FLORIDA'S OWN VERSION OF ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS?
I first saw this article Friday while looking at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Web site, but didn't have the time to bring this to your attention.
Remember the brouhaha from when it was revealed that conservative columnist Armstrong Williams had taken money from the U.S. Department of Education to promote "No Child Left Behind", and that he had done several columns on the programme? It seems as though we may have our own version of Mr. Williams right here at home!
Mike Vasilinda, who has been in the Florida news business for three decades and does freelance work for the Capitol News Service (which consists of the state's NBC affiliates) and whose work has also aired on CNN, has a production company that contracted with several state agencies --- including some that he has reported on --- which have earned him over $100,000 during the past four years.
Mike Vasilinda Productions, Inc. had done work for Governor Jeb Bush, the Secretary of State, and the Florida Department of Education...all of whom are regularly covered in his work. In addition, Vasilinda's company won a $900,000 contract in 1996 to produce the nightly Florida Lottery drawing, as well as a promotional video for Leon County government and has done work for at least one politician.
Although Vasilinda says his government work does not affect his reporting, it does raise serious questions. Reporters should never give even the appearance of conflicts of interest. If Mike did a story that reflected poorly on an agency which he did business with, the payback could be loss of that business...and that hits where it hurts most, the pocketbook. No true journalist should ever put themselves in that position.