New York Times paper

Emails and phone calls jammed into county commission offices with people upset about the county's blocking of a digital New York Times subscription for library card holders.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” — P.T. Barnum

Citrus County is known throughout the nation and parts of the world for its manatees, bike trails and fishing. All good.

The nearly 3,000 emails jammed into the county commission’s inboxes Tuesday and Wednesday, many from people who do not live in Citrus County, reacted to national publicity of a different kind.

Not so good.

“Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen anything like this,” county spokeswoman Cynthia Oswald, on the job for four years, said. “Phone calls and emails are coming from news outlets, local and national, and citizens from around the country and some outside the country.”

New York Times' fallout affecting local tourism

Thanks to a decision by commissioners two weeks ago, reported by the Citrus County Chronicle a day later and then illuminated Tuesday by the Washington Post and a host of national media, Citrus finds itself entangled in controversy over denying the public libraries a $2,700 digital subscription to the New York Times.

Hundreds of comments have made their way to Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Most, but not all, are critical of commissioners for blocking the Times digital subscription, because it carries “fake news,” as Commissioner Scott Carnahan put it.

Carnahan and Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. publicly pledged their support for President Donald Trump and said they stood by the decision. Trump calls the Times "fake news," and has cancelled both the Times and Washington Post's White House subscriptions.

Commissioner Brian Coleman is bringing back the matter to the board’s Nov. 19 meeting. Coincidentally, he is expected to be named chairman that day.

Brian Coleman Citrus County Commission 2017

Citrus County Commissioner Brian Coleman.

“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen,” he said Wednesday.

Josh Wooten, a former commissioner who is president and chief executive officer of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said the entire matter has the potential to hurt tourism and the local economy.

“It’s not the kind of push we’re looking for heading into manatee season,” he said. “Words matter when they come from our elected leaders.”

Questions, answers on the New York Times controversy

The county received about 2,800 emails and an untold number of phone calls. Many of the emails originated from dogooder.co, a website that provides a base to send form emails to policy makers.

Some of the personal emails came from tourists who said they wouldn’t be stopping in Citrus County this season because of the New York Times issue (see related story).

Meanwhile, gofundme.com accounts and others have offered to pay for the subscription, even though those offers came from outside the county. The 12 gofundme.com campaigns, from such places as Boston, Cincinnati and New York, combined raised about $7,000 — nearly enough to pay for the entire three-year subscription contract.

The Society of Professional Journalists, Florida chapter, called on the county commission to approve the request. Absent that, the organization said it would “find a way to fund it ourselves.”

Trump retweeted several of the media outlet stories about the Citrus County-New York Times issue. As of Wednesday evening, Trump had not commented on Twitter himself.

Coleman, asked if the county has an image problem, said: “Right now, I’m sure we do.”

But he also said many of those criticizing do not know the whole story. For example, several comments referred to the county cancelling the Times’ subscription or keeping it out of the library. The county has print editions at the Times in its libraries and has never had a digital subscription.

He acknowledged, though, that some comments made by commissioners regarding their support for Trump and being backed by conservative voters is not sitting well with people who feel such opinions should hold no bearing in deciding library materials.

“All the comments made by the commissioners, people had different reasons for not liking them. I don’t blame them,” he said. “Some of those comments shouldn’t have been made.”

The county received so many emails about the Times issue it created a separate folder to separate them from regular emails.

“The system is getting overly taxed and there’s a concern emails regarding the day-to-day operations might be missed,” County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn said.

Coleman said he hopes cooler heads will help reach a solution.

“I’m a Trump supporter, but I don’t sit there and bash Democrats,” he said. “I’ll sit down with anybody.”

Wooten said the county commission created a problem that they must now fix.

“This is a man-made disaster,” he said.

The library district’s advisory board, whose members are county commission appointees, has a special meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Central Ridge Library in Beverly Hills to discuss the matter and potentially offer a recommendation to the county. The public is encouraged to attend.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(26) comments

WayneA

Are we really that cheap that as a county we can’t afford $2,700 bucks?

DandyCandy535

I'm with Josh Wooten. he speaketh good common sense!

JulesF

Is anyone aware there are something like 16 event notices & news clips hiding under 2 NON-RELATED HEADINGS while the Chronicle entertains 6 SIX! Articles on the fiasco Carnahan has created.

Crankyankee

A discussion on today's National Public Radio program "The Takeaway" was more publicity for the willful ignorance of those who accept the rants of the man who gamed the electoral college over the meticulous investigative reporting of the standard bearer for honest journalism.

