A fine example of journalism doing untold damage to sunshine…

This kind of stuff makes my head literally ache: a story that allows a proponent of secrecy to make age-old arguments against open searches completely, utterly unchallenged by, well, fact…

Florida’s open records laws will impact the quality of applicants seeking the Duval County Public Schools superintendent position, according to the president of a national education nonprofit that trains school boards.

“It’s the biggest problem you have,” said Cathy Mincberg, president of the Center for Reform of School Systems, “[is] how to deal with sunshine.”

Mincberg said the state’s open records laws will weigh heavily on candidates’ eagerness to apply for Duval’s position — particularly candidates with good relationship with their current school boards.

“They do not get up and apply for places where they are going to be humiliated,” Mincberg said. “Having your name out there is a humiliation because it says to your own board that, ‘I’m thinking about leaving you.’ ”

OK, so where to begin here? With the fact that all across the state of Florida, for decades, EVERY candidate in a similar position has faced the terror of a public search and somehow still mustered the courage to apply for a high-paying, taxpayer-funded, PUBLIC POSITION?!?!

Have any of the hundreds of other superintendents in Florida not walked the same path? Are we to believe that hundreds of the absolute best superintendent candidates in the state are instead teaching because they simply can not bear the scrutiny of a public search? That they are ignoring the higher pay, power and perks of the superintendent’s job for fear of the sunshine? Balderdash. Utter bunk. And not one source in the state of Florida offered the chance to knock this down?

I know a half dozen great sources they could have called. Heck, they do, too!

Secret University Searches, and the Excuses Made for Them…

The Associated Press reporter Alan Zagier wrote a nice story looking at the tale of two very different searches at my university, one fairly open, one Vatican-like in its secrecy…and I lob an incendiary quote in for good measure!

“The law school search really demonstrates the power of this institution to attract high-caliber candidates in a very public search,” said Charles Davis, an associate professor of journalism and former executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “There are institutions all over the country that run public searches, and they work fine. None of them have dropped off and fallen into the ocean, last I checked.”

Some states, notably Florida, legally require public colleges and universities to disclose finalists’ names in chancellor and presidential searches. That’s not the case in Missouri, which leaves it up to schools and their governing boards.

At our shop, everyone else runs partially open searches, but the top job is top secret.