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Harry Reagan: Proud to be part of the tradition

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – I came to work at WJXT in 1967, as an investigative reporter. In those days, the station hired newspaper reporters.

Bill Grove (who was news director) and Norm Davis (who did editorials and documentaries and supervised investigative reporting) thought they needed the kind of journalists they could only find at newspapers.

Grove, along with editorial director Norm Davis, produced monthly Project 4 documentaries anddeveloped other programming designed not only to inform, but to improve the community.

I was working at The Miami Herald. I sensed that TV would be the major way people would get their news and I was very interested in working for a station that was serious about journalism.

It was an interesting time to be covering news in Jacksonville. Voters had voted to replace the corrupt and wasteful city and county governments with a new consolidated government. The old governments were still in office because the new government would not take over until Oct. 1, 1968. The traditional watchdog role of journalism was very much needed during that period of transition.

WJXT was highly regarded because its investigative reporting and editorials were instrumental in convincing voters to make the big change in their government.

It was fascinating to watch the new government (mayor and 19 city council members) getting ready to take over. The outgoing governments had to be watched to make sure they were not misbehaving.

A few years later, I became editorial director and continued in that role until I left the station in 1990 to run for public office (an at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council).

Even with a new government, there was still the possibility of corruption, waste and wrongdoing and we continued to be a watchdog.

WJXT viewers will remember some of the issues we editorialized on: odors and tolls, for example.

Jacksonville had struggled for years with the stigma of odors. Our editorials helped build public support for addressing the issue and it was an early example of an environmental success.

On the issue of tolls, we concluded that tolls were unfair and inefficient. Motorists in some parts of town did not pay tolls. Tolls continued on some bridges, long after they were paid for.

Ultimately, the decision was made at the ballot box. Voters decided to replace tolls with a half-cent sales tax.

Our editorials also provided leadership on civil rights, education, government in the sunshine and many others. The watchdog role was always paramount.

Viewers may also remember our popular “Darts and Laurels” editorials and we did some animated editorials.

I am proud to have been part of a great journalism tradition at WJXT.