July 13, 2000: The Atlanta Media Can Dish It Out, But Can They Take It?

Once again, I hear the siren call of corn-fried shrimp and am off to St. Simons Island and the exquisite little Georgia Sea Grill.  I have decided if I am ineligible for heaven when I die – a likely possibility – I will accept St. Simons as second choice.  I’m not sure I would know the difference.  If they don’t have corn-fried shrimp in heaven, St. Simons would be my first choice anyway.

Before I go, I beg your indulgence on a personal matter.  A recent column suggesting that some 5000 boxes of Olympic junk be jettisoned rather than foisted off on taxpayers as an Atlanta columnist proposed, precipitated an angry response from a Department of Public Safety bureaucrat.  He accused me, among other things, of hiding the fact that I had worked for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and thereby having a vested interest in subverting the open records law.  The writer “demanded” I admit my duplicity publicly.  Otherwise, he would assume I had neither integrity nor ethics.  Whether or not he could have me arrested for my alleged subterfuge he didn’t say, but he seemed so overwrought that I figure before heading out onto the highways for my shrimp rendezvous, caution would dictate I go over this matter one more time.  Otherwise, I may be eating C-rations in a county pokey.

Anybody that doesn’t know I was with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games has been on another planet for the past few years or manning a radar gun behind a billboard somewhere.  I have referenced my association with the Olympics a number of times, including a few weeks ago when I announced I had written a book on the 1996 Games, due out in September.

Let me say, hopefully, for the last time:  The matter of junking the boxes isn’t an open records issue.  The boxes have been available for public inspection since last July, including to the letter writer.  When the Centennial Games were over, there were some 6000 boxes of paper.  Outside experts went through them all and deemed 900 to be of historic value.  The rest of the boxes contain worthless materials, including first aid forms, volunteer forms and the like.  The Atlanta columnist who wanted all the boxes saved omitted the fact that taxpayers would end up footing the bill for the expense of carting off and storing the worthless material at the school or college of his choice.

Perhaps this further explanation will pacify the piqued public servant.  The last thing I want is some state bureaucrat worrying about my integrity and ethics.  It makes for inefficient government.   However, if he is still not satisfied, I will be happy to give him the 5000 boxes and he can paper his house with first aid forms.

I wonder if Billy Payne ever regrets having brought the Olympic Games to Atlanta?   Consider, for example, the Atlanta newspapers, which viewed ACOG like the Iranian ayatollahs view punk rock.  Currently, they are combing the 900 boxes looking for materials with which to embarrass Payne.  The last I heard they are going to make some insinuation about how tickets were distributed.  No accusation of malfeasance, just another effort to demean the work of this good man.  This, four years after the Games!  Fortunately, they only succeed in making him more of a hero to the public and in making themselves look petulant and mean-spirited.

Know this, too.  The Atlanta media, in their posturing and righteous indignation last year over the details of the Atlanta bid committee’s efforts to win the 1996 Games, failed to note that their reporters were with the committee every step of the way in the bidding process.  It is not that they didn’t know what was going on.  They did.  They are just trying to cover their fannies.

This is why I wrote the book.  I want to set the record straight on a number of issues.  To date, you only know what you have read.  Nobody has told you the other side of the story.  We all know the media can dish it out.  Now, we are going to find out if they can take it and still be objective.  Just to be on the safe side, I have stored away a couple of extra barrels of ink.  Frankly, I am looking forward to the fight.

Now, assuming I am back in the good graces of the anguished lawman, I am off to St. Simons.  Look out, shrimp.  Here I come!