Joe Henderson: There is nothing funny about Citrus County censorship

trump, donald - at mar a lago
In this world turned upside down, county leaders show support for the President by restricting news.

I admit to (almost) stifling a laugh when the Citrus County Commission refused to pay $2,700 so the public library could offer a New York Times subscription.

It is such a goober move. It’s a late-night comedian’s dream, particularly the predictable quip by Commissioner Scott Carnahan about “fake news.”

But, you know what? There is nothing funny when leaders use their political office to censor content they dislike.

Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. basically admitted as much.

“Guess what we’re attacked for: Some of us support the President of the United States,” he said. “I’m not backing off one inch.”

Restricting the free flow of information guaranteed by the First Amendment is a novel way of showing support. By the way, the President swore to uphold that Amendment.

To their credit, residents pushed back hard against the decision.

The Citrus County Chronicle offered its readers an online poll on this issue. Out of about 1,100 responses, around 750 said they were either “disappointed” or “aghast” at the decision.

The decision also could cost the county a lot more than the $2,700 it saved on the subscription.

John Pricher, director of the Citrus County Visitors Bureau, told the Chronicle that tourists are canceling trips to the area because of what the commissioners did.

“They disagree with it, and most say they’re not coming to the area because of it or they’re changing their plans,” Pricher said. “I’m hoping that it’s just a vocal minority, and things just continue to move forward.”


But here is something indisputable: Scott Carnahan doesn’t have the foggiest idea what it takes to get a story into the New York Times, Citrus County Chronicle, or any other newspaper. And this just in, but the founders guaranteed protections for the press so it could hold the powerful accountable.

Donald Trump would have his followers believe that editors and reporters sit around all day and invent stories like some supermarket tabloid. That’s flat out ignorant, and to say otherwise is to bury your head in, oh, the Chassahowitzka Salt Marsh Trails.

The Times is the Holy Grail for reporters and editors, and getting a gig there isn’t easy. No one – repeat, NO ONE, assuming they have any brains – will risk their job by knowingly printing fiction.

I put the caveat about “brains” in that previous sentence because the Times once had a reporter, Jayson Blair, print actual fake news. The Times fired him forthwith in 2003 after editors discovered his ruse. Reputable newspapers take their mission seriously, and they admit their mistakes.

Citrus County leaders can’t say the same thing.

They just turned censorship into public policy. I guess that’s what supporting this president means.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • John Kociuba

    November 10, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Dear Citizens~

    Re: New York Times

    Thee most expensive parrot’s bathroom tissue one can find. Yes. Is sucks up puppy urine well on kitchen floors even though paper is cheap.

    A cereal box read is more mentally stimulating.

    • A true Floridian

      November 11, 2019 at 1:17 am

      At least we know that you recycle your subscription after thoroughly reading it.

      • gary

        November 12, 2019 at 9:39 am

        Nobody reads that Fake News rag that has an IQ above 110!

  • Brenda

    November 10, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Citrus County Libraries do not have any digital subscriptions to any newspapers or magazines currently. No local or Florida based papers or magazines. None. The NYT is and has been, will continue, to have the print editions at all 4 libraries.
    The cost is the real issue at $2700 a year for 3 years. It’s regrettable that the commissioner brought he political comments into the meeting, but that is not why the request was denied. The cost is too much to be the only subscription to an out of state newspaper.

    • Howard Hurts

      November 11, 2019 at 8:09 am

      The cost is the issue. It is nonsense. Let Joe Henderson front the money as a gift to the county. And as for the statement that people are not coming to Citrus County because of the statements by the Commissioners….I say prove this statement…sounds like Fake News to me. Prove it by examples not some blabber by a Visitor Bureau guy…is he a democrat or republican. Might be helpful to know? And for whom is the library anyway? In this age of ‘internet’ who really goes to the library to get their news? How about an article, and investigation, about the people who really go to the library for their news. And Joe…45 years newspaper work? Your dad own the Tampa Tribune?

      • Ray

        November 11, 2019 at 9:54 am

        Funny, you fail to mention money was raised by a gofundme, and also a philanthropist offered to pay the first year of the subscription. It still has to be approved by these idiots, who have gone on to say they would use donated money for a print subscription, even though that’s not the intended use. If you want to prove better than the author you should include ALL information, NOT just what works in your favor.

        • Eric Eldred

          November 11, 2019 at 1:35 pm

          I for one donate to Citrus libraries copies of print editions I subscribe to such as The Economist, Technology Review, or Reason magazine. I leave them at the desk and libarians choose to offer them to library patrons, I don’t forece them on readers or make them pay. However, I don’t share my user names and passwords for online subscriptions to The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. The digital versions under consideration are accessed through an app and retricted in several ways unlike the digital subs you or I have, as library users are not microtargeted for advertising in the same way. If you are a Citrus voter, go to the Library Board meeting Thursday and the Coounty Commission meeting next week and learn the details before commenting.

    • Bobbi

      November 11, 2019 at 9:00 am

      Yes, the fact that our current President does not like the FACTS printed is the reason they denied having the NYT online. They SAID SO in their meeting. “Don’t believe what you see and hear folks”.

      • Susan

        November 11, 2019 at 5:34 pm


      • gary

        November 12, 2019 at 9:42 am

        Facts??????? Guess you missed all the retractions they do every week.

  • Will

    November 10, 2019 at 9:49 pm

    It has nothing to do with censorship. Print edition is available. I don’t read The NY Times because of its slanted viewpoints. If you want to read the paper, go to the library.