CitrusCo Citizen

Yes, Cranky, that was an excellent podcast on NPR (which by the way has over 27 million listeners as of 2017 (Nielson Audio ratings). It certainly inspired my thinking on how local governments are using buzzwords from national partisan politics to manipulate local policy. It also forewarns us of the rocky year ahead for our 1st Amendment Rights. Here's the link--first 13 min. https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/florida-county-follows-trump-call-cancel-new-york-times-nationwide-distrust-media-grows

AlexanderLewis

NYT has always been a trash publication. I fail to see how this decision affects tourism. Sounds more like a Liberal media outlet throwing a temper tantrum because their slanted views can't reach as many people. Wouldn't surprise me if the "complainers" weren't paid for by the leftist media. Typical of the Liberals to complain when they don't get their way...

CitrusCo Citizen

Alexander, I will be happy to send you the 127 articles (from 1918 to present) which earned the NYT their 127 Pulitzer Prizes for Excellence in Journalism. I will even translate all of the big words and long sentences for you by dumbing down the text to a 6th grade level of readability. But I encourage you to read the New York Times on your own, perhaps for the first time, before you jump on Trump's Propaganda Bandwagon. Perhaps as you "read to learn" you might discover real facts to refute your "trumped up" opinions.

wejewill

Now, now. I'm sure Carnahan can spot fake news when he sees it. We all know he can spout it. Don't forget his doozies, "I do live in the district I represent," and "My friends sent those harassing text messages from my phone." Bless his heart!

CitrusCo Citizen

Smith said he would pray for us, but he should pray for his fellow narrow-minded cronies, first! One of them is becoming quite a liar!

MissyP

NYT IS fake news. These articles that these “journalists” claim to be news are solely opinions of far left propaganda put out by the deep state. I do not want my children having access to articles that are FALSE. News outlets are suppose to report on the truth with facts and evidence. Not opinion and hypotheticals!! These journalists should be ashamed of themselves, they have lied to the American people for far too long! It’s about time we Patriots take our nation back from the corrupt politicians running the show! We the people have voted! Let it be! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

Next up.....remove all literature on how to avoid ICE and how to live in America ILLEGALLY

bboone

Funny how they say it is affecting tourism already. haha If spending my tax dollars on a digital version of a crappy newspaper is keeping you from coming here, I call you out for lying or the Chronicle for making it up. We're not that stupid.

rnwtsar

Yes you are. Again no evidence whatsoever when you say these people and a professional news organization are lying.

crizor

And YOU have NO PROOF that they aren't.

CitrusCo Citizen

Yes you are and that can't be fixed.

rnwtsar

Spoken like a true believer, no facts or evidence whatsoever. Trump said it, they believe it, that settles it.

Phunkasaurus Wrex

How many rolls off foil did it take to make that hat?

MikeBond

Republicans are clueless as to what an embarrassment they have become.

DaleP

If anyone is to blame it is Carnahan. He was feeling Trumpy and got the other commissioners ginned up by spouting some of Trumps favorite sayings. No one else's fault.

crizor

And you are the one that should take credit for it Mike Wrong

DaleP

Mike did a magnificent job there with his reporting. I am sure he is not done yet.

CitrusCo Citizen

I agree with Dale. Mike Wright continues to produce quality reporting. Keep up the excellent work. We appreciate you!

LARRYG

Man-Made Disasters, What cheap headlines you put out. FAKE NEWS

CitrusCo Citizen

Larry, not cheap, fake headlines. Actually that headline is quite true and hit the nail on the head. The Man, Carnahan, ignited the fire and Made it become a Disaster by calling a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, "Fake News". Why? Because Trump called it Fake,. Why? Because the NYT reporters are reporting the facts, which Trump does not like. If Carnahan had't opened his mouth and said that he wants to discontinue digital subscription to the NYT because it's "fake" news, then oh well, this is what he gets. He started it and It's his own "Man-made Disaster" and thanks to the whole BOCC it's now a MEN-Made Disaster, and now the whole nation knows what's really going on down here with our BOCC. As for me, I've had a digital subscription to the NYT, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Tampa Tribune and many other newspapers, for years and that works for me. (I read the Chronicle every day on my lap top while traveling through Croatia!) But I do believe that the elderly, disabled, homebound, mothers at home with children, students at school doing research, and those who are not near a Citrus County library should have digital access to all of the news they want, IF they pay property taxes in this county. To me, it's all about how well my tax dollars are spent and when it comes to educating the Citrus County residents about FACTS, Truth, and current events (and boy things are happening fast these days), I believe that is the way to spend our tax dollars wisely.

SHC

Well said. Thank you.

CitrusCo Citizen

You're very welcome, and here's a 13 min. podcast about "Trouble in Citrus County" that was broadcast nationwide to over 27 million people yesterday on National Public Radio: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/florida-county-follows-trump-call-cancel-new-york-times-nationwide-distrust-media-grows

KEITHKERSCH

If we get the liberal rag shouldn't we also get the Limbaugh letter, and others?

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