Faked Facebook posts and self-quoting are among the actions taken by South Santa Rosa News publisher Romi White last week in a bashing campaign of a local, free political debate co-sponsored by Navarre Press.
The event was hosted Saturday at Ye Olde Brothers Brewery, owned by Jerry and Larry Rolison. White took issue with an existing ban by the brothers on her presence on the premises, taking her frustrations to her professional Facebook in an article-style post explaining why the news organization would not be covering the event.
White was banned from the premises since November 2019 for an incident not related to the debate, which had not yet been planned at the time. In a message obtained by Navarre Press, Jerry Rolison referred to banning White from the premises in a conversation regarding infighting among himself, White and other community members.
“To finish taking out the trash from our establishment, I am requesting that you not return, either personally (or) professionally,” he wrote.
White declined to comment to this newspaper.
Last week, White brought up that ban in a post regarding the Santa Rosa County Debate in which she quoted herself as if it were an interview.
According to the Society for Professional Journalists—the national industry standard for professional conduct—the journalists’ Code of Ethics calls on reporters to “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” The Society’s code of ethics also calls on journalists to “take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify,” “never deliberately distort facts of context” and “consider sources motives.”
The Society’s Code of Ethics also says journalists should: “expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.”
White wrote that White said it was rude not to invite all local media. She accused the event organizers of attempting to protect candidates from hard questions. White is an ex-employee of the Navarre Press.
The debate, which was offered free to attend and streamed live on Facebook, featured questions submitted by citizens varying in topic including impact fees, sales tax, the budget, diversity within the county, the contested WastePro contract and other matters.
A Ye Olde Brothers Brewery Facebook post Saturday read:
“Our Santa Rosa County Debate today is open and free to everyone, the way a debate should be. If anyone cannot attend in-person, they can still access the candidate forum via livestream of the event. Please come by or tune in!”
White then posted a distorted version of the post, made to look like it was posted by Ye Olde Brothers Brewery. The post claimed that the debate was open to everyone but White to keep her from questioning County Commissioner Sam Parker, who is running for re-election. She included a distorted copy of the debate ad as well.
White previously posted to her personal Facebook endorsing one of Parker’s opponents, Stacy Bryan, as well as other candidates.
The full Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, along with background, history and position papers regarding its establishment can be found at spj.org/ethicscode.asp