    • Ray

      November 11, 2019 at 9:59 am

      Just to make sure I have my story straight, since it doesn’t suit your needs it shouldn’t be, even though money was raised thru gofundme? Everyone else be damned? Do I have that correct?

  • Dan Lanske

    November 10, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    I live in citrus county. I want my commissioners to be fiscally responsible. There is no point in having two subscriptions to the NYT. Either keeo the print, or cancel the print, and get the digital. Keepung the print, and getting the digital is a waste of money.
    Joe henderson, is just another snowflake liberal, looking for reasons to get mad. Citrus county is making the right choice here.

    • Rick Kells

      November 11, 2019 at 6:33 am

      Very good Dan, Joe Henderson views are slanted left, and of course sides with another liberal media outlet.
      It’s about the money Joe!
      It’s funny that politicians can’t be political once and awhile.

  • Steve

    November 11, 2019 at 6:48 am

    It’s amazing how your story never once mentions that the print edition of the times is available for free at the library. Why is that? Perhaps to slant the story to paint the county commissioners in a bad light? Of course that can’t be because good journalism requires providing all the facts not just the facts that support your personal views. It’s almost funny how journalists get so worked up over politicians expressing the opinions that probably represent their constituents views which is how the got elected in the first place. Yet somehow feel it’s their place to do the same thing.

    • Dee

      November 12, 2019 at 9:34 am


  • Rick

    November 11, 2019 at 7:20 am

    Much of what the New York Times reports is not news, it is propaganda, not dissimilar to TASS. It is not alone. It is amazing to me that you are not concerned with educational organizations squelching speech and opinion.

    • Dee

      November 12, 2019 at 9:37 am


  • Jim Andrews

    November 11, 2019 at 7:32 am

    I was shocked to find out that my taxes may have gone to give free online subscriptions to some cheapskates that don’t want to pay for it themselves. If you want the NYT or any other periodical, pay for it yourself!! BTW censorship would be to deny access or outlaw it. This is about $$$. People are cancelling vacations to Citrus County because we don’t give free NYT??? Really?? Oh mercy the impact to our robust tourism industry if a couple of cheap Yankees don’t stop by!! I bet more people in citrus county watch pornography on their computers than read NYT. Should the county pay for some porn site subscriptions. Is porn being censored in the absence of public funding???

    • Howard Hurts

      November 11, 2019 at 7:21 pm

      Very funny and true

  • Sonja Emily Fitch

    November 11, 2019 at 8:24 am


  • Eric Eldred

    November 11, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I am a resident and voter in Citrus County. I have been reading The New York Times and Wall Street Journal since 1960 every morning and have online subscriptions to both. I am aware that print editions are available in the libraries. I am also aware that any online library user can go to the home page/ Research /Databases /Florida Electronic Library and look up stories in The Times (but not WSJ) back issues, although the front page is not available. I understand that the NYT online edition will be available only to a few users at a time and so if I go to use a library computer I would probably have to use my own subscription rather than the library’s. I haven’t heard the arguments from Eric Head about why only NYT digital sub was requested. But I am not at all convinced that NYT is worthy. I did a search today for “Eric Ciaramella” and it produced zero hits. This would seem to me to be “Restricting the free flow of information guaranteed by the First Amendment” Thus, pending further debate, I do not support spending the money on NYT.

  • Robin Mecler

    November 11, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    The library is struggling enough to stick to a budget. Citrus county is not rich.This is a lot of money and if you like this newspaper then why can’t you get your own subscription. Personally I back their decision. You don’t like higher taxes there has to be cuts.

  • Eric Eldred

    November 11, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Censorship of books came up for me in 2008, not long after I moved to Citrus from Shanghai, where there is real censorship.  in a column by Leonard Pitts in the Citrus County Chronicle, during the ALA’s “Banned Books Week” he accused Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin of library censorship. I did some research (not because I supported Palin, but because I was shocked).  I read The Times and discovered the report was based on an opposition researcher’s misunderstanding, not supported by the town librarian at all.  I wrote Pitts and he refused to check his sources, claiming that whatever The Times printed must be true, and so did not retract his story.   Just because I read The Times and The Chronicle does not make me a Trump supporter nor opponent.  Just because the taxpayers of Wasilla chose to spend taxpayer money on a recreational facility rather than more money to the town library does not mean censorship.  Libraries have boards that set standard procedures for accessions, and challenges are often made that require appropriate professional responses to avoid taint of censorship. These boards are overseen by commissions that spend taxpayer money, and there will be further hearings.   I don’t see how the Board of Citrus County Commissioners can be accused of censorship, as The Times can continue printing stories people are not required by government to buy or read or not read. Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion here, as it is censored by The Times and The Chronicle.

    • Dee

      November 12, 2019 at 9:40 am

      👍 very logical comment.

  • Tom

    November 11, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    The commissioners never said they didn’t have the money, they said the NYT is anti-Trump “fake news” and therefore they would not make the purchase.
    That’s politically motivated censorship. That’s a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
    Had they been, uh, mentally prepared, they could have offered just the argument about not wanting to spend money for both print and digital subscriptions, and that would have seemed fair enough.
    But the chance to censor opponents and have a grand back-slapping laugh about it was too much to resist. Which, in its way, is very honest of them.

  • gary

    November 12, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Coming from you Joe, a massive FAKE NEWS ass clown, this is rich!

Comments are closed.


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