Do journalists enjoy the right to freedom of speech? Not if they work for the Sun-Sentinel.

After a two-years-and-still-running battle with the Department of Children and Families, Paul Scott Abbott went public to New Times ("Take the Child and Run," Emma Trelles, February 24) about his fruitless attempts to rescue his daughter from the state's foster-care system. As a freelance journalist for the Sun-Sentinel, Abbott's hip to the power the free press wields, and he was glad for the chance to tell his tale. Little did he know it would cost him a main source of income.

According to Abbott, Sentinel editor John Chase rang him up last week and ended the relationship. "He told me that I couldn't be in the news and report it too," says the bewildered Abbott, who wrote short spiritual profiles of locals who've overcome physical and emotional handicaps. Hardly in the category of "news" reporting.

Adding further insult Chase requested that Abbott type up his notes and ideas on future stories and turn them in. That's odd; generally freelancers' ideas and work belong to their own scrappy selves.

A spokesperson for the Sentinel stated that recent allegations made by Abbott regarding the DCF might call into question the paper's objectivity. But Abbott's never reported on the DCF, and he was even profiled by the Sentinel a few years back for a piece on single dads. Hmmm. Guess it's OK to involve their writers with stories as long as there's no finger-pointing involved. Ironically, in the same week Abbott was dismissed for criticizing the DCF, a Sun-Sentinel staffer won an award for reporting on the same agency. And the reporter was nominated by a DCF staffer.

Maybe the Sentinel's not interested in an all-inclusive First Amendment, but we bet that Inside Edition, 20/20,and Editor and Publisher are. Abbott says that all three have contacted him and want full disclosure on his struggles with the DCF -- and the Sentinel.

Artists, by nature, are a sensitive lot. The good ones apply highly acute senses of sight and touch to their pieces and pour emotion into the work. But we've learned this week that some artists are perhaps too sensitive.

Two weeks ago we couldn't help but slam the people who place those hideous blue bikes around town. Everyone from the daily-paper editors to those art critics at city hall were falling all over themselves praising the junk. It shows how desperate Browardites are for public art.

Well, you'd have thought we attacked Dan Marino. The anonymous phone messages from people (some claiming connection to the bikes), were verbally abusive and yet amusing. Their voices quivering with emotion, they actually called this editor "a pussy," "a weenie," and (our favorite), "probably straight." My gosh.

But alas, some involved with the bikes do have a sense of humor.

A bohemian type sporting red hair and silver bracelets delivered a large glass door to our office. The "art" on it was a representation of a purple cowboy holding a six-shooter and the message, "Game on Tom!"

Obviously a feeble attempt to update Marcel Duchamp's The Large Glass. The emotional impact of the motif was unique, but the gun was too much Freudian dream symbolism, and the mysterious narrative was lacking in substance.

And we're just glad it wasn't that putrid blue. Game over… maybe.

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh