The other day I wrote that I could see no reason why Billy Townsend couldn’t cover the CSX issues while his wife worked for an organization that opposed the Polk County Rail Hub. People can live together and keep their work lives separate. My wife certainly doesn’t agree with me on many issues. (Yes, we’re doing fine in spite of politics, USF Lakeland, and the designated hitter.)
It’s the 21st Century. We can love each other and not mix business with our pleasure.
But we are removing Billy from the story at this time because – unrelated to his coverage – his wife has taken an executive position with an organization that opposes the deal. We have every confidence that Billy would continue pursuing the story fairly and accurately, but the possibility that our readers might question his independence requires that we make this move. Other reporters have worked with Billy on the story and they will continue to investigate it.– Dennis Joyce, Tampa Tribune
It’s possible that Billy Townsend agrees with this position. I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him about it. I certainly felt he has always been impartial, and took steps above and beyond to make sure there wasn’t a conflict of interest.
The Tribune’s announcement is sad news for the citizens of Polk County. Billy Townsend was the lone voice from our free press that really delved into the CSX issues. I do hope the Tribune puts their second best reporter on this story. Polk County deserves that at the very least.
Josh Hallett mentioned that I am a source of coverage of the story. That’s true. I’ll continue to cover the story as fairly and accurately as any human can aspire to. If anyone thinks otherwise, I’ll give them the space to make their case. (As long as it is libel free and accurate. And doesn’t use any words that would make my mother blush.)
* – Josh thought of that appropriate nickname. I wish I had.