Our last article titled “Part 1: Elia forgot entire interview under oath, hmmm” juxtaposed a Tampa Bay Times article saying that Elia swore that she first heard of the death of student Isabella Herrera 9 months after the happened with a November 10, 2012 Tampa Tribune interview with columnist Joe Henderson indicating that she knew all along but never told any one because she claimed that the Sheriff’s report of the incident showed no wrongdoing and 'let it go at that'.
When you read the November 10, 2012 Tampa Tribune article you might notice its contorted logic in that Henderson says MaryEllen Elia needs to ask “uncomfortable questions” but he never asks those uncomfortable follow-up questions himself.
Henderson basically ‘soft pitches’ Elia and gives her another safe ride out of the interview. The style is almost apologetic; never asking those uncomfortable questions that any reporter worth their salt should be an expert at.
For many readers the article is gut wrenching to have a reporter complaining how the failure to ask uncomfortable questions leads to tragedy and all the while the reporter is failing to ask those same uncomfortable questions thereby becoming part of the same CULTURE of cover-up that allows these tragedies to occur year after year.
At the end of the article Henderson correctly notes “And if not for a lawsuit, no one would have known.” That's for sure, because we certainly can’t rely on the local media for that.
But there is more to this story- back in October 2013 we wrote Joe Henderson asking why he failed to ask any of those uncomfortable follow-up questions and we provided specific questions for him to ask with the suggestion that he go ask them. Of course we never heard back from him and, of course, he never asked those essential and uncomfortable questions. Here are the questions that we provided:
1. In your article Elia’s excuse for not doing anything with the January 26, 2012 Herrera tragedy is that the Sheriff Office investigation found no criminal wrongdoing. But 6 weeks earlier on December 15, 2011 a special needs student was left on a bus at Valrico Elementary and that aide was charged with criminal neglect So Elia’s excuse for not taking action does not wash. Conceivably had she taken action after this December 15, 2011 incident, Isabella Herrera and Jenny Caballero would both still be with us. That glaring inconsistency would be a good thing to ask about.
2. They served a subpoena on John Franklin in Transportation who works under Cathy Valdes who sits in front of the board about twice a month. Did you ask Elia how she managed to keep all that quiet for 9 months?
3. Did you ask Superintendent Elia if the 2012 campaign in which 4 sitting board members were running for re-election had anything to do with her decision to ‘let it go at that’?
4. The Superintendent’s failure to inform for 9 months managed to eclipse her entire 2011-2012 performance review. That would be a good thing to ask Elia if that had anything to with her decision to ‘let it go at that’ ?
5. Especially Chair Candy Olson, who we are supposed to believe never said a word to her fellow board members. Any chance that the school board did know?
It would have taken constant orchestration and/or intimidation of staff to keep this quiet for 9 months.
After we posted the article last week we again wrote Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson; sending the article and asking why he never bothered to ask Elia those uncomfortable questions and suggesting that makes him part of the problem. This time we got a prompt reply and Henderson seemed miffed that we would suggest such a thing.
Then we waited to see if he might redeem himself, expecting that the Tampa Tribune would at least now write an article noting this absurd claim by the Superintendent. But instead the Tribune printed a moronic editorial the very next day blaming Board member April Griffin for not forgiving the “old” Superintendent Elia and giving the “NEW” Superintendent Elia credit for her efforts. In their classic apologist style the Tribune gives credit to Elia while ignoring that she was forced to make these efforts after she and her staff were caught trying to keep this child’s death covered up during a campaign year when 4 incumbent school board members were seeking re-election.
Meanwhile the Tribune will print endless articles about the GM coverup such as “Lawmakers accuse GM of possible criminal cover-up” and it will never occur to them to ask why our lawmakers aren’t investigating our school district for their cover-up. What a bunch of hypocrites. And the “NEW” Superintendent Elia- like the "NEW" GM and CEO Mary Barra- conveniently can’t seem to recall when she knew.
And if that isn’t bad enough, this editorial was then followed by Henderson running a column criticizing another reporter! What a hypocrite. We are glad we waited. There are crimes of Commission and there are crimes of Omission and Henderson’s failure to ask those essential uncomfortable questions is an omission that makes him no better than that other reporter OR the Superintendent who failed to act.
This article is about all the mainstream news media in Hillsborough County, it just uses the Tribune as a specific example. Lest we forget, and sometimes it seems the media in town do, that they also have an obligation to “ask those uncomfortable questions" but they never see their failure as also being part of the problem and the reason these people can get away with this. They are as much to blame as any of them.
These media staff are little different than all those cowering school staff who would sooner sacrifice a child safety than the Superintendent’s reputation and risk losing their own job.
We are miffed and all of Hillsborough County should be miffed with these media clowns.