There is now an award named in honor of a legendary Florida journalist. The creation of the "Lucy Morgan Award for Open Government Reporting" was celebrated during a gala Wednesday (11/15) night at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee.
For many years, one of the statements most feared by Florida State Government officials was for an aide to breathlessly report, "Lucy Morgan is on the line." The Pulitzer Prize winning Capital reporter was a mainstay of the former St. Petersburg Times for decades. Over the years, not much has surprised Morgan, with the possible exception of the First Amendment Foundation naming an award in her honor.
"I had not expected anything like that," she admitted before the official rollout of her namesake prize. "I've pretty much retired. Every now and then I'll break out and write something, but it's not often anymore. So I'd really thought that those days were gone."
Morgan had the reputation of being a persistent inquisitor with the tenaciousness of a pit bull. Yet, even among those she grilled, admiration and even outright love for Lucy Morgan is near universal.
"Well it is," she concurred, "and I think to do it you really need to be honest with people. You can't surprise them with what you're going to write about them. I guess because I'm a southerner in a 'good-ole-boy' town where everybody presumes that women don't have a brain that I managed to make it through it."
Which led to the question, what does Morgan think about all the rumors and innuendoes of high official misdeeds now swirling around her old Capitol stomping grounds?
"I know from my own experience that women have put up with a lot over a long period of years. So I'm glad to see it (sexual harassment allegations involving high-ranking politicians and others) come out. I'm not so happy about the anonymous reporting that's been going on where people have made accusations against Senator Latvala and we don't know who they are or exactly what the accusations are."
And as to the current state of uncivil political discourse and statements with no basis in fact?
"Well, I think we can thank the president for that," she said pointedly. "I think that Trump has reached a new level of denying things even though they are evident and other public officials are picking that up."
And at a time when truth can be hard to determine, Morgan had this advice for today's journalists trying to separate fact from fake.
"Government, both state and federal, does nothing without writing it down," she said. "There's a document somewhere it's just finding it that becomes a problem and lots of people don't cooperate with that, but if you beat them up enough you can get it out of them."
Meanwhile, Morgan thinks the consumers of media also bear some responsibility in the matter.
"I think we have a lot of people who simply aren't well informed out there," she said. "So they tend to believe what the guy who says the most tells them."
The remedy? Morgan thinks that hasn't really changed...dedicated, driven professional journalists digging for and delivering the real story. Just like Lucy Morgan did for all those years.