Fifteen hours after I first reported that Amanda Prater, the Chief of Staff of the Florida Department of Children, is stepping down amid a whirlwind of controversy within the agency, DCF spokesperson Whitney Ray finally confirmed Prater’s departure via a press release.
And yet, no one in Florida’s vaunted Capitol Press Corps had an inkling of this personnel move?
No one in the capitol bureau of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times was going to report about this until a government spokesperson fed them a benign quote.
This is the Department of Children and Families. This is one of the state agencies that actually matters. There are literally lives at stake. As one reporter who works this beat said this morning to me, there are dead children falling from the skies — and yet, a blogger in his pajamas scoops this story?
Where is the follow-up report about how maybe Prater, an ambitious political operative, wasn’t exactly the best choice in the first place to lead an agency as important as DCF. I mean, it’s understandable if the governor’s appointees are politicos, but now even the professional staff are hacks?
Imagine you are a twenty-year veteran caseworker inside of DCF. Is Amanda Prater, again a smart, ambitious person, but one without any training in executive leadership and management, the kind of chief of staff capable of holding grizzled bureaucrats accountable.
Of course not.
As one observer notes, “the reporters who understand the significance of the Prater story and who have the capacity to obtain leaks or public records or both are in Sanford covering Zimmerman or working on a major investigation or recovering from a hip replacement in North Carolina or applying to law school. … The rest of the press is suffering from Stockholm syndrome. They have bonded with their captors — the people Fred Grimm wrote about this week. Their DNA has been rewired. They have been to Soviet-style reeducation camps where they learned that if something is worth a mention in Movers and Shakers, they should wait for a press release and “report” it three days after you do.”
All of this meta-hashing about the relationship between the government and the press which covers it would be simply academic if dead kids weren’t falling from the skies.