Broward News

Pulp Person of The Year: John Kent Cooke Jr.

Cooke Is At Right

Florida Keys Community College President Bill Seeker must have really thought he was sticking it to the town's daily newspaper when he pulled all the school's advertising from its pages. He may have had dreams of finally putting the Citizen in its place, of heeling it to the will of the Chamber of Commerce, of turning it into the kind of lapdog rag Key West had lazily become accustomed to.

Seeker miscalculated. Horribly.

Instead of showing the Citizen who was boss, Seeker was brought belly-first to the ground. Instead of holding all the cards, he now faces an unpredictable lawsuit and folded his hand. He sent a letter late last week rescinding his first missive and saying that he wanted to "maintain a business relationship," that the college actually wasn't going to shut out the newspaper after all.

Why did Seeker do a 180? Well, he was knocked silly, that's why. The publisher/owner of the Citizen, John Kent Cooke Jr., bludgeoned Seeker with a

powerful weapon called the Bill of Rights. Rather than kowtow, as so many small newspapers probably would have done, he took the offensive and sued Seeker and the publicly funded college for trying to crush its First Amendment rights. And he used his bully pulpit too. "It is an attack on the freedom of the press," Cooke said in his newspaper. "It's an attack on the people of Monroe County, who depend on The Citizen and its related newspapers to accurately, fairly and objectively report the news."

Just because Seeker blinked doesn't mean it's over, either. Cooke is going forward with the lawsuit to make sure it doesn't happen again. He told his newspaper: "This is a serious matter and one that cannot be treated casually as Mr. Seeker has, by simply stating that he has changed his mind."

Stirring stuff. God, it's good to see a newspaper owner with some testicular fortitude. And for that, Cooke is hereby officially named the Pulp Person of the Year.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman