Gov. Mike Easley (D- N.C.) says the media's job is to be nice to him
Gov. Mike Easley said newspapers should be nice to him.
In an interview with the Greensboro News & Record, Easley complained about how newspapers, particularly The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer, have treated him. Both papers are owned by Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy Co.
"My job is to be nice to other people, and their job is to be nice to me. Just because they're not doing theirs doesn't mean I shouldn't do mine," Easley said in audio of the interview posted on The News & Record's Web site on Christmas Day.
In his second and final term, which ends next month, Easley has had a frosty relationship with the news media.
Easley said that newspapers often run a story that the electronic media will want to ask questions about. "The trick is to try to get away from that," Easley said.
This year, The N&O has published stories about troubled mental health reform and a failing probation system.
Easley said the probation series, published this month, was a "hatchet job" on Correction Secretary Theodis Beck, an Easley appointee.
"Thirty-three years in public service, and he's got three weeks left and they decide they're going to do this hatchet job on him," Easley said.
The probation series highlighted 580 cases of probationers who killed since 2000, a system that has lost track of thousands of convicted criminals and leaders who missed chances to improve technology to help officers keep up with their charges.
Easley said that under Beck, the number of probationers who killed dropped 25 percent from the previous administration. Seth Effron, a spokesman for the governor said Monday that not including that figure was "dishonest" and made the series a "hatchet job."
Easley has declined repeated requests to talk to the reporters who worked on the probation series and declined a request Monday for an interview about his recent comments.
The governor has said the real problem is that too many convicted criminals receive probation instead of prison time.
John Drescher, The N&O's executive editor, disagreed with Easley's assessment of the series.
"Gov. Easley might be the only person in North Carolina who thinks our probation system is working well and that the state is monitoring probationers as it should," Drescher said in an interview. "The correction secretary himself has acknowledged the state needs to do a better job."
News cycle pressure
Easley said he believes newspapers are under pressure from a constant news cycle that leads to what he called "gotcha" stories.
The governor also said the papers are picking on him because of a dispute over e-mail sent and received by state employees. After The N&O published the series on mental health reform in February, it became clear that state employees were deleting e-mail messages, which violates state law, 10 news organizations contended in a lawsuit.
Easley has said that keeping all e-mail would be costly and that state employees should have the discretion to delete messages that are not valuable. Easley told The News & Record that he believes the news organizations want him to make public e-mail messages that would be protected by confidentiality agreements and exceptions to the public records law.
"It would not be in the best interest of the people of the state, and so I can't do it," Easley said. "Until that happens, I don't think the McClatchy group is going to let up, and that's not going to happen so they'll keep hammering and that's OK."
Drescher said the paper is doing its job by publishing tough stories.
"Our job is to dig, and we're going to keep digging," Drescher said in an interview. "We'll do that in a professional way."
Drescher said the parties in the lawsuit are in discussions.
"We believe we've made a reasonable request that all state government e-mail be considered a public record," Drescher said.
Easley's successor, Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue, is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 10. She said during the campaign that she believed all state e-mail should be preserved.