, was published to the newspaper�

